Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reverberation on Apparent Censorship

Continues at the University of Minnesota

From the Star-Tribune

University of Minnesota vice president Karen Himle is under fire for canceling the broadcast of a university-produced documentary about farming, pollution and the Mississippi River.

The Land Stewardship Project has called for Himle's resignation, and questioned whether she may have a conflict of interest in the dispute.

University President Robert Bruininks is in Morocco, where he issued a statement supporting Karen Himle.

"I have every confidence in Vice President Himle and her integrity," Bruininks said, adding that she "continues to be an outstanding part of my leadership team."

Through university spokesman Daniel Wolter, Himle said she made the decision after hearing concerns from faculty members. But Himle told the University of Minnesota Daily newspaper that she initiated the action by calling Allen Levine on Labor Day to discuss her own concerns.

Levine is dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences. He oversees the Bell Museum of Natural History, which produced the film. Levine has not been available for interviews for two days.

Himle has not responded to interview requests since last Friday.

Wolter has issued statements attributed to Himle, which first said that the film was not fair and balanced, and then that it may not have met the goals of legislative funders.

Funders, including the McKnight Foundation, Mississippi River Fund and the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, have all viewed the program and said it is balanced and worthy of broadcast.

Himle did not consult with the funders before making the decision.

The Land Stewardship Project called the cancellation of the documentary "an outrageous affront to science in the public interest." The nonprofit group wants the U to reverse its decision, show the film and investigate what happened. Land Stewardship Project associate director Mark Schultz said that whether Himle made the decision because of direct pressure from corporate interests, or of her own accord, the result is "censorship" that has "seriously hobbled" the school's reputation.

Some alums are upset about the cancellation and have been calling and writing U officials to complain.

Ralph Bovard of Minneapolis said that he's disappointed with the U for "suppressing" the film. "It will come back to haunt them in the long run," he said.

"Now I want to see the film more than ever -- to see what they don't want us to see."

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