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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Hey, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, tell David Wood to take a hike, academic freedom is too important

According to Meatingplace.com, once again “Big Ag” seems to be stepping in the academic freedom cow pie. Apparently, the administration of Cal Poly is so worried about $150,000 from David Wood that it is bending to that donor’s will.

"Wood, according to the LA Times, has pledged $150,000 to help build a new meat processing plant on the Cal Poly campus. But in his letter, he said the Pollan lecture caused him to ‘rethink my continued financial support of the university.’"

Interestingly, a few months ago I was pitched by Cal Poly for the same donation. Although I passed on the opportunity to invest in a slaughterhouse, I could not imagine that I would ever use a donation to thwart academic freedom.

David, don’t be so cheap.  If you want to press your point of view, pay to have Big Ag come another day.

Frankly, Cal Poly should remember that freedom of inquiry by students and faculty members is essential to its core mission. Students and faculty should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts, including those that are inconvenient to Big Ag.

True, according to meatingplace.com, “[i]nstead of a Pollan speech, the school on Thursday will hold a panel discussion including Pollan, a meat-scientist and a representative of one of the nation’s largest organic growers. “ Pollan told the LA Times he earlier offered Cal Poly a choice of either having him lecture or participate in a panel. Pollan said Wood’s letter posed a threat to academic freedom.

"The issue is about whether the school is really free to explore diverse ideas about farming," he said. "Is the principle of balance going to apply across the board? The next time Monsanto comes to speak at Cal Poly about why we need [genetically modified organisms] to feed the world, will there be a similar effort? Will I be invited back for that show?"

A Pollan/Mosanto “smackdown?” I’d pay to see that.

Disclosure, I donated money to Washington State University after it threatened to pull the invitation to Mr. Pollan, and I paid to have him speak at my kids’ high school.