For Immediate Release
Rick Steiner (907) 360-4503;
Kate Hornyan (202) 265-733
International Scientists Condemn Purge of Professor
Scientific Commission Decries Oil Industry Influence at University of Alaska
WASHINGTON - A prestigious international scientific
body today sent a blistering letter to the University Alaska protesting
the influence of the oil industry in the treatment and funding of
academic researchers. Released today by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the letter condemns the
University's decision to revoke federal funding for a marine
conservation specialist in retaliation for his protests of bias in
University-sponsored programs promoting drilling in Arctic waters.
The February 3, 2010 letter from the Commission on Environmental,
Economic, and Social Policy (CEESP) of the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN) takes the University to task for its
actions against Professor Rick Steiner, who has resigned from its
faculty (effective this past Monday, February 1, 2010) following its
removal of any further National Oceanic & Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant funding this past fall:
members have become increasingly concerned at the way in which Prof.
Steiner has been treated by your University. They believe that the
University of Alaska administration has engaged in what is known as
"constructive dismissal" of Prof. Steiner. From the documents we have
seen, it is clear that Prof. Steiner was punished for publicly
expressing his expert perspective on one particular offshore oil and
gas proposal in Alaska's Bristol Bay, and for criticizing a University
of Alaska / Shell Oil conference on the matter which he felt was biased
toward a pro-drilling decision. This was not just his right to do so, it was his job to
do so. Academic freedom and the responsibility of academics to be the
public conscience are cornerstones of being a credible academic."
[Emphasis in original]
CEESP is a global network of conservation researchers, principally
faculty members from universities all over the world. The letter was
signed by CEESP chair Aroha Te Pareake Mead of New Zealand. The CEESP
letter, one of several international protests filed with University of
Alaska President Mark Hamilton over the treatment of Prof. Steiner,
"We believe that this
case will become known widely around the world as a classic example of
public administrators pandering to powerful industrial interests, while
sacrificing the very ideal of their institution…As much as a university
administration must stay neutral on such policy issues such as oil
development, it also must protect the right of its faculty to freely
express their perspectives and concerns on such. Otherwise, your
public and students will lose confidence in the objectivity of your
American government agencies are gaining a well-deserved international
reputation for bending science to support politically powerful
industries," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose
organization has filed a rulemaking petition with NOAA demanding that
its grants not be used to silence scientists. "The U.S. is plunging
headlong to open up some of the most important and sensitive marine
areas on the planet to petroleum production without a clear idea of the
real environmental and economic costs. That is the reason that it is
so important that experts such as Rick Steiner are allowed to work
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