Regent Bruce Rastetter is defending his request for University of Iowa President Sally Mason to have a prominent environmental researcher speak with ethanol industry lobbyists upset over a recent speech.
Rastetter said Tuesday that he was trying to encourage a dialogue between industry officials and Jerry Schnoor, director of the university’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.
Schnoor gave a talk last month in Washington warning that ethanol plants were using so much water that they were depleting the groundwater supply. One ethanol industry leader sent an email calling Schnoor an embarrassment to the university.
Rastetter forwarded that email to Mason and asked her to allow the industry to give Schnoor “factual information so this professor isn’t uninformed.”
The issue was cited Wednesday by supporters of a bill to expand openness and accountability on the Board of Regents, while removing politics from the board’s activities. Nearly two dozen Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) members spoke in support of the Senate bill at a hearing Wednesday.
During the hearing, CCI member Deborah Bunka of Ames accused regent members of abusing their power and promoting their political agendas while attempting to quash academic freedom in the process. Bunka pointed to the Rastetter email as an example of the “arrogance” she said he exudes.
“He had no shame in sending that email,” Bunka said. “It tells us that he feels he is above any ethics guidelines, that he’s untouchable because of how he was appointed.”
What do you think? Did Rastetter overstep his role by trying to foster more dialogue between the ethanol industry and the UI professor?