Last week, California’s Department of Public Health ordered our very own UC Berkeley to not release the DNA results of the controversial “Bring Your Genes to Cal” experiment to the individual students who participated. If you haven’t heard of the notorious project yet, it is this year’s manifestation of our school’s “On the Same Page” program for incoming students. Typically every year, the administration sends a pair of DVDs to new students, asks them to watch the films (which most do not), and later in the year hosts some public figure associated with the movie (which most do not attend). It’s a pretty useless waste of our tuition dollars, but hey– the administration has done worse.
However, incoming students opened a very different “On the Same Page” packet when it came in the mail this summer. Instead of the routine pair of mediocre movies, new students received DNA collection kits and were encouraged to send their genes off to Berkeley for experimentation. In return, the students were told, they would receive information about their bodies’ tolerance to alcohol, lactose, and folic acid for educational purposes. This experiment drew concerns from many parents until finally last week the Health Department killed it on a technicality: by releasing DNA information to students, the university would legally be engaging in a medical diagnosis, which it is not qualified to do.
Admittedly, the “Bring Your Genes to Cal” program seems rather creepy at first glance. It certainly smells suspicious when someone asks for your DNA, especially an agency of the government like the University of California. However, one must not forget that this experiment was entirely voluntary. The school was in no way coercing students to hand over their genes. Rather, several consent forms had to be signed in order to participate. In fact, most students did not bother to take part (as is common with “On the Same Page”)– only 700 of more that 5,000 incoming students did so.
Thus, the Health Department’s canning of the educational aspect of “Bring Your Genes to Cal” is not a victory for liberty at all. Rather, it is another instance of our nanny state meddling in the voluntary affairs of consenting individuals. Through denying students the access to information about their DNA they were promised, the Health Department rendered this year’s “On the Same Page” program even more useless than it usually is (which is really saying something, believe me). Plus, there were other methods of ensuring student safety without scrapping the project. Perhaps the California Patriot‘s Andy Nevis put it best when he wrote:
Of course, they could have simply required the school to put a disclaimer on the results advising not to take the results as a medical diagnosis. But that wasn’t enough for the nanny state. Nope, citizens, including the best and brightest who are admitted to Cal, aren’t responsible enough to make their own decisions. So instead, no one gets to see the results, even if they want to.
Thank you government.