Environmental Group Backs Alaska Prof in Fight With University

October 21, 2009

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group, has issued a report strongly backing Rick Steiner, who has accused federal officials of getting him removed from receiving funds from the National Sea Grant Program and his administrators at the University of Alaska of going along with the decision and failing to stand behind his academic freedom. Steiner says that he has been punished for championing environmental causes that offend the oil industry and the public employee group found evidence to back that view. The university's president, Mark Hamilton, has recently issued a final rejection of Steiner's claims, consistent with earlier statements from the university denying that it had done anything wrong. In a strongly worded analysis of the situation, the public employee group's director said: “President Hamilton seems to believe that his faculty still enjoys academic freedom even while he permits imposition of penalties for views simply because they conflict with the university’s financial backers – big oil. This decision suggests that the University of Alaska is to academic freedom what Burma is to open political debate.”

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