Wildcat Lodge represents students, not special interests

In a bad economy, rarely will there be an outcry over alumni donors, especially for a brand new building.

So when a notable alumni like Joe Craft, namesake of the basketball practice facility connected to Memorial Coliseum, rounds up $7 million worth of donations for a new building- even if it’s an athletics building -hardly a peep is made.

But Craft’s latest pledge comes with a little bit of a twist. The current Joe B. Hall Wildcat Lodge will have to be renamed when a new basketball dorm is built to replace it. In the name of that new dorm must be a word that polarizes strongly in this state.

The word: Coal.

The fact that the head of Alliance Coal wants his money to be spent on a new building with “coal” in its name isn’t a surprise. The fact that the university and President Lee Todd may allow the proposed change, is.

On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees will have the opportunity to approve or deny the donation and naming of the new Wildcat Lodge.

Yes, coal is the lifeblood of the eastern part of this state and yes, most of UK’s campus is powered by the coal plant on South Limestone. But UK students, faculity and staff push for cleaner and more efficient energy (and that usually includes ditching coal) every year.

Todd even started a President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, which includes the following changes on the committee, according to the committee’s  Web site:

  • Publicize and communicate current university sustainability initiatives to the university community.
  • Promote and encourage sustainable best practices in university facility planning, design, and construction.
  • Develop an annual set of committee goals and planned actions designed to further promote and advance an institutional culture of sustainability.

So if Todd is so focused on sustainability, why would he allow a highly-visible building to have “coal”, a power source that is generally referred to as the opposite of sustainable, in its name?

Because when it comes down to it, the only “green” UK cares about is money.

Putting “coal” in the name of a building  makes a large statement – that UK is taking sides when it comes to sustainability and if the coal people give us the most money, we’ll promote their “green”.

As a public university, part of UK’s purpose is to encourage debate and discussion, not to take sides. Invite pro-coal speakers, have sustainability lecturers and let people become educated on both points and decide. for themselves.

Obviously, allowing yourself to be manhandled by a donor by putting “coal” into the name of your building is picking sides.

Maybe the fear of a weak endowment and a prolonged recession allowed UK to think the wrong type of “green”. Maybe the fear of losing one of the biggest athletic donors UK has led them to consider putting “coal” in a building name.

What’s next? ”Tobacco-Free Classroom Building?”

Common sense would say that the university will realize the stance they would be taking and the firestorm that will ensue over such a building name and deny the request.

Maybe then, UK can get back to it’s lazy attempts to be “green” and stop the charades.