Many United States universities—including Harvard—are
protesting governmental regulations, proposed earlier this year, that
would segregate foreign students and researchers working in certain
laboratories and require them to wear badges and gain special approval
to work with a variety of equipment.
The new regulations, which are pending separately in the
Department of Commerce (DoC) and the Department of Defense (DoD), are
designed to control what are known as “deemed exports,” according to
the DoC. In its proposal, the DoD describes deemed exports as the
transmission of information abroad or “any access to export-controlled
information or technology by a foreign national.”
The DoD’s proposal requires special identification for foreign
nationals working in laboratories and segregated work areas for
information and technology to be controlled. Both these recommendations
and the DoC’s come in the wake of recent suggestions, from within the
government, for tighter regulations.
The proposed changes, which are expected to be released from
both the DoC and the DoD within the next few months, were aired for
public response at the start of the summer.
In a June 24 letter to the DoC, University President Lawrence
H. Summers wrote that implementing the restrictions would “have the
practical effect of grinding research to a halt” by making impractical
administrative demands of the University’s faculty and staff.
Before work with controlled research tools—which would
include “specialized cameras, oscilloscopes, sensors, monitoring
systems, lasers, pumps, amplifiers, and spectrum analyzers”—could
proceed normally, Summers wrote, the University would have to create a
personalized plan describing the access and controls for all of its
3,400 foreign students and 3,650 foreign researchers.
Summers also objected to the DoC’s proposal that license
applications consider country of birth, as well as citizenship and
permanent residence—a measure that, according to the DoC’s summary of
the proposal, was intended to prevent researchers from hiding their
political loyalties behind a new citizenship. Summers called this
requirement “neither reasonable nor permissible” and said that Harvard
does not collect this information because of federal laws that prohibit
discrimination on the basis of national origin.
An Oct. 12 response from the Association of American
Universities (AAU)—which represents 60 research institutions, including
Harvard—called the proposal “discriminatory and, frankly, un-American.”
In a letter to the DoD, John Huchra, Harvard’s vice provost
for research policy, wrote, in an Oct. 11 letter, that the badging
requirement would violate Harvard’s “long history of treating all our
members with the same respect, regardless of nationality or
The proposals also do not make a distinction between
“fundamental research”—research that will be published in journals or
otherwise made public—and classified research. Fundamental research is
exempt from deemed-export controls under the current rules.
The AAU statement expressed concern that, unless an exception
is made explicit in the new rules, onerous control clauses would be
tacked onto contracts for all types of research.
This “would harm U.S. national security by forcing universities to turn down DoD contracts,” the organization stated.
It also suggested that the proposals be revised in light of criticism and recirculated for comment.
Kevin Casey, Harvard’s senior director of federal and state relations, said he is expecting such revision.
“Right now what we’re expecting is that they will eventually
craft or revise a...rule that would once again be sent out for comments
from universities,” he said. “We’re sort of in this process part.”
—May Habib and William L. Jusino contributed to the reporting of this article.