Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Damage Control?

From yesterday's CDT comes the following.

Almost a year ago, it was a campaign of petitions and Old Main sit-ins.

With the support of 4,500 students and academics, the student group Eco-Action pushed Penn State administrators to formalize a specific goal for reduction of the university's greenhouse-gas emissions.

Now the group is offering something rarely heard from student activists at University Park:

A public thank you.

Eco-Action also sent a thank-you card to university President Graham Spanier, group leader Brittany Harris said, after the administration confirmed a plan to cut emissions by 17.5 percent in the next five years.

The plan, which will save at least $20 million in utility costs, went public at a university trustees meeting in January.

The timing of the release of this information on the heals of the story of the University's persecution of anti-sweatshop activist Olivia Guevara and the subtext of the note which is that Spanier is not generally hostile to student protesters and is even responsive, makes me suspicious about who was responsible for its release. It looks like a classic example of Penn State damage control.

There are some question, the answers to which, would shed some light on whether Penn State was using the CDT as a PR organ again. When was the note dated? The public announcement of the of the plan to go green was made a month and a half ago at the January Trustees meeting. Did Eco-Action send Spanier the note at that time? If so, why wasn't it made public at the time? Did Eco-Action send the note last week after Spanier received a letter from forty-eight faculty protesting both the University's treatment of Guevara and its policy with regard to sweatshops? If so, was Eco-Action prompted to send the note? Was the reporter tipped to the existence of the note by Brittany Harris, a group leader of Eco-Action, or was the reporter tipped off by Old Main?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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