I am puzzled and concerned by the criticisms expressed by David Wood and Michael Smith of Harris Ranch regarding Michael Pollan’s presentation and Rob Rutherford’s teaching (“Controversy erupts over Michael Pollan’s Poly lecture,” Oct. 8). Wood and Smith appear to believe that conventional agricultural training at Cal Poly is being submerged by a juggernaut of alternative viewpoints. This is a puzzling conclusion, given the majority of the exposure received by Cal Poly agriculture students remains traditionally grounded. Despite this disproportionate orientation, Wood and Smith feel compelled to police and defame promoters of sustainability and to shield students from a diversity of agricultural options by constraining organizations and professors that address them.
In addition to defending academic freedom, President Baker emphasized the importance of involving students in the sustainability debate for the sake of their careers and I applaud him for doing so. Owing to their distrust of students’ capability to accommodate diverse instruction, Wood and Smith would handicap their innovative potential and readiness to adapt to rapidly changing agricultural conditions.
Under the guise of insuring fair and balanced treatment, Wood and Smith’s efforts to manage and restrain the democracy of ideas at Cal Poly sets a disturbing precedent and threatens to erode the full learning potential of the students, their careers, and the freedom of action for the rest of us.