… in the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the most charitable description of what’s been going on at the clubby University of Minnesota medical school would be “bizarre.”
Friday, September 24, 2010
Are Certain Questions Off Limits
At the University of Minnesota?
A film's near-suppression raises questions about the U.
By GEORGE BOODY
September 24, 2010
When the head of the University of Minnesota's public-relations department, Karen Himle, canceled the release of the film "Troubled Waters" earlier this month, the university did more than deny the public insights into how agriculture can play a positive role in improving water quality. It sent a troubling message to the people of Minnesota: At a public land-grant institution in which we all own a share, certain topics of discussion are taboo.
The quashing of "Troubled Waters" goes beyond one film or the issues it covers. It goes to the heart of whether the U is truly a public institution that is "driven to discover," even when what is discovered could upset certain special interests.
On Thursday, the U announced that the film had in fact been properly vetted and would be shown as scheduled. That's great news for the viewing public. But the troubling fact remains that a serious attempt was made by a public land-grant university to censor the dissemination of scientific/environmental information.
...the censorship of a film that was reviewed by 27 scientists, 17 resource managers and extension educators, and (importantly) 10 farmers sends a chilling message to anyone who believes in an open environment for the pursuit, dissemination and debate of important, and often controversial,issues.
Only through such a free exchange of ideas will we adapt in a rapidly changing world. University officials claim that there was no outside pressure to cancel the original premiere of "Troubled Waters." If that's true, the situation is even more troubling: It means U officials practiced self-censorship.
U of M President Robert Bruininks has over the years spoken eloquently about the need for the public to support the university. In fact, the U is in the process or considering a new conflict-of-interest policy that he hopes will hold the institution "accountable for our conduct" while building a "highly ethical culture."The public outcry over the pulling of "Troubled Waters" shows that the people of Minnesota care enough about the U to correct it when it doesn't fulfill its mission. Bruininks needs to show that as a world-class public university, the U can use this controversy as an opportunity to demonstrate world-class respect for the people it serves.Now Bruininks needs to undertake a full review to ensure that this kind of censorship does not take place again.
George Boody is executive director of the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project.
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