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Former UA Professor Receives Cook Inletkeeper’s Highest Award

A Commentary

By Susan B. Andrews and John Creed

KOTZEBUE—Finally, he’s getting a dinner.

For almost 30 years, Rick Steiner toiled away at the University of Alaska, rising through the ranks to become one of the most accomplished, high-profile professors in the history of UA’s Marine Advisory Program.

But when Professor Steiner left our state’s public university system earlier this year, the employer to which he dedicated virtually his entire career showed him less regard than it would a temp.

Most UA faculty members who rise to the rank of “full” professor and serve as long as Steiner are conferred “professor emeritus” status as they retire. More than just a nice gesture, emeritus status continues to tether long-time faculty to the UA system. Emeriti are listed in UA directories and catalogs. Emeriti can continue with UA library, ID, gym, food facilities, and e-mail privileges. They enjoy tuition waivers, parking privileges, and so on.

Not only was Professor Steiner denied emeritus status as he retired earlier this year, but Steiner tells us the administration failed to move his nomination forward despite UA policy requirements to do so.

“The real issue here now is not me and my case but what all this means to you folks and the university as a whole,” Steiner said recently.

We could find no other instance in the history of the University of Alaska where a professor was qualified and appropriately nominated but failed to obtain professor emeritus status. The message sent throughout the system? If you speak out, you may well be punished.

Ironically, organizations outside of the University of Alaska apparently hold Professor Steiner in higher regard than his former employer. For example, Cook Intletkeeper, a Homer-based nonprofit that helps protect the Cook Inlet watershed, recently chose Steiner for its most prestigious annual award, “Muckraker of the Year.”

Actually, he gets a ball, not a dinner, as Cook Inletkeeper’s 2010 Muckraker of the Year, is presented each December at the annual Muckraker’s Ball in Anchorage.

Cook Inletkeeper is recognizing Steiner for “outstanding public service, speaking truth to power, defending our right to free speech, and shining a bright light on corporate abuses.”

There’s the rub.

There in Cook Inletkeeper’s accolades lie the ironic roots of why Steiner’s former employer engaged in years-long attacks on him.

Mark R. Hamilton was president of the University of Alaska from 1998 until his retirement earlier this year. After 31 years in the military, it’s not difficult to understand this former army general’s awkward mismatch with academia.

Military Versus Academia

Soldiers are trained to follow orders, keep their mouths shut, and listen. Universities, on the other hand, are supposed to encourage free and vigorous debate, including some of society’s most controversial issues. As society’s free marketplace of ideas, colleges and universities work best when public policy can be freely and vigorously argued in the search for truth.

Hamilton never seemed to grasp how to uphold such bedrock university principles. In personal interactions, we didn’t always see the long-winded Hamilton conduct a real “conversation” with anyone, including us. He’s a nice enough guy, some would say charismatic, but “converse” with Hamilton? You simply listen and nod. You might become exasperated trying to get a word in edgewise.

University presidents can easily find audiences with whom to hold court. From Alaska’s largest cities to tiny remote campuses such as ours in Kotzebue, for a dozen years Hamilton traveled around his higher education empire. At graduation, he might throw a bone to “my magnificent faculty.”

Hamilton always reveled in the attention. For years he duped the press with the myth that he was a champion of free speech. This was instigated by Hamilton himself from a brief memo he issued on March 13, 2001, declaring free speech and academic freedom alive and well at the University of Alaska.

The press gobbled it up, as it would be difficult not to.

The Wall Street Journal said Hamilton was right to “speak out forcefully on the unassailable right to free speech.” The Chronicle of Higher Education called Hamilton’s interview with a reporter “even more direct about protecting free speech” than he was in his “stongly worded” memo.

Nearly a year later, the Alaska press was still at it.

Dermot Cole at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner recommended parts of Hamilton’s memo “be posted on every university bulletin board.” No question Hamilton’s words are strong: “When I want to make clear and unambiguous is that responses to complaints or demands for action regarding constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech CANNOT BE QUALIFIED.

He even declared UA employee opinions need not “be politic or polite.”

