Here’s an update on my effort to get UCCE to withdraw its sponsorship of the Shortcourse on Biodynamics. The cast of characters includes:
- Dr. Monica Cooper, Farm Advisor for Napa County
- Glen McGourty, Farm Advisor for Mendocino County
- Pam Kan-Rice, Assistant Director, News & Information Outreach, University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources and gatekeeper to Dan Dooley, V-P of ANR and thus head of the UC Cooperative Extension.
V-P Dooley never responded or even acknowledged receipt of my emails. I’m not sure he saw my email because it was redirected to Pam Kan-Rice. As his gatekeeper, Ms. Kan-Rice was very nice and responsive to my inquiries, and while it took some time for her to get it, she gave the impression that she finally understood the issues and cared. Of course, that’s her job. She is also the only one that I actually spoke with.
In a Nov.17 email I asked Ms. Kan-Rice if UCCE had ethical guidelines governing sponsorship of events. Yesterday, Nov. 29 I received the following email:
“Dear Mr. Smith,
I am writing in response to your query about UC policy on sponsorship. UC policy prohibits us from endorsing or sponsoring commercial products and services. The intent of UC Cooperative Extension cohosting the meeting on Dec. 2 is to encourage the exchange of science-based information and ideas, not to endorse a farming system.
We recognize that there can be a fine line between collaboration and the appearance of sponsorship. After having some administrators look at the meeting flyer, we can see how one might misconstrue the intent of UC Cooperative Extension’s participation in the biodynamic farming meeting.
While we will honor the commitments we have made, we intend to make UC Cooperative Extension’s role clearer in the future. Because we collaborate with non-UC groups and organizations on several events and activities, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is working on developing a set of guidelines to clarify the issue for its employees.
Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We appreciate your support of UC as a UC Davis alumnus and UC Cooperative Extension stakeholder.”
Getting close is only important in horse shoes and hand grenades. It seems like I got close, that UCCE at least has a document that prohibits sponsoring commercial products and events similar to this shortcourse. It also sounds like they needed to dust off that document and actually read it to understand what it said. And, of course, there was the sop that they are working to update the document….
It’s clear to me that this is the end of it with UCCE and that there was nothing to gain by continuing to argue the merits of the case. The wagons are circled and the organism needs to be protected at all cost. Continuing with the clichés, call it a Hail Mary pass if you will, I did try one last time with the following email.
Over the next 36 hours I will update you on both Glenn McGourty and Monica Cooper’s correspondence. BTW, I will be attending.
My response to Ms. Kan-Rice the same day:
I’m pleased that the University has an ethics policy that prohibits sponsorship of commercial products. Your characterization that I and others might have “misconstrued” that this Shortcourse in Biodynamic Farming is anything other than a blatant sales and marketing event for Demeter USA, a private company, is disingenuous.
It’s clear that the University refuses to acknowledge its mistake and to take responsibility for its actions. It’s not too late to assert the moral leadership the University of California promotes in educating our youth and cancel your sponsorship of this event.