Bell director on the cancellation of the museum premier

MPR’s Tim Post spoke this evening with Bell Museum Director Susan Weller after the announcement that the University would indeed show the environmental documentary Troubled Waters.

On why she canceled the Bell Museum premier of the film:

“When I was stepping on a plane Sept. 8 to go to Europe to give a presentation, I received a phone call that the (Twin Cities Public Television) broadcast had been canceled. And so then I’m on a plane, I arrive and I’m checking e-mails, trying to find out what happened. With the limited information I had, I decided that if the university was so concerned about the film … then we needed to go back and ensure that we had followed all our internal procedures, so that I could … really be able to stand behind (the film). And so my decision to postpone the screening at the Bell Museum was based on the fact that the broadcast was canceled. .. They were linked.”

On the fact-checking she felt was necessary for the film’s integrity — and why it took until today for her to be satisfied, and for the announcement to be made:

I’m not a micromanager. When I requested the documents, they were not made available to me immediately. (I requested them) Sept. 8 or 9. I started receiving (them) Monday the 20th.  I was overseas, so it would have been difficult for them to ship it to me overseas, I suppose. … As of Monday I have been receiving documentation I had requested. And I’ve been taking time to review parts of it. I’ve had the staff explain to me their procedures for fact-checking in detail. I felt when the scientific accuracy of the film was questioned by others, I needed to be able to stand by the product. I finally received all of the material late last night/this morning, so I (am) able to represent this film as being thoroughly fact-checked.

On the effect of the flap on the University’s reputation:

It looks bad, and I would just say we’re kind of a big, sometimes dysfunctional family, and we need to have that weekly family conference once in a while to get us all back on the same page. I think there will be a lot of people, myself included, reflecting on how we could have done a better process, and how this could have been handled better. But we’re so in the moment. I really can’t comment on what happened specifically or what I’d do differently. It’s been very intense these past few days.

On who originally made the decision to cancel the TPT showing:

That’s a piece of information I simply don’t have. I’ll leave it to those who were involved in that decision to self-disclose.

  • gateway1

    While I believe (from what we know so far) that Dr. Weller is the least culpable of all the administrators/officials involved – I still do not buy this explanation.

    On Sept. 13th, people who had already purchased tickets for the Premiere and Reception were sent this email: “Troubled Waters: A Mississippi Story has been postponed to allow time for a scientific review of the film”. They were NOT told that Dr. Weller was going to review the existing documentation and determine whether a further review was necessary. Then Dr. Weller proceeded to start implementing the “scientific review”.

    Additionally – Dr. Weller clearly was “muzzled” from the beginning. And it appears at though she has continued to toe the company line all through this whole affair. Even these comments from her are clearly meant to deflect as much as possible the wrongdoings of the U in this matter.

    As of this post – the broadcast has still not been re-scheduled. Who knows – maybe this is all part of the scheme to suppress the film. Maybe Karen Himle knows that once the broadcast was cancelled it would be difficult to get it re-scheduled on TPT (after all – she used to work there).

    It's good that we now know more about what actually happened (especially the fact that even Dr. Weller didn't know about the cancellation of the broadcast until after it happened). And it's good that a few hundred people will be able to see the film on Oct. 3rd. It's a shame that it won't be the Premiere and Reception that was planned. And it would be a VERY VERY BIG SHAME if the BROADCAST is substantially delayed.

    The truth will come out eventually. But unless the people involved have the guts to say “We're sorry. This was a shameful attempt to censor the film. And here's exactly what happened” — we will depend on the reporters at MPR and the other news media to get the real story and make sure that everyone is held accountable.