A Conflict of Interest in the Halls of Academia


University of Virginia
Department of Environmental Sciences
Department Chair
Jay Zieman

Numerous media outlets, including the Associated Press and Reuters, and ABC News reported yesterday that one of your professors, Dr. Patrick Michaels, has accepted upwards of $150,000 from coal interests and coal-burning electric utility companies, for his advocacy against the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming.

Is this solicitation of funds from industries that pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases in line with the University's mission?

Is it your policy to allow your science professors to openly solicit, and then accept, industry funds to promote a viewpoint that is in conflict with the vast worldwide scientific community? As one Harvard environmental science professor explained to the Washington Post, Dr. Michaels' and other skeptics' advocacy has garnered attention "out of proportion to the merits of their arguments."

A quick review of your University's Conflict of Interest policies indicates that, under Section 2.7 (Solicitation and Acceptance of Gifts, Travel, etc.):

"An employee of the University shall not:

Accept any money, gift, loan, advance, favor, special discount, or service of material value that might reasonably tend to influence him/her in the discharge of his/her duties."

As your policies dictate, any University employee who violates the provisions "is guilty of a misdemeanor, and may be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced up to a year in jail."

Clearly a conflict of interest such as this deserves immediate attention, and a swift response. On behalf of the students at the University of Virginia and the questionable future that global warming holds for them, nothing short of his resignation will do.

Given the coal industry's deep pockets to continue funding lies while record heat waves sweep the country, I'm quite certain Michaels will have no problem finding a job within that industry.


Laurie David