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GPSA grapples with animal rights language in research code

The battle on whether to allow animal testing in graduate research projects backed by the state was the focus of an intense debate at Saturday's GPSA Council meeting.

The graduate student government was cleaning up language in its bylaws and establishing the guidelines for the Graduate Research Fund when law school students supporting animal rights spoke against proposed changes.

This was the first year the fund was distributed under guidelines that banned any harmful testing on humans or animals. After complaints from campus groups, Keith Valles, a law student and the fund's administrator, changed the language so that the fund will not be used for any project that involves "excessive or unreasonable harm to humans or animals.

The changes also state that, in accordance with University policy, the research must first be approved by the Human Research Review Committee, an Institutional Review Board, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee or another entity authorized by UNM for such purposes.

"The first policy ruled out anything except basically observing animals, which was more in line with what I feel personally, but I had to bring these changes before the board because of the push from others on campus to see this changed," Valles said.

Jenks said that while many may be against the testing, safeguards are in place to protect the animals.

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"You also have to keep in mind that we would be excluding a lot of people on this campus, in places such as the medical school and psychology," she said.

The policy changes were passed by a GPSA Council majority, but Valles and GPSA President Rachel Jenks left the door open to revisiting the matter at the next meeting.

"I really do feel very strongly against this personally and will be bringing up a bill next time around to revise it, but I felt I had to do my duty as the administrator to represent the concerns of the majority of people," Valles said. "I really wrestled with this one."

During the same meeting, the council re-elected Bill Dials as council chairman. No one applied to run for the position and Saturday Dials announced that he would run for it again because he felt he could still strongly contribute to the council.

Law student Brandt Thrower also ran as a write-in candidate when he learned no one else was going for the position because he thought new leadership and a more innovative approach to the job would be helpful.

"I respect what Bill and Rachel have done this year, but I also think we might want to head back to a leadership style more like that of previous president Brian Col¢n and look to be more active," he said. "We seem to be heading so strongly toward retaining the same old view on things and I think we need to break out of that."

Mar°a Teresa Avila, who represents the Art and Art History Department on the council, said she worked with both Col¢n and Dials and that while their leadership styles were different, both did a great job.

"Bill has worked really hard to lead us this year and pushed a lot of outreach campaigns that were really important," she said. "He has done a great job and deserves a chance to help bring some continuity to GPSA since we are facing a change in the president's office."

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