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Phil Bereano


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Phil Bereano is Professor Emeritus in the field of Technology and Public Policy at the University of Washington. He also held Adjunct Professor appointments in Women Studies and American Ethnic Studies. He joined the UW on faculty in 1975, and taught previously at Cornell University where he earned two degrees, a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering and a Master of Regional Planning. He also holds a law degree from Columbia Law School.

Phil is a recognized expert on the ethical and social considerations of technologies, especially genetic engineering (having begun working on genetics policy issues in 1977), including helping to define the notions of genetic discrimination and genetic privacy. 

Phil is an activist.  Along with his scholarly articles, he  has written popular pieces that demystify many of the issues surrounding modern technological developments, consistent with his commitment to public participation in social and governmental decision-making.

He has been an outspoken defender of civil liberties, especially with regard to issues regarding LGBT/AIDS, and information technologies/-computer databases, as well as genetics.   For almost 20 years he has been a member of the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union and he chaired its Committee on Databases and Civil Liberties. In 2009 he received the William O Douglas award from the ACLU’s Washington State affiliate for “sustained contributions to the cause of civil liberties.”

He was a founding member of a number of international, national and community organizations, including the Washington Rainbow Coalition and ACT/UP Seattle. The latter established the first US large-city on-the-street AIDS prevention needle exchange and also broke the obstruction of local developers to the construction of the Bailey-Boushey AIDS hospice/adult day center—two significant achievements in the struggles, which were widely emulated elsewhere.

Among other honors, in 1994 Bereano received the University of Washington’s Outstanding Public Service Award and also a Recognition Award from the King County Council, for “warn[ing] against the threat to democracy due to limiting public participation in decisions about science and technology; and urg[ing] experts and scientists to do more to help community groups understand technological phenomena which could improve their lives as a means to re-empower our citizenry… His involvement in the community and the scientific world has set a standard of service for others to recognize and follow.”

Phil Bereano shared this interview with Kevin McKenna on August 6, 2014. To the right are video excerpts from the interview. The full interview is preserved in Special Collections Library, University of Washington.

Work on this interview was made possible by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.