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.  As I said to a reporter:

“I certainly understand the financial problems that WSU and other colleges and universities are facing,” said Marler, an attorney from Bainbridge Island. “However, I also thought it would be important for the public to understand that Washington State University views freedom of speech and academic expression as something that is truly fundamental to its mission. I am pleased I could help in this regard.”

It was just posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog a few moments ago that WSU is having Michael Pollan to campus and 4,000 of his books, Omnivore’s Dilemma, will be distributed.

Food-Safety Advocate Offers to Pay Michael Pollan’s Speaking Fee at Washington State University

In the recent case of Washington State University’s dropping Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma as its “common reading” selection for the year, two rationales emerged: University officials said the reasons had to do with the institution’s dire budget outlook — there was just no money to bring in a big-name author like Mr. Pollan, they said. Meanwhile, some faculty members and others said the book was dropped because it attacks one of the university’s bases, Big Agriculture.Well, Bill Marler, a Seattle-based personal-injury lawyer who specializes in food-poisoning cases and who has become something of a food-safety advocate, is throwing down the gauntlet. “Hey, Michael Pollan, I’ll pay your way to Pullman,” Mr. Marler, a Washington State alumnus, writes on his blog. “I have my checkbook ready.”“So, was it political or was it financial?” he writes of the controversy. “I have an idea! To show that it was not political, I will pay to get Mr. Pollan to Pullman and find a place for him to speak — I’ll even introduce him. My hope is that it was not political.”Debra Townsend, a spokeswoman for the university, says that Elson S. Floyd, the university’s president, talked to Mr. Marler over the phone this afternoon and has decided to accept his offer.


  • Michael

    when will this be? we are in Missoula….love to come over for it!!

  • Marti Fulfs

    Thank you Mr. Marler!
    I wrote President Floyd with my concerns over pulling the The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I am the 5th of 7 generations living and farming on the Palouse. My husband & son farm today, with other family members. I feel that is essential to all of us, especially our young people, to know as many facts as possible to form our own opinions about all subjects.
    Thank you for your generous contribution in the name of freedom of speech & in the positive support of WSU.
    Marti Fulfs
    Pullman, WA

  • pullman resident

    Simply, thank you. You’ve highlighted the importance of private support during tight budget times, and helped WSU to remain a place where ideas and opinions are freely exchanged and debated.

  • Donna Campbell

    Dear Mr. Marler,
    Thanks very much for supporting the common reading program at WSU so generously. Michael Pollan’s talk is an important part of this program, and your support of this lecture means a lot to the faculty and students.
    Donna Campbell
    Department of English

  • Suzanne Schreck

    Go Cougs! Thanks Bill!

  • L. Russo

    Thanks for your generous gift to WSU. I look forward to attending the public lecture personally, and am grateful that the larger Palouse community will be able to experience the thoughts and discussions that Pollan’s visit may spark.

  • J. Hayles

    Bravo! You deserve to be recognized for the Herculean effort and extra mile you went for this cause! Keep up the good fight.

  • Gwen Sullivan

    I used Pollan’s In Defense of Food as one of the book selections this spring for a research writing class at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. It was both an eye-opener for students and a great book to generate related research topics. I will notify students that Pollan will be speaking in Pullman as a result of your generosity. I add my thanks to those who see the need to support higher education, even during stresful financial times.

  • Brian Sierkowski

    Mr. Marler,
    I have no link to your state or alumni college; I do, however, appreciate those who honor their institutions by helping them provide for the students of today. You set a fine example for this 2009 college graduate and those wishing to make a difference for the classes that follow us.
    Thank you.
    Brian Sierkowski
    Indiana University

  • Doug

    Well done. Thank you. Very generous, and a gift that will sow many seeds.

  • Bix

    “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.”

  • Judith

    Thank you for this. As a 3rd generation WSU student, I knew the school that gave us Edward R. Murrow as well as the “green revolution” would not be throttling the reading program or Pollan out of political reasons. I look forward to hearing the progress of this year’s common reading program.

  • m jones

    I am wondering if you know what Michael Pollan’s “lecture fee” actually is?
    I was just informed by his agent it is $30,000 (thirty thousand) plus first class airfare from California plus hotel.
    This buys you an hour at the feet of Mr Pollan.
    I am speechless.