The “Carbon Sink” sculpture controversy in Laramie continues to raise eyebrows, and even some citizen outrage. Wyoming Public Radio confirmed in a September 28 report that the University caved to pressure from state legislators and leaders in the coal industry who wanted the sculpture removed. Basically, the state said, “How dare you put up a piece of art that in any way critiques the negative aspect of coal burning! Forget about future funding!” And the University, after losing $2M of promised funding, whimpered, “Uncle.”
Now Gov. Mead is asking to be recused from the committee that makes decisions about art on the UW campus. And the president of the university is stepping down. Though no one is saying that these moves are connected to the sculpture, the timing speaks volumes.
Citizen blogger, Rodger McDaniel of Cheyenne, who blogs at Blowing in the Wyoming Wind, investigated the controversy on his own. McDaniel had the good sense to avail himself of the Wyoming Public Records Act and dug into stacks of correspondence about the sculpture.
“My public records request produced massive amounts of documents weaving a troubling story including threats from legislators and the mining industry,” McDaniel writes. “The issue is more important than UW’s decision to destroy a sculpture known as Carbon Sink, which raises significant questions of freedom of expression.”
McDaniel found and email from megalomaniac Marion Loomis, head of the Wyoming Mining Association, to Don Richards, UW’s vice president for government affairs. “Don, what kind of crap is this?” she wrote, referring to the sculpture. She then told reporters, “They [UW] get millions of dollars in royalties from oil, gas and coal to run the university, and then they put up a monument attacking me, demonizing the industry.”
Another recent citizen response came in the form of a letter to the editor to the Casper Star Tribune.
“When expression is stifled, a university becomes a factory and education becomes indoctrination,” Jonathan Kawulok of Laramie wrote on October 2. “When the state engages in such shenanigans, we see how Wyoming values higher education — not very much.It is not hard to imagine why the rest of the United States sees us as backwards when we employ medieval practices to moderate thoughts.”
How is that kind of threat and pressure from the state legal? Does anyone know more on this? Isn’t the destruction of “Carbon Sink” a clear case of curtailing freedom of expression?