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.)