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A Duke dean's unvarnished thoughts

A conversation on a Duke University blog is prompting some interesting questions about the role a dean should play in public affairs issues.

The blog is The Green Grok and is written by Bill Chameides, dean of Duke's School of the Environment.

In a Feb. 21 blog post, Chameides takes aim at House Republicans hoping to de-fund environmental initiatives.

His comments on several political moves raised the ire of some of his readers. The result is a fairly thoughtful, occasionally testy exchange worth a read.

Chameides has some pretty pointed thoughts in this blog post. A few examples:

He points to the recent elimination of the role of U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, held by Todd Stern. Chameides writes that Stern's role as America's chief negotiator at the United Nations global warming talks is vital, and notes that while his job was being eliminated, legislators "courageously beat back an amendment that would have halted the Defense Department's sponsorship of NASCAR."

Chameides then takes aim at Mike Beard, a Minnesota state representative who, in a media interview, suggested that God will guarantee that the world doesn't run out of any energy sources or important resources.

"I guess words like famine and drought have not made it into the Minnesotan's lexicon," Chameides wrote in part.

He adds later: "Thank the lord that our creativity and ingenuity do not include the ability to make bombs so powerful they can destroy whole cities and with enough o them an entire planet. Oh...my bad,"

Chameides' word and tone bothered some readers.

In the blog's response section, one writes:

"The sarcasm in this column is deaming of an academic institution. I am embarrassed by this particular blog. We cannot claim to be objective - speaking and listening to all sides - with this statement/wording from our Dean. This is poisonous not only to those outside Duke, who look to univrsersities as a source of objectivity, but it also says volumes to our prospective students about teh Dean's ...blatant advocacy."

In later comments, other readers add their thoughts as well. Some come to Chameides' defense. Another asks for a smidge more objectivity and diplomacy.

What do you think?

 

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