Basketball dorm naming rights causes stir over coal

By Katie Perkowski

UK is working to get a new dorm for the men’s basketball team, and the new name could be required to include the word “coal.”

A group, called the Difference Makers and led by Joe Craft, is looking to donate $7 million to the university in order to finance the new building, provided “coal” is in its name.

Stephen Gardner, chairman of the UK Mining and Energy Foundation, said although the name would offend some people, there will be no alternative to coal for about 50 years.

“My opinion is pretty much that coal has been a foundation of Kentucky’s economy for many decades, and it’s going to be the foundation for many decades to come,” Gardner said.

Coal is used for more than just energy, he said, and every modern convenience today has some foundation in coal, including cell phones and computers.

“Coal research is very important to UK,” he said. “All of the colleges do a lot of research into coal, and coal supplies a lot of the money for the research.”

Gardner said naming the new building would honor the heritage of the state and coal miners who have worked for decades making sacrifices.

“Coal is nothing for the university or the state to be ashamed of,” he said.

Martin Mudd, a UK graduate student and member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said by including “coal” in the name of the building, UK would be selling out to big coal and the money they represent.

“My personal opinion is that the University of Kentucky has to choose whether it’s going to be a friend of big coal or a friend of Kentucky and Kentuckians,” Mudd said. “With this announcement, it’s clear what the administration feels about that, but I don’t think that that view represents everybody on this campus.”

Mudd said the current Wildcat Lodge is fine and he does not understand why the university needs to turn a building into an advertisement for the coal industry.

“It’s one thing naming it after somebody, some person, but I think that it’s a bit perverse to name it after an industry that historically has cared very little about the plight of citizens it employs, people it employs and certainly the effects the industry has on people and ecosystems all down the line,” Mudd said.

Mudd said UK’s KFTC  chapter has started a petition against this naming of the building.

Jordan Panning, vice-chair of UK KFTC, said the organization would be present at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Panning said the organization would attend to show the university it does not support coal being a part of the Wildcat Lodge name.

The meeting will take place at 1 p.m. in the Board Room, located on the 18th floor of Patterson Office  Tower.

There is no such thing as clean coal. Everyday, kids go to school knowing they may never see their fathers again, a tired guy who got up at the crack of dawn to go 11 stories underground, in unsafe conditions, to drill out coal, for companies that become more and more lax with their safety measures while their owners become more and more rich. Mountain-topping, filling streams with slag, haphazardly containing slag in slapped-together reserviors that could innundate a community should they break. Lots of roads were built when I was growing up, but the blasts never broke anyone’s windows, the blasts did not happen in the middle of the night, and there were no kids called into the principal’s office in the morning, causing the whole class to go quiet.

Does anyone remember Joe B Hall? Decent fellow who came in after Rupp, Mr. Brown Suit, who refused for decades to allow an African-American play on his precious team. Coal is the second great scourge of Kentucky. Let the man donate his money to the UK Medical Center, to give free treatment to folks whose health has been destroyed by coal. They don’t have to be a coal miner. Its offal is in the water, in the air. The coal mined in Kentucky is of the lowest grade; it is crap. It took decades to stop strip mining in Western Kentucky, and now a fellow who was head of a Pharma company is attempting to start deepmining there. Ever go swimming in a strip mine pit, ride your bike along a road that had a rust-red stream, with aqua scum slurping along beside you? Want to go back to the seventies, when people died to keep from losing their lives in the mines? Hey, COAL Hall! Whoo, Whoo!

The culture of coal has played a large role in shaping the values of Eastern Kentuckians (as well as the rest of the state). These values include–among many great things— a fear of new ideas, acceptance of corruption, unhealthy behaviors (see obesity, pills, and lung cancer) and maybe most importantly, a dismissive attitude toward education: “Why should I try to do well in school and go on to college? I could get a job in the mines like my daddy. He makes good money.” The kid that stays in the holler and works in the mine will have fewer opportunities to realize his full potential. He will also probably smoke, eat poorly, and develop preventable diseases… **This is not just about the environmental dangers of certain coal mining practices!** If UK puts ‘coal’ in the dorm’s name, it sends a powerful message that says “UK accepts and supports coal culture and its negative impact on the state.” Is that the message we want out there?

A few things.

First of all, “Smarter”, arsenic is found in abundance in coal ash and is probably the poison Amy is referring to. If you’re unaware of that, please stop trying to pass yourself off as some sort of “coal expert”.

Secondly, “Well”, when you say “Coal taxes are paid with no grief to the states” you neglect the more than $100 million deficit between the amount of state taxes that generated by coal companies and the amount of state money they absorb through various programs-Coal does not generate a net gain for Kentucky taxpayers on the whole.

These are simple matters easily available to anyone willing to do a couple minutes of homework, so it would benefit the public discussion on this matter if the both of you would take the time to do some amount of research before blasting an article or comments pertaining thereto in your ignorance.

Alice, I to live in Eastern Ky. and I have seen the coal trucks that haul legal loads. It all started a few years ago. Didn’t know if you noticed that? I know about mining in the “real world” trust me! That’s why I know the truth and not the fiction being spread around. What and where does the poison come from and who introduces it to the water? Please name the poison. I know of no poisons used in the mining or the processing of coal. They have a permit to do the blasting just like what happens when roads are built—same blasting. The same earth is dug up for roads, shopping malls, colleges, etc. Did you know that hollow fills are made when people build the roads you drive on, malls you shop at, schools you go to, etc. Where does it stop? Coal companies cannot be the only ones made to stop moving the earth.

“Smarter” – Go out and see mining in the “real world” first and then we can come back and have a conversation.

My family lives in Eastern KY and lives with constant blasting, poisoned water, and fear of illegally overloaded coal trcuks – one of which killed their neighbor a few years ago.

They are NOT going to live in constant fear just so you can waste electricity and marvel at how “smart” you are.

Uh, Amy, I think what he meant by colleges was not the individual colleges at UK, but the colleges (universities) in the US. Doesn’t take a genius to figure this out! Also doesn’t take a genius to figure out the facts about coal in that it does more good than bad. I admit, in the beginning days of mining, it was bad, but with research and development, new and better ways to mine coal exist. Thank you UK for being a Mining Engineering college! Things will get better for you when you learn the real facts and not just think you’re smart just because you are a senior. There are smarter people out here in the real world!

As a senior at UK, I’m long past tried. Sometimes, I can’t even believe the constant disappointment that I feel in so many of the decisions made here. Even though Wildcat Lodge has yet to be renamed, the fact that President Todd and his associates are even considering it, fills me with shame.

There are times the administration takes naive actions, but I feel this one is full of deceit. Stephen Gardner citing that “coal has been a foundation of Kentucky’s economy for many decades, and it’s going to be the foundation for many decades to come” and “[a]ll of the colleges do a lot of research into coal, and coal supplies a lot of the money for the research” as reasons for the name change do not make it okay. These alleged reasons can barely pass as logical! Maybe coal has been a foundation of Kentucky’s economy, but it is one that has ravaged our natural resources and abused thousands of families. Furthermore, the notion that “all colleges do a lot of research into coal” seems far fetched. What about the College of Education or College of Fine Arts? The Engineering Department is not the part of UK and I want you, Mr. Gardner, to back up your claims that “all colleges” do such.

Even if these beliefs were credible, that does not somehow transform them into applicable ideas for the men’s basketball team. There is no denying that this organization is the premier institution of UK; it is what we are (positively) known for. However, it is not a college! I can bet big money that Patrick Patterson is not spending the little time he has researching the elements of coal or its mining practices.

If these business, like Alliance Coal, cared so much about athletics and similarly health, then perhaps they would limit the amount of air pollution they contribute to West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, making it a little bit easier for citizens to breathe. But until that happens, coal has no business sticking its dust covered nose into the athletics administration. You can’t take the one of the best things UK has to offer and taint it with your sludge, in attempt to make it seem like everything you do is a-ok.

Why can’t UK be a friend to coal and Kentuckians? Very easy done! UK wouldn’t sell out to “big coal” only recogonizing where KY and UK came from and their futures! Coal companies care for their employees very much and they care even more for the environment. If you think otherwise, you are very un-informed need to get educated on the facts of coal mining instead of the myths that ignorant people are spreading! Coal taxes are paid with no grief to the states, many donations are given to communities and educational institutions with no grief. Many community projects are done with donated time and equipment from coal companies. So, get rid of the coal companies and watch the communities and their children simply start disappearing. Get educated on the facts and the truth about coal. Wake up people!