Friday, May 19, 2006

OSU Dean Slapped Around By Review Panel

I bet Carla will wish she was here for this story: An OSU review panel set up by Forestry Dean Hal Salwasser has come around to bite him in the ass, pinning the blame on him for a controversy surrounding a graduate student's published paper in Science. Furthermore and much more damaging, the panel alleged a relationship with the timber industry that went beyond appropriate and well into the realm of shill:
...some prominent professors at the College of Forestry who argue for logging and replanting after wildfires tried to derail publication of Donato's research. The journal printed it anyway, but their move raised alarm at OSU about erosion of academic freedom.

It also raised the issue of the college's longtime ties to the timber industry, which supplies a slice of its funding through logging taxes.

The research and the furor surrounding it have since been the subject of congressional and state hearings. Salwasser's e-mails also have emerged, showing close interaction with timber interests. In one, he refers to certain environmentalists as "goons."

Salwasser himself coached the appeal to Science and worked with the timber industry to refute Donato's work, said the report, and the narrow perspectives of college's leaders blinded them to their own missteps.
They're not done; you haven't gotten to the part where Salwasser used his university position to advance the Walden bill by lending his scientific name to it, and also supported Walden's campaign financially:
The findings are especially critical of Salwasser. The report says he violated OSU policies by lending college support to legislation advanced by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., that would speed logging of burned forests.

The House passed that legislation Wednesday. Walden's Web site lists Salwasser as a supporter.

But college policies caution that the university and college should not take sides in policy debates, Johnson's group says.

"The Dean's initial statements and his email correspondence reflect a high level of interaction with individuals from, and support of, the industry side of the argument," the report says. "The dean's email correspondence and memos show poor judgment in his interactions both within and outside of the College."
To his credit, Salwasser appears to accept the report of the panel he put together, and is laying low until next week's presentation to the Corvallis community, after which there will be a vote of confidence taken on his position at the University. We'll see if we can't get a copy of the report when it's available.

The implications are enormous. Walden's bill just passed; he's hoping to run on it in November. Having Salwasser blow up in his face both calls into question the science used to base the legislation, and the profit being made by all parties when logging from it will occur. Passage in the Senate, where Gordon Smith stands ready to shepherd it, may fare less well if this story amplifies. Here you have a college Dean in bed with timber, using his position to advance timber-friendly policy in Washington, and blocking academic research that hurts the timber industry. And he's s supporter of Walden, and Walden relies on him to justify salvage logging to his colleagues.

Carol Voisin, it's time to take charge of your campaign for the 2nd District. Just how close was the connection between Salwasser, the industry, and Walden in the creation of that bill? Did they all work on it together? It looks like the industry told Salwasser to lean on Donato; did Walden? He had something to lose if the industry's theory went belly-up.

As I recall Rob Lowe once saying, "well, this is bad on so many levels."