Tuesday, April 29, 2008

C-J Fails to Print Letter from University Presidents

The presidents of three of Kentucky's largest universities wrote a letter to the Courier-Journal to rebut David Hawpe's nonsensical assertion that Mitch McConnell caused Kentucky colleges to raise tuition. It's an important rejoinder from three people who address Hawpe's subject with knowledge and authority. Yet the C-J failed to print the letter in hard-copy; it only ran in the on-line edition.

The letter comes from James Ramsey, president of University of Louisville, Gary A. Ransdell, president of Western Kentucky University, and James C. Votruba, president of Northern Kentucky University. When three of the highest-ranking educators in the Commonwealth speak with one voice on an issue,most would call whatever they have to say newsworthy. But not the C-J.

This is the consequence of a the C-J's monopoly status: when it decides to go after a candidate, it fails to give its subscribers the opposing view. The paper tries to inoculate itself from a charge of bias by printing the university presidents' letter in the online edition, where only a small fraction of its subscribers will read it.

This blog previously addressed the merits of Hawpe's arguments that McConnell, a U.S. Senator, could cause tuition to raise at Kentucky colleges. McConnell likewise has responded to Hawpe's accusations.

Because the C-J will not keep the online edition available for the entire election season -- and because it failed to print the letter in its hard copy -- I will reprint it in its entirety:

Sen. Mitch McConnell has used his seniority and considerable influence in the United States Senate to move Kentucky's universities forward in extraordinary ways that allow us to serve Kentuckians and improve the quality of life for our commonwealth's citizens.
In David Hawpe's recent column "Give Mitch McConnell Credit Where Credit is Due," he cites a number of examples of federal funds earmarked for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Northern Kentucky University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University. We would argue that federal dollars are going to be spent, and we much prefer to have them spent at Kentucky's universities where we know best how to solve real-life problems that plague Kentuckians than at universities that will never touch the lives of Kentuckians.

At the University of Louisville, the Cardiac Innovation Institute – a groundbreaking research center designed to bring together the best minds in the field to improve the quality of life for heart failure patients -- was made possible because of the work of Sen. McConnell. He also helped secure federal dollars to expand Uof L's library that has earned it the distinction of being one of the Top 100 Research Libraries in America for our students, faculty, and the Louisville community. In Owensboro, federal dollars obtained by Sen. McConnell were used to start a Uof L partnership with the Owensboro Cancer Research Project to use tobacco plants to create cancer drugs.

Sen. McConnell has secured nearly $60 million for WKU over the last 10 years. WKU's Rural Mobile Health Unit, purchased and equipped with federal funds obtained by Sen. McConnell, takes students and faculty into surrounding communities to provide needed dental and health care services to school children while at the same time giving WKU students valuable real-life work experience. Federal funds have also been used at WKU for energy research, environmental initiatives, intervention programs for at-risk youth, and much, much more.
At Northern Kentucky University, Sen. McConnell has directed important funding for Kentucky math and science improvement, informatics and economic development initiatives – all a part of the university's talent development business plan designed to escalate Northern Kentucky's contribution to Kentucky's economic progress.

To lose the critical federal funding that Sen. McConnell directs to Kentucky's universities would be devastating. Those federal funds not only benefit our universities, but they directly impact Kentuckians who badly need the services and programs these funds support.
So together we thank Sen. McConnell for what he has done to help us advance higher education in Kentucky. He certainly does deserve proper credit, and we'll continue to thank him when an opportunity is presented.

James Ramsey is president of University of Louisville, Gary A. Ransdell is president of Western Kentucky University, and James C. Votruba is president of Northern Kentucky University.

Hawpe and his cronies at the C-J are entitled to their (mistaken) views. But by failing actually to print the university presidents' letter, they have crossed the line from partisan to deceitful. They manage to print letters from numerous cranks every day; surely a direct response from some of the Commonwealth's most esteemed educators warrants the same courtesy.

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