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Looking Back: Rats in Vandenberg?

In recent years, there has been debate on the ethics and necessity for research to be done on animals in a university setting. In 2016, around 70 protesters gathered at the University of California, Los Angeles to fight for animal rights, with one protester saying that “animal testing is unethical, unnecessary and no humans benefit from it.”

The argument the protesters at UCLA had was that 90 percent of grants and funding received for research done on animals went directly to those doing the research.

At Oakland University, there was once a time where there were not two engineering halls along with two other science-focused buildings.  Lab space for all science fields in particular was so limited to the point that, in 1983, the department of psychology was considering moving into Vandenberg Hall.

The headline ran in the Jan. 24, 1983 issue of The Oakland Post stating “Rats may live in Vandenberg Hall.” This was because, at the time, the department of psychology had rat laboratories used in multiple experiments.

Today at Oakland and many other universities, a lab using animals as test subjects is held to a standard of humanity set forth by Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC). Though a voluntary procedure, institutions can be accredited through the AAALAC to show the standards to which they hold animal rights.

The AAALAC states on its website that if any harm is to come to an animal, it needs to be assessed by before the experiments happen as part of the university being accredited by the AAALAC. This means that there is some effort being made at OU to provide for the welfare of animals being tested on in multiple departments.

Most of these experiments happen in a $5.8 million facility, funded in part by the National Center for Research Resources. This facility has sterilization machines to clean animal cages and hosts a containment suite that allows research to be done on infectious diseases.

Part of the reason that the department of psychology was to move from Hannah Hall was because the amount of equipment it had in comparison to the other departments in Hannah was relatively low.

However, one thing prevented this move, and that was student living on campus. The plan was to move the department into the first, second or third floor of Vandenberg, which could have eliminated some housing space for Oakland University residents. Especially with a move to floors two or three, rooms would have to have been eliminated.

The first level of Vandenberg was deemed “undesirable” for the department of  psychology due to the noise from the cafeteria. This would have been the only floor without rooms on it.

The department of  psychology is not presently located on the second and third floors of Vandenberg Hall. Instead, the department has been sent to an old residence hall — Pyrale Hall.

Not all departments were safe from being put inside of residence halls, though. On the first level of Vandenberg now sits the journalism department, just below the staircase near the dining hall. It was given two classrooms and four offices for faculty members.

Now it’s journalism and communication students who are distracted by the sounds and smells coming from the cafeteria, rather than laboratory rats.

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