Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Worst Thing I've Read in Weeks

This is sick. Really sick. From an article in the New York Times on Ivor van Heerden and his new book:

To many in Louisiana this outspokenness has made Dr. van Heerden a hero. But at his university it has gotten him called on the carpet for threatening the institution's relationship with the federal government and the research money that comes with that. Last November two vice chancellors at Lousiana State — Michael Ruffner, in charge of communications for the university, and Harold Silverman, who leads the office of research — brought him in for a meeting. As Dr. van Heerden recalled in an interview in Baton Rouge, La., the two administrators — one of whom controlled his position, which is nontenured — said that "they would prefer that I not talk to the press because it could hurt L.S.U.'s chances of getting federal funding in the future."

If you have a minute, read the article in the link above; it's simply shocking. Van Heerden is getting criticized because he's making the Army Corps of Engineers uncomfortable. You know, saying crazy things like this:

"Nature's given us a second chance," [van Heerden] observed. "Katrina was the warning. Katrina showed us a lot of our weaknesses." Now is the time, he added, for dirt, concrete and steel. "We've got to hope and pray that before we get anything like another Katrina, that we've raised the levees, armored them and built the necessary floodgates."

Let me be blunt: you administrators at LSU are going to put the lives of my children and wife and me at risk, because you're afraid of losing federal dollars? You don't want a leading expert on flood protection TELLING THE TRUTH in public because you're afraid of the Army Corps of Engineers?

What is also deeply troubling about this is that the fears of the two gentlemen from LSU have the ring of truth. I actually am worried that speaking the truth will lead to punishment by legislators from other states.

An additional question: with the money still held up in Washington, who cares? Could the U. S. Congress and the President be any more punitive than they are being right now with the pace of help? Actually, let's not call it help anymore. Let's call the federal dollars "reparations."

Indeed, now is the time for dirt and concrete and steel.

UPDATE 6/2/06: Okay, I've calmed down, so I've edited this to eliminate the name-calling. Also, in today's T-P, one of the aforementioned gentlement from LSU claims that he did not try to silence Dr. van Heerden. (Link not available right now. I'll put it in when it pops up.)

5 comments:

oyster said...

LSU's behavior was disgraceful, but according to the article it seems they've sorta backed down on the threats to Van Heerden.

"Could the U. S. Congress and the President be any more punitive than they are being right now with the pace of help?"

I don't know how much more punitive they can get, but the Housing and Levee funds currently in negotiation between the Senate and the House will be yet another test. Will Congress split the money we need with 3 other states? And/or will the President have the chutzpah to make his first veto on a military/hurricane funding bill because it goes a billion or two over his designated "limit"?

Mr. Clio said...

I'd put the emphasis on "SORTA" in your description.

Nothing short of an apology and a "You are dead right, and you should keep talkin', Ivor" from those pinheads would be good enough for me.

dangerblond said...

I have a thing for Ivor. You talk all you want to, baby.

mchebert said...

I just bought Van Heerden's book, "The Storm." I will read it as soon as I finish "The Great Deluge." ("The Great Deluge," by the way, is a compelling read -- I have only finished 100 pages and my jaw has hit the floor a half dozen times.)

I wish we could just blame the Van Heerden thing on two pinheads, but I don't think we can. LSU has always used political connections to get money, rather than the traditional route of scholarly grants, corporate funding, and the like. I noticed that when I trained at LSU-Charity in internal medicine. It was not a scientific place, it was a political place that depended on state and federal charity funding for absolutely everything.

Remember the great run LSU had under its previous chancellor, who was a career academic? Instead of following that up with another qualified academic, they went back to their old pathetic ways and hired a politico (the head of NASA, no less) to run LSU. Then -- shocker -- political considerations trump academic when the heat is on.

LSU needs more than just two administrators to apologize. It needs a general purging of politically connected staffers. Do you think for a minute that a school like U of Michigan or Virginia or Cal Berkeley would allow the Army Corp to intimidate a professor? HELL NO. Maybe a generous alumnus or corporate donor could (although I doubt it), but the feds? NEVER!

It is an outrage.

mchebert said...

I just bought Van Heerden's book, "The Storm." I will read it as soon as I finish "The Great Deluge." ("The Great Deluge," by the way, is a compelling read -- I have only finished 100 pages and my jaw has hit the floor a half dozen times.)

I wish we could just blame the Van Heerden thing on two pinheads, but I don't think we can. LSU has always used political connections to get money, rather than the traditional route of scholarly grants, corporate funding, and the like. I noticed that when I trained at LSU-Charity in internal medicine. It was not a scientific place, it was a political place that depended on state and federal charity funding for absolutely everything.

Remember the great run LSU had under its previous chancellor, who was a career academic? Instead of following that up with another qualified academic, they went back to their old pathetic ways and hired a politico (the head of NASA, no less) to run LSU. Then -- shocker -- political considerations trump academic when the heat is on.

LSU needs more than just two administrators to apologize. It needs a general purging of politically connected staffers. Do you think for a minute that a school like U of Michigan or Virginia or Cal Berkeley would allow the Army Corp to intimidate a professor? HELL NO. Maybe a generous alumnus or corporate donor could (although I doubt it), but the feds? NEVER!

It is an outrage.