February 22, 2010

Letter to the Editor: A fallacious rebuttal

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To the Editor:

Re: “Univ: The Sun’s reporting, editorial unfair,” Opinion, Feb. 18

The Sun is to be congratulated on a thoughtful article and editorial on the issue of unconventional gas drilling. Also, President Skorton has provided outstanding leadership by instituting a moratorium on leasing Cornell lands and forming an ad hoc committee to address this issue.

I find it somewhat unfortunate that Vice President Thomas Bruce, in his letter to the editor, apparently overlooked some of the points made in the Sun article. Vice President Bruce states: “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.” First of all, the article clearly states that the moratorium is in place (“ … the University placed a moratorium on any consideration regarding the leasing and exploration of University land above the Marcellus Shale …”). However, the issue of a moratorium is irrelevant to the article. A moratorium is by definition temporary, so once it has expired, the conflict of interest will still exist.

Second, with respect to the University’s conflict of interest policy, the question was never whether such a policy is in place; the question is how the policy is interpreted. I do believe that it is unfair to the author of the original news piece, a Cornell undergraduate, to suggest that she does not appreciate facts that she has clearly stated, and stated completely appropriately, in the article. Vice President Bruce also mentioned that the story leaves “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.” This reader was not left with that impression. In fact, nowhere in the article is such an assertion made. For example, Lisa Wright made clear in her comments that no one is suggesting that any improper actions have taken place.

The point of the article and the point of the letter to Mr. Meinig are simply to call attention to a potential conflict of interest that has concerned many individuals in the community. In fact, it is very difficult to find a basis for Vice President Bruce’s assertion that the article was “fact-challenged.”

The issue of unconventional natural gas drilling has polarized our community and state. It is important to remember that many of us care deeply about Cornell and its stellar image. As a proud alumna of Cornell, I strongly feel that the University is best served by open and respectful dialogue.

Michelle Bamberger ’85