Here’s a picture of UTRGV president Guy Bailey from a little over a week ago, doing what he’s doing in a lot of pictures: agreeing to take money. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. There wasn’t a cheque from NextDecade, the other party in this agreement. Instead, the press release says this is a:
(S)trategic partnership to foster STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and math) education programs,facilitate research and job training opportunities for UTRGV students, and promote collaboration between academia and industry(.)
This is not just yesterday’s news, it’s last week’s news. Why am I blogging about this now? Because I missed it. It wasn’t on the university’s home page. It wasn’t in the daily news email we all get. No administrator – not my chair, not my dean, nobody – mentioned it, even though, as a STEM faculty, I should be one of the people potentially affected, nay, benefiting from this partnership, because it’s for STEM education, right? It snuck past my radar, almost as though the university isn’t proud of this partnership. Hm...
The partnership is with NextDecade, a company proposing to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the region. Here’s how the Sierra Club describes it:
If built, the Rio Grande LNG export terminal would be the largest single source of air pollution in Cameron County, according to its expected emissions. Its construction would require filling in hundreds of acres of wetlands in an area that is critical habitat for the endangered ocelot and Aplomado falcon. There are also concerns that the view of the industrial landscape and associated pollution could threaten the Valley’s beach and nature tourism industries.
The Brownsville Herald reports (my emphasis)
UTRGV declined to address the controversial aspect of local LNG projects. In an emailed response to The Brownsville Herald’s request for comment on that aspect, university spokesman Patrick Gonzales wrote only that “UTRGV is excited about the education opportunities this NextDecade LLC partnership provides, especially in the STEM fields, for our students.”
UTRGV is going to deal with community controversy by pretending it doesn’t exist. That is not the way to build trust with your community.
Calling this partnership a boon for “STEM education” is too generous. This will be a partnership for TE education. I doubt there will be anything for science or math students or faculty. This might be for engineers.
It’s also coming at a time when many other universities are divesting from fossil fuels.
Is there any money our president won’t take?
Bailey has more or less said that he sees money as the solution to all the university’s problems. When he started, he accepted money from the food industry for diabetes and obesity research. That’s a conflict of interest. This NextDecade partnership is also rife with potential conflicts of interest. I wonder what would happen if biology faculty started doing research on those endangered species whose habitats could be affected by the LNG export terminal?
A lot of old UTPA signs were swapped out for UTRGV ones last week when the semester started. Maybe they should have looked like this:
Show me what you value
H.E.B.’s donation to UTRGV: the gift that keeps on conflicting
NextDecade partnership with UTRGV aims to stimulate STEM-based learning and boost local economy
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Makes Agreement with Rio Grande LNG. Students, Community Leaders Wont Have It
Students, environmentalists, criticize UTRGV education agreement with LNG firm
UTRGV and NextDecade sign MOU