Monday, October 4, 2010

Minnesota Daily Asks the Artful Dodger

to Come Clean

Investigate film snafu

U officials still must explain 

why they wanted to delay “Troubled Waters.”

President Bob Bruininks upped the ante on the “Troubled Waters” controversy after calling it an “academic freedom” issue last week.

That it is — and the University of Minnesota still needs to answer questions about what exactly led to one of its ugliest public relations snafus in recent memory that has caused people inside and outside the University to question whether academic freedom is at stake. 

Indeed, this is what Bobby King, a spokesman for the Land Stewardship Project, which helped fund the film, told the Daily about its delay: “These groups, like all Minnesotans, see the University as a public institution with a mission to further science in the public interest and promote academic freedom, and they clearly didn’t do that in this case. I think people feel betrayed and upset — rightly so. And they want to see the University take action to correct this.”

We hope the Academic Freedom Committee and the Legislature also conduct a thorough review of the film’s delay because, frankly, it’d be hard to believe the results of an internal investigation, a conflict of interest at its most basic level; it’s not often that potential wrongdoers will make their own transgressions public.
...we still don’t know who made the final call and all we’ve really heard have been passive-voice responses that raise more questions than answers. In an interview last week, Minnesota Public Radio asked Bruininks what his role was in the flap. In a seven-minute response, Bruininks never answered whether he made the call to delay the airing of the film.

Classic Bruininks' shuck and jive...

What he did say is that he was “part of a conversation in Morocco that decided this film should go forward.” The public has a right to know whether Bruininks was involved in the decision to attempt to delay the film’s premiere — or whether he made that decision.

Bruininks also expressed anger - he's angry? - that the decision to delay the film caused a public uproar:

“I am not particularly pleased that this became a big public issue, because I think the University has very deep values that go back from all the way to its founding to protect the rights of our faculty and students and staff, to pursue their curiosity and to really advance our culture.”

And so this means what happened isn't a big issue?

That the University and Bruininks have defended academic freedom in the past does not mean the media and public should not raise legitimate questions whether the University, along with the officials running it, have failed to live up to its stated values — especially when an academic freedom issue arises with palpable conflicts of interests.

We’re eager to see the results of any internal and external investigations into an incident that should teach University officials at least one lesson: conflicts of interest, whether real or perceived, are damaging.

They should have learned this lesson long ago. 

See Leo Furcht.  

See David Polly. 

See the Double Dippers.  

I could go on. 


Added Later -

Comments on the Daily site:

Part of Bruininks statement last week was this sentence: "It is important for me to acknowledge that Vice President Himle was asked by the Bell Museum to review the film, and she raised questions and concerns about it in her capacity as Vice President of University Relations."

This is utter garbage and it cannot stand unchallenged.
Yes - *technically* the Bell gave her a copy but it was certainly NOT for the purpose of deciding whether or not to cancel the broadcast. Bruininks knows this but he attempts to deceive and mislead with statements like this. This is a cover-up, plain and simple.

After the MPR taping was over I personally heard Bruininks comment that although he was upset by the incident itself he was MORE upset by the "discourse". He actually said that he thought this should be a case study of how today's media/blog coverage can blow up a story like this. No - President Bruininks - this should be a case study of how an out of control University Administration can attempt to censor material and then cover up that censorship. This is a disgrace.

What we need is to build a timeline and then fill in all the details. It would start with the viewing of the film by the CFANS deans and then Himle's viewing and proceed on through the decision to cancel the broadcast and the numerous (and conflicting) explanations we heard from Wolter, Himle, Levine, Bruininks, and others. And we can't wait for the U to do this for us because we simply cannot trust Morrill Hall on this one.

The articles in The Daily, the Strib, MPR online, and the blogs like TC Daily Planet (thanks to Molly Priesmeyer for breaking the story!) and Minnpost have been a great start. Now we need to fill in those details and get to the truth.
You are angry, Mr. President?

How about explaining this discrepancy?

Bruininks Statement: 9/28

"As the facts surrounding the production of the film have become clearer, it was readily apparent to me that this is an issue of academic freedom; as a result, we immediately resolved to show it as planned."


MPR 9/29
U of M President Robert Bruininks said talk of delaying the "Troubled Waters" documentary, which he admits should have been handled and communicated differently, never threatened academic freedom. "That was never at risk and never at stake," he said.


I hope that any investigation of this matter will answer (at least) two questions:

1. Who in Morrill Hall told Ms. Himle that it was ok to pull the plug on the film? I don't believe for a second that she did this unilaterally.

2. Did the president and Ms. Himle discuss this matter prior to the plug being pulled?

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