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BURYING BERRY
June 23, 2010 - 3:48pm

By

UD

The University of Kentucky, a public institution, used to hold the papers of that state's most esteemed living writer, Wendell Berry. But Berry, disgusted by the university's prostituting itself to the coal industry, pulled his papers last year. They will be housed someplace other than the house of ill-repute that UK has become.

UK has gone the way of the whorehouse not merely because it does things like build a dorm for the exclusive use of basketball players -- virtually none of whom will graduate -- and then name the dorm after the coal industry that bought it. No, that's just the latest thing, the thing that prompted Berry's withdrawal. Berry calls it, in his letter, "the last straw."

UK has gone the way of the whorehouse because almost everything it now does is about the amoral acquisition of money and athletic victories.

Its basketball program mainly features cheats and drunks. Its players have the lowest grades of any team on campus, for which their coach of course has had to take the fall:

Calipari (who left his two prior college programs–Massachusetts and Memphis–in hot water with the NCAA for alleged violations) pulls down 10% or so of the $35 million to $40 million that his program generates for the university (the entire athletic department generates $72 million a year, the school says). The corporate equivalent for Calipari’s pay package would be Microsoft handing Steve Ballmer $6 billion a year.

No one should be surprised that a morally and intellectually serious person, the sort of person who becomes your state's most important writer, would find the stench emanating from Lexington too much to take.

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Yet it is a little surprising to see just how sluttishly indifferent, and determinedly crass, the university is about its loss of a crucial part of Kentucky's literary heritage.

We only know about Berry's letter because a newspaper filed an Open Records request. The university shrugged and buried the whole thing. Big deal. Get rid of 'em.

... But this will be embarrassing if it gets out, so hide it.

The university's president has yet to offer a word about Berry's angry withdrawal of his writing from the university. It's been months.

Some spokesperson did say that the university is "disappointed." Why? Because on the assumption that they'd have his papers, they "purchased a significant portion of his works."

Get it? If we'd known you were going to pull out, we wouldn't have wasted all that money on your books! Now what're we gonna do with 'em? That's money that could have gone to John Calipari!

 

 

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