Wendell Berry protests coal’s influence at University of Kentucky

    Renowned Kentucky farmer, poet, essayist, and environmental writer Wendell Berry is pulling many of his personal papers from the University of Kentucky’s archives to protest the naming of a new campus building. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader:

    Berry excoriated his alma matter in a Dec. 20, 2009, letter, saying the decision to name a new dorm for UK basketball players the Wildcat Coal Lodge “puts an end” to his association with the university.

    “The University’s president and board have solemnized an alliance with the coal industry, in return for a large monetary ‘gift,’ granting to the benefactors, in effect, a co-sponsorship of the University’s basketball team,” Berry wrote in the typewritten letter. “That — added to the ‘Top 20’ project and the president’s exclusive ‘focus’ on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — puts an end to my willingness to be associated in any way officially with the University.”

    Berry is among the most revered writers in Kentucky history and his statement is no doubt a blow to the university, but they’ve dealt with his wrath before:

    In an essay published in 1987, The Loss of the University, Berry argued for a college education that would broaden a student’s exposure to a number of disciplines rather than produce the narrow skills of career-minded transients with no sense of a homeland.

    At a 2007 commencement address at Bellarmine University, Berry railed against “the great and the would-be-great ‘research universities.’ These gigantic institutions, increasingly formed upon the ‘industrial model,’ no longer make even the pretense of preparing their students for responsible membership in a family, a community, or a polity. … The American civilization so ardently promoted by these institutions is to be a civilization entirely determined by technology, and not encumbered by any thought of what is good or worthy or neighborly or humane.”

    While it’s unclear whether Berry’s latest action will have any kind of effect, it is no doubt consistent with his beliefs and will probably have more of an effect in the years to come, lending evermore creadence to his strong sense of respect for humans and nature.



    Recent Stories

    • Analysis

    Anti-occupation coalition grows stronger in the face of Israeli military violence

    May 24, 2019

    When diaspora Jews and those living in Israel join with Palestinians, they forge a more powerful and just movement to end the occupation.

    • Column

    Vision is finally on the rise in U.S. politics

    May 21, 2019

    From grassroots movements to presidential hopefuls, the importance of creating visionary plans for change is no longer being ignored.

    • Analysis

    Populist alliances of ‘cowboys and Indians’ are protecting rural lands

    May 17, 2019

    By appealing to the hearts and minds of their white neighbors, Native Americans are carving out common ground and building unity through diversity.