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.