By Slow Food USA Intern Melissa Rosenberg
Earlier this month, on this blog, we addressed the Agribusiness pressure directed at staff and administration at Virginia Tech, a land grant institution. This week it came to the attention of the food community that another possible incident of corporate interference at a land grant institution had taken place; this time at Washington State University.
A university committee had selected Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a critique of agribusiness, for the Common Reading Program designed for incoming freshmen. But, after the committee purchased 4,000 copies, the original decision to include the book in the reading program was reversed. In fact, the reading program was discontinued altogether, allegedly due to financial constraints.
An alternative explanation expressed by a WSU professor, quoted anonymously in The Chronicle of Higher Education, is that the book was pulled “because of the politics of the agricultural industry.” He also said that the university president, Elson Floyd “decided that this was not a battle he wanted to wage.”
Upon learning of the curriculum changes at WSU, Food Democracy Now! sent out an email alert urging people to show their support for reinstatement of the reading program. Within hours, President Floyd’s office was flooded with calls.
Thanks to a generous contribution from food safety lawyer, Bill Marler, a WSU alum, the university will distribute Pollan’s book to freshmen in the fall. Marler will pay the full cost of the Common Reading Program and a visit by Michael Pollan to the university.