Industry Pressure Trumps Academic Freedom at Cal-Poly
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo altered the format of a talk by food industry critic Michael Pollan yesterday after major industry sponsors threatened to withdraw funding to the school.
The University's Sustainable Agriculture Resource Consortium, a group dedicated to exposing students to alternatives to industrial agriculture, invited Pollan to campus. However, after Harris Ranch Beef Company threatened to reconsider their financial support for the university, including a pledge of $150,000 for new facilities, the lecture was quickly changed to a panel discussion with both industry critics and supporters.
While the administration didn’t cancel Pollan’s speech outright, the faculty at Cal-Poly invited him because they wanted to hear his lecture and engage with his point of view. By arbitrarily changing the format of Pollan's event to satisfy his critics Cal-Poly's administration has dealt a dangerous blow to Academic Freedom.