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Understanding the controversy: a timeline of UB’s Shale Resources and Society Institute

Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 16:11

April 2011UB hosts the Marcellus Shale Lecture Series – The precursor of SRSI, it was funded completely by industry, though that was not disclosed until a year later. The total cost of the lecture series was $12,900.

April 5, 2012SRSI’s existence becomes public –As first reported by Artvoice, a Buffalo newsweekly.Co-director of the institute John P. Martin said in a press release the goal of the institute is to “provide accurate, research-based information on the development of shale and other unconventional resources.”

May 15, 2012SRSI issues its only report, titled Environmental Impacts – The report is pro-fracking and states oversight has made natural gas drilling safer.

May 24, 2012Controversy first erupts –Public Accountability Initiative, a local watchdog group, issues The UB Shale Play: Distorting the Facts about Fracking. The report says SRSI’s report had incorrect calculations and pointed out Co-directors Robert Jacobi and John Martin’s ties to industry.

June 2012 Media frenzy ensues – UB makes national headlines with allegations of undisclosed ties to – and funding from – industry. Many start questioning the legitimacy of the institute.

Aug. 23, 2012Campus starts responding – James Holstun, an English professor, helps create and becomes chair of the UB Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UBCLEAR). He co-authors a letter signed by 83 UB professors and affiliates demanding UB be more transparent about the founding, funding and governance of SRSI. 

Aug. 29, 2012Administration speaks up –Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Pitman sits down withThe Spectrum and responds to the allegations of industry ties, stating the institute never received industry funding. UB administration defends the institute under “academic freedom.”

Sept. 12, 2012SUNY launches investigation –As protestors gathered around the SUNY Board of Trustees meeting in New York City, one trustee member wants to close the institute due to the mounting criticisms. UB is instructed to send the board a report regarding the founding and operations of the institute.

Sept. 13-14, 2012Finances come to the forefrontThe Spectrum reports the institute has a $177,442 annual budget. Martin’s salary is disclosed as $72,000 (including travel expenses). Many UB professors felt the salary was too high for part-time employment.

Oct. 12, 2012SUNY makes UB’s report public – SUNY received it on Sept. 27. The trustees still haven’t made an official statement regarding their findings. 

Nov. 6, 2012Post-SRSI committee created – UB announces its new Joint Committee on Research and Scholarship to review policies and assess how the university should handle conflicts of interests and the formations of institutes.

Nov. 19, 2012 President Satish Tripathi shuts down SRSI – He notifies faculty in an email. The institute was less than 8 months old; he cites a “cloud of uncertainty” that looms over SRSI as one of the main reasons of the closing. Before the announcement was made, UBCLEAR had a petitioned signed by over 10,000 demanding SRSI be shut down. 

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