“However personally offended we might be, however unfair the association of the University to the opinion might be, I insist that we remain a certain trumpet on this most precious of Constitutional rights,” Hamilton wrote.

Initially, like Professor Steiner, we believed Hamilton’s seemingly air-tight words.

We were wrong.

Hamilton, William R. Wood

We know now that Hamilton may well have perpetrated the greatest assault on free speech by any UA president since the days of William R. Wood. In Hamilton’s case, he said one thing, did another.

Nevertheless, Hamilton’s manufactured image as a free speech advocate seemed to immunize him for years even as his administration has hassled, marginalized and intimidated faculty who might have dared criticize Alaska’s biggest sacred cows, in particular the oil industry outside the university and UA administration inside the university. (It does not take very many examples at all to send a message to all UA faculty, all UA employees.)

Professor Steiner’s harassment at the hands of the administration is fairly well-documented. A quick Google search offers more than enough episodes in this unfortunate chapter in UA history. Nevertheless, there is more to tell about Steiner. (UA administrators also have not been shy about coming after us after speaking out, but that’s another story.)

The University of Alaska administration has millions of public dollars available to silence its own critics or industry critics. UA can easily “lawyer up” to wage legal battles or aim its considerable public relations machine (unavailable to individual faculty) at virtually any issue it wishes to prevaricate.

Internally, administrators too often work behind the scenes to intimidate faculty who dare support colleagues deemed “out of favor.” We encountered just that earlier this year after Professor Steiner asked us to support him for emeritus status. He told us his official file had stalled en route to the chancellor’s desk at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Middle management, Steiner told us, had been holding his emeritus file hostage, refusing to send to the next level. Steiner said middle management also intimidated faculty from advancing his emeritus file.

Professor Emeritus Status

We perused his work, after which we were honored to support him. You’re welcome to skip our letter below to the UAF chancellor (in which case we’ll see you on the other side), but if you’re not familiar with Professor Steiner’s work, we tried to summarize it as best we could here and so recommend reading this very brief account of this man’s remarkable career:

Feb 1, 2010

Brian Rogers, Chancellor                                via

3rd floor Signers’ Hall

P.O. Box 757500

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska 99775

Dear Chancellor Rogers:

We wish to respectfully nominate our UAF colleague, Professor Richard Steiner, for appointment to Professor Emeritus as he retires after many years of public service to the University of Alaska.

As you may know, Professor Steiner is retiring effective today, Feb. 1, 2010, after an extraordinary career with the university spanning almost 30 years.  We understand that there may be contentious circumstances surrounding his retirement/resignation, but the body of work he contributed over his career, and the impacts of that work, certainly deserve the university’s acknowledgement.

We realize that the normal process for nomination to emeritus status is through a faculty member’s dean or his or her unit peer committee. Given the nature of the contentious dispute between Professor Steiner and his immediate administrative supervisors over the past several years, which is well known in Alaska and elsewhere, we feel this route for his nomination could create unnecessary consternation and likely might not result in Professor Steiner’s much-deserved favor.

In fact, even his unit peers may feel reticent to nominate him directly, as they may have justifiable concerns about the possibility of reprisal from their administrators. That is why we believe Professor Steiner approached us to put forward his nomination. We are sure you understand the circumstances. In our view, this situation warrants the “exceptional circumstance” provision for nomination of faculty directly to and by the Chancellor, as provided for in emeritus regulations Section B. Therefore, we request that you exercise your authority to make this appointment.

Professor Steiner has provided us with a curriculum vitae packet to forward on to you, including his CV, a CV appendix listing his presentations over just the past 10 years, and a CV narrative that briefly discusses some of his philosophy and accomplishments. We have reviewed this impressive body of work and accomplishment. We believe that any objective reviewer will recognize the extraordinary impact Professor Steiner’s work has had in Alaska, in the nation, and around the world.

Professor Steiner’s record includes more than 120 publications, some of which have gone to millions of readers (such as his piece on global warming published in USA Today in 2001); dozens of statewide television programs as a television producer/host on natural resource issues (the Alaska Resource Issues Forum public television series from 1986 – 2004); several prestigious