By Roy York
Student and community protesters filled the 18th floor of the Patterson Office Tower to express scathing disapproval as the Board of Trustees approved a motion to include â€œcoalâ€ in the name of the new Wildcat Lodge on Tuesday. But the shouts fell on deaf ears.
In a quick vote, board members voted 16-3 to name the future Wildcat Lodge the â€œWildcat Coal Lodgeâ€ at the request of Joseph W. Craft III, the president of Alliance Coal who donated $7 million to be given over a 10-year period for the construction of the new residence hall. The only three board members who dissented were faculty representative Ernie Yanarella, staff representative Robynn Pease and Student Government President Ryan Smith.
Smith said the new Wildcat Lodge will allow UK to house more students and has potential to be a model for clean coal technology on campus, but said he would oppose the motion â€œas a voice for the student body.â€ However, protesting students did not need Smith’s words to have their voices heard.
After the vote, students and community members jumped from their chairs and approached the ropes separating board members from the audience. Shouts ofÂ â€œWe all live downstream,â€ â€œMove forward not backwardâ€ and â€œRemember Joe B.â€ stopped the meeting cold.
The board adjourned for a short recess and several members, including President Lee Todd, retired to a back room as students continued criticizing board members. UK Police eventually approached the protesters and the group left the meeting. No citations or arrests were made.
Students and other protesters were not allowed to speak formally during the meeting because they did not follow the formal process to be placed on the meeting agenda, Todd said.
Todd said the name was approved simply because the university accepted a proposal from a group of donors who wished to fund the new residence hall. They had an idea for the name of the building and the naming committee approved the suggestion, he said.
â€œWe sign agreements with all donors and there are always stipulations,â€ Todd said.
Board members sparred over the issue as points were raised on both sides.
â€œThis sets a precedent of identifying industry with university property,â€ Yanarella said. â€œHad Phillip Morris given $7 million, there would be similar objections.â€
The UK Athletic Association reported the $7 million gift was the largest it has ever received.
The majority of the board felt the naming proposal would not harm the university, and many said coal was a natural resource and a vital part of Kentucky’s economy.
â€œI consider coal to be a source of great pride,â€ Jo Curris, a finance committee member, said. â€œCoal can very well be that mechanism that is going to retrigger the economy for the Commonwealth.â€
Pro â€œWildcat Coal Lodgeâ€ board member comments drew angry shouts from the crowd and protesters were eager to share their outrage.
â€œIt appears Lee Todd wants to have his cake and eat it too,â€ said Nathan LeClaire, a philosophy junior and a member of UK Greenthumb. â€œHe wants to appear green without walking the walk.â€
Danny Cotton, a senior English major and a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said UK has never named a building after a single industry or lobbying group, and he said the move makes Todd’s sustainability initiative harder to be taken seriously.
â€œWe didn’t name the library the ‘Peanut Butter Library,’ we named it the William T. Young Library,â€ Cotton said.