At issue | March 7 commentary by Erik Reece, "Coal industry 'gift' cost UK a celebration"
It is not from ourselves that we learn to be better than we are. — Wendell Berry
The Erik Reece commentary falsely contends that philanthropic contributions deprived the University of Kentucky from celebrating Wendell Berry's recent award of the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama. The plain fact is Berry is alone responsible for the loss.
The donors gave the funds to help the university build a new dormitory. Berry politicized the gift, taking his papers and going home and refusing to have any further affiliation with UK.
It seems to me that, in a world full of diverse and often divergent political perspectives, there would be enough room in this academic institution for both Berry's views and the views of the donors.
I certainly intend to stand by my alma mater, regardless of the opinions tolerated in its community.
One needs look no further than Reece's brazen allegations to underscore this point.
In his op-ed, Reece, who teaches at the University of Kentucky, made uninformed and disparaging remarks about our company, Alliance Coal — the most disturbing of which related to a terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of two members of our mining family.
Despite independent federal and state investigators determining the accident was completely unforeseeable, Reece saw fit to blame us for the accident in advance of his political argument. Reece also cited "violation" statistics out of context, failing to mention that the mine he was referring to was one of the largest mines in the United States and that the numbers relative to the size of the mine actually show that it is one of the better-performing underground mines in the nation, from a regulatory perspective.
Reece also conveniently failed to acknowledge Alliance's well-known reputation as a leader in workplace safety, among its employees and within the coal industry.
In my view, a member of the University of Kentucky community should conduct thorough research, attempt to understand the matters upon which he writes, present facts in context, as well as in a fair and responsible way.
However, Reece's opinions, as sensational and unfounded as they are, will not influence me to abandon my commitment to UK and all it provides to the commonwealth. I hope others, including Berry, will come to share this view, as I agree it is a loss for him to deprive the university of his papers.
Until then, we might assume Berry and Reece intend to live by Berry's words when he said, "Peaceableness toward enemies is an idea that will, of course, continue to be denounced as impractical."