Thursday, November 01, 2012

Slate asks: What if UW President Tom Buchanan had given a speech defending "Carbon Sink?"

From an Oct. 31 article by Michelle Nijhuis on Slate Online about the "Carbon Sink" brouhaha at the University of Wyoming (the controversy that wouldn't die):
The University of Wyoming, like most public universities, has a mission statement that calls for academic freedom and free expression. University donors are supposed to further that mission, not try to restrict it, and university leaders are supposed to defend it.

What if President Buchanan had given a speech...? He could have acknowledged the reaction to Carbon Sink (taking care to first learn its name), and acknowledged the economic and political power of the coal industry in Wyoming. He could have acknowledged the science -- some conducted at his own university -- that demonstrates the connections between coal power and climate change, and climate change and forest decline. And he could have said that while coal is useful and important, it’s equally important to not only acknowledge its costs but also work to reduce them. He could have pointed to existing university programs aimed at doing just that, and called on the legislature -- and the industry -- to fund more.
It wouldn’t have ended the controversy. But it might have opened the conversation.
Nijhuis also explored another controversy over public art, this one at the University of Indiana at Bloomington. A student group demanded the removal of a Thomas Hart Benton mural that shows KKK members in robes. The KKK almost took over the state of Indiana. Benton was just trying to show his state's history, major warts and all. This controversy ended when the UI President made a speech, refusing to remove the mural, calling on UI students and faculty to use it as a teaching moment. Which they did.

Imagine that?

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