February 17, 2010

Univ: The Sun’s reporting, editorial unfair

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Re: “C.U. Denies Conflict of Interest,” News, Feb. 16 and “A Decision Above Reproach,” Opinion, Feb. 16

On Tuesday, The Sun ran an article entitled “C.U. Denies Conflict of Interest,” and in the same breath editorialized about “A Decision Above Reproach.” Based on the fact-challenged advocacy news story, The Sun’s editors opined, leaving the reader with the misimpression that there are decisions about shale drilling being made by individuals at the highest level of our University with an improper interest in the outcome.

That is wrong. There is no conflict of interest regarding such decisions because there is, at this time, no decision under consideration about which to be conflicted. The University has issued a moratorium on the leasing of its lands for shale drilling. It is unfortunate that The Sun does not appreciate this fact or even the process that is in place to protect the University from the possibility of a conflict of interest.

Any time a concrete proposal is presented to the Board of Trustees for a lease or other transaction with a company in which any trustee may have a possible conflict due to personal or family financial interests, those trustees dutifully recuse themselves from participation in the Board’s consideration of the matter. This policy applies to each and every one of us, all the way up to the chairman of the Board of Trustees.

As Chairman Peter Meinig ’61 said to The Sun, and its reporter failed to report, it is the Cornell administration that has the responsibility to decide the matter of Marcellus Shale drilling on University properties. And, to make sure the matter is fully considered, President David Skorton has initiated a process that includes a faculty-led committee appointed by the Provost and the Dean of the Faculty to guide his decision-making — a process, by the way, that Chairman Meinig told The Sun he supports.

The issue of shale drilling elicits many points of view and emotions across our community, and for good reason. For those who are most concerned, participating actively in the process that is going on our campus is not only productive, but also very welcome. Speculative reporting about hypotheticals, on the other hand, is not helpful.

Thomas Bruce, vice president for University communications