One of our faculty members, whose research addresses human disease, was the target Sunday afternoon of a very disturbing incident at the researcher's residence in the city of Santa Cruz. The faculty member and family were home when six masked intruders attempted to force their way into the family's residence. After a confrontation that involved a physical attack on one of the faculty member's family, the six intruders fled.

This incident appears to be part of a series of recent incidents targeting UC faculty, students, and staff who conduct biomedical research using animals. At UCSC, these incidents included earlier acts of intimidation, trespassing, vandalism, and property damage at the homes of faculty, staff, and students (see http://messages.ucsc.edu/text.asp?pid=1943).

I want you to know that we have reached out to this individual and others who were harassed earlier, offering them security and other support.

The faculty, students, and staff engaged in biomedical research on this campus shed light on the causes of breast cancer, neurological diseases, and on the toxic effects of lead and other metals. The work they do is critically important, improving our understanding of the causes and treatment of these and other diseases. Any research that involves animals is regulated by federal and state laws, and monitored by a committee comprising faculty, staff, and citizens from the Santa Cruz community.

Disagreement, debate, and dissent on a range of subjects are all hallmarks of a healthy university community. However, an attempted home invasion by masked perpetrators is not free speech--it is a criminal act that threatens, intimidates, and stifles academic freedom.

For more than four decades, our faculty, students, and staff have been free to engage in scholarly research that has spanned the sciences, humanities, and arts. Attacks on this cherished freedom, such as the one that occurred on Sunday, should be chilling to each and every one of us.