Rules Respond to Terrorism

March 31, 2002

 

After the September 11 attacks, many of the initial congressional and regulatory responses had the potential to affect America's research universities widely. University leaders understood the need to respond to the potential for further terrorist attacks, but were concerned the proposed government changes could inhibit research in unintended ways.

To date, Duke administrators say these general concerns have not been realized; Duke research labs are operating much as they did before September 11. But more federal legislation is looming, and research administrators say rules governing classification of federal research contracts and the hiring of foreign nationals to work in certain research labs are getting a close look from federal regulators. As a matter of policy, Duke does not accept government classified research. Already the university has taken the unusual measure of stepping away from one contract for a federal research project because of concerns about restrictions on publishing the results.

"Every one of these is a work in progress, and the primary goal of universities is to work with the federal government to help ensure that the government, while addressing legitimate issues, doesn't go overboard in developing new rules to live by," says James Siedow, Duke's vice provost for research.

On other post-September 11 issues, Duke is taking steps to accommodate new realities, including:

- Tracking foreign students with visas. Duke, mostly through the efforts of Catheryn Cotten and the International Office, has been in the lead in working with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to find more effective methods of tracking foreign students. Cotten's office participated in a project called Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). One part of the Patriot Act, passed after September 11, will speed national implementation of the SEVIS project.

- Anti-terrorism investigations. A second provision of the Patriot Act makes it easier for the government to get a warrant to subpoena a university for student information as part of an anti-terrorism investigation. The provision also stipulates that the university may not tell the student about the request. Duke officials said they will abide by the rule, but administrators will continue to require government officials to provide a court order for the information before it is turned over, consistent with the university's longstanding guidelines that are designed to protect the privacy of such information.

- Campus security issues. Duke officials have expanded efforts to protect vulnerable areas of the campus, to create a disaster evacuation plan, and to prepare the health system to handle large-scale disasters. The effort includes more significant cooperation with the UNC hospital system.