Thursday, May 28, 2009

WSU invites Michael Pollan to speak

As you saw in the comments section on the U.S. Food Policy post about the Washington State University (WSU) controversy, food safety attorney and WSU alum Bill Marler issued a challenge to the university.

University officials had claimed that financial problems were responsible for the cancellation of a freshman orientation reading program centered on Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. Others had implicated pressure from state agribusiness interests with influence in university leadership. Marler's challenge, designed to distinguish between these two theories, was to offer to write a check himself for a visit by Pollan to the WSU campus. If the university's problems were really financial instead of political, Marler reasoned, it would accept his offer.

WSU accepted Marler's offer, the attorney's blog reported yesterday afternoon.
I knew it was the economic pressures that public education is facing and not any political pressure that caused the change in the reading of Omnivore's Dilemma and Michael Pollan's visit to Pullman. The WSU I graduated from and served, would not bend to that kind of small mindlessness.
Why be cynical? Who cares if the attorney is enjoying a bit of grandstanding? Why quibble about inconsistencies in the university's original position? What's the point in asking whether Pollan really needed either the additional publicity or the speaker's fee? This outcome makes everybody look better than they would under any alternative scenario.


Bill Marler said...

"Grandstanding" - give me a break.

usfoodpolicy said...

In the most productive sense of the term. :-)

Good work.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he will see fit to endow an annual "Marler Lecture" component of the freshman reading experience, the core being an excellent book addressing a current "hot potato" topic (apologies for the pun, but food, energy and sustainability topics seem most appropriate).