UK fails campus with allegiance to big business

Column by Kimberly Hoffmeister

UK’s Administration and Athletics Department have geared themselves in the wrong direction—where do I even begin?

In the past few weeks, UK has hosted events sponsored by Friends of Coal, T-shirts reading “COAL CATS CALIPARI Power Kentucky,” and a plan to rebuild Wildcat Lodge and rename it, “Wildcat Coal Lodge.” Where do I even begin?

As a passionate Wildcat fan and supporter of UK head coach John Calipari, I find these events to be completely contrary to everything UK athletics stands for.

First, since when has it been okay to mix politics and collegiate sports at UK?

Coal interests are one of the leading lobbyists in Frankfort. According to the a 2009 study by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), “the coal industry spent more than $1 million on state political donations in recent years and $255,145 to lobby the last two legislative sessions.”

Additionally, Friends of Coal is buying the UK administration and the students through its monetary donations.

The administration needs to step in and realize this is more than a money issue; coal is an ethical and political issue that is highly controversial. It does not need to be blended with our great men’s basketball program anyway. There are plenty of other opportunities to fund the UK men’s basketball program that are far less controversial.

Coal is becoming an energy source of the past. It is nonrenewable, requiring repulsive extraction techniques such as strip mining and mountaintop removal that destroy the land.

Considerable amounts of studies have shown that the effects of these extraction techniques pollute the water that our friends and family drink and the air we breathe.

A 2007 study released by the EPA explained people residing nearby coal extraction sites also have to worry about arsenic in their drinking water, increasing risk of cancer.  While that may seem over the top, arsenic is one of the most common pollutants from coal ash.

The environment is not the only thing that suffers from the hands of the coal industry; because coal companies refuse to step into the realm of renewable and more efficient energy uses, their workers, the miners, will be left behind, leaving an entire region jobless and without any hope for development.

Let me be clear, Friends of Coal wants to clean up their image, which led them to the recent events on campus, but first they need to clean up their act.

Moreover, the economic cost of coal to both the state and the nation is tremendous. As reported by the National Resource Council as of October 2009, pollution resulting from coal costs the nation $62 billion a year.

According to the aforementioned MACED study, the coal industry also costs the state of Kentucky $642 million – over a $100 million more than they provide in tax revenue.

Finally, there is great discussion of a plan to rebuild the Wildcat Lodge. The funding would come from, guess who, Friends of Coal. However, if UK accepts the funding, the Wildcat Lodge would be renamed something to the effect of, Wildcat “Coal” Lodge.

If you are going to rename the lodge why not continue to name it after some of the best basketball coaches, trainers or players that have walked these grounds.

Name it after someone who would inspire the players that live there. How inspiring is a pollutant? Kentucky’s most important resources are its people, not its rocks.