You may recall that recently the brand new Shale Resources and Society Institute at the University at Buffalo (UB) published a 52-page study that found environmental problems caused by Marcellus Shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania were isolated, mostly minor and on the decline. The enviro-left perceived a threat. This is a major university coming out in support of drilling—something that cannot stand. So the enviro-left flew into action to try and shame, cajole and bully UB into retracting support for its own newly established Institute. And it seemed to work (see this MDN story).
But what’s this? Yesterday UB issued a press statement that supports the Institute. Sort of. Lukewarm. Half-heartedly. UB defended the Institute by saying the university does not and will not dictate the positions taken by its faculty members on controversial topics, and that UB has no plans to get rid of the Institute. Here’s the full statement:
The University at Buffalo recognizes that shale gas and hydraulic fracturing is an important, timely and controversial topic.
The university upholds academic freedom as a core principle. In accordance with this principle, faculty members are free to conduct research on any topic, including controversial ones, and to disseminate their findings without prior review or approval by the university. The university’s role is to create a forum for objective research and informed debate — not to dictate the positions taken by its faculty members. Thus the university views the work of the Shale Resources and Society Institute as fully consistent with UB’s mission as a public research university. UB has no plans to alter or suspend the operations of the institute.
There continue to be many opportunities for faculty, staff, students and the public to be engaged in this subject. UB’s Geology Department hosted a seminar series on Marcellus Shale topics in 2011 which was open to the public. The Shale Resources and Society Institute held an open meeting in early April prior to its inauguration to discuss its plans. In mid-May, the institute held another open meeting for faculty to talk about its research agenda and invite collaboration. In addition the institute’s leaders have met individually with several faculty members from across the university.
The institute is committed to sustaining an environment of scientific integrity, honest investigation and freedom from interference.
On May 25, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences responded to concerns raised in some quarters about the inaugural SRSI report: //www.buffalo.edu/ubreporter/2012_05_31/shale_statement.
Other relevant information can be found at the institute’s website [//www.srsi.buffalo.edu] and in the press release //www.buffalo.edu/ubreporter/2012_05_17/shale_violations.*
That statement is about as supportive as it gets in academe. Better late than never.
*University at Buffalo (Jun 28, 2012) – University at Buffalo Statement Regarding Shale Resources and Society Institute