The University of Minnesota’s decision to show the film Troubled Waters has only slightly dampened the call for the resignation of Karen Himle, the University official at the center of the flap.
A coalition of more than a dozen Minnesota farm and environmental groups has sent a letter today to University President Robert Bruininks requesting:
- Himle’s resignation — if she’s deemed responsible for the decision — and “appropriately discipline others involved in making a decision that was ethically and professionally wrong”;
- a full investigation of why and how the film’s premiere was canceled;
- any necessary changes in procedures so that such a situation doesn’t happen again.
“It all smells so bad,” said Brian DeVore, communication coordinator for the Land Stewardship Project, a nonprofit organization that’s one of the signers of the letter. The about-face by the university, and its explanation, “kind of reinforces what we knew all along: Science was not reason it was pulled.”
Throughout the flap, he said, University officials “have been changing their story constantly. We want to know what was the reason (the film’s premier was originally canceled) and why.”
A press release issued by the Land Stewardship Project stated:
“Of particular concern is that (Vice President for University Relations) Himle was allowed to pull a film on agriculture and the environment despite a clear conflict of interest. Himle is closely connected to corporate ag interests: her husband is John Himle, former director of the Agri-Growth Council, a corporate agriculture lobbying group, and he is currently director of Himle Horner, a public relations firm that does work for the Agri-Growth Council.”
DeVore said this evening he’s concerned that the university is starting to focus attention on Bell Museum Director Susan Weller — and take the focus away from Himle.
In addition to the Land Stewardship Project, groups signed on to the letter
include: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minnesota Food
Association, Save Lake Superior Association, Friends of the Boundary
Waters Wilderness, Izaak Walton League of America – Midwest Office,
Conservation Minnesota, Southeastern Minnesotans for Environmental
Protection (SEMEP), Mankato Area Environmentalists, Duluth Audubon
Society, WaterLegacy, Friends of the Mississippi River, Featherstone
Farms and the Mississippi River Fund.
Here’s a copy of the letter:
COPY BY FAX AND U.S. MAIL TO FOLLOW
202 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455
September 23, 2010
Dear President Bruininks:
As organizations working in the interests of farmers and the
environment, we were appalled by the University’s recent decision to
cancel the premiere of the documentary “Troubled Waters: A Mississippi
River Story.” This decision, and the lack of transparency surrounding
it, causes us to question the University’s commitment to truth-telling
and academic freedom—two pillars of a public University.
The University’s unwillingness to speak openly to either the news media
or to the movie’s funders about the reasons for the film’s cancellation
has led to a great deal of speculation surrounding the decision.
According to multiple media reports, including the /Star Tribune,/ Vice
President of University Relations Karen Himle canceled the film abruptly
without informing any of its nonprofit and public funders beforehand. We
are deeply concerned about conflict of interest on the part of Vice
President Himle, as well as assertions that outside influences may have
played a role in this decision. Subsequent reasons given by the
University for stopping the film from being shown included misleading
statements, such as the assertion that the film’s public funding
required further review of the film, a position that the
Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources has repeatedly
said is untrue, and that the University has now dropped.
As a land-grant university, the University of Minnesota should be
committed to serving all Minnesotans by providing them with accurate,
scientifically based information on our agriculture and the environment.
According to those that have reviewed the movie—including leading UMN
scientists and the LCCMR—“Troubled Waters” is fair and accurate. Whether the film’s content pleases everyone is irrelevant. By withholding this film, the University is doing a disservice to the state of Minnesota. To
immediately resolve this situation, the University should:
· move forward with the October 3 premiere of “Troubled Waters” at the
Bell Museum and the scheduled October 5 TPT airing of the film.
· ask for the resignation of Vice President Himle if she is deemed
responsible for the decision, as reported in several media accounts, and
appropriately discipline others involved in making this decision, which
was ethically and professionally wrong.
· implement a review of university policy to ensure transparent and
conflict of interest–free decision making on the part of University
administrators going forward.
We also suggest that the University plan a post-film forum at the Bell
Museum on October 3, where those who have concerns about the movie can talk alongside those who felt it struck the right balance.
If the university expects to be a trusted source on these issues in the
future, it must become more transparent in how it makes decisions and
sets priorities. We look forward to working with the U to make these
improvements, and trust that you will keep the interests of all
Minnesotans in mind with this and future decisions.
George Boody, Executive Director
Land Stewardship Project
Paul Austin, Executive Director
David Williams, President
Southeastern Minnesotans for Environmental Protection (SEMEP)
Glen Hill, Executive Director
Minnesota Food Association
LeRoger Lind, President
Save Lake Superior Association
Paul Danicic, Executive Director
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Jane Cleave, President
Duluth Audubon Society
Jim Harkness, President
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Brad Redlin, Director, Agricultural Program
Izaak Walton League of America – Midwest Office
Jeff Brand, President
Mankato Area Environmentalists
Diadra Decker, Board Member
Whitney Clark, Executive Director
Friends of the Mississippi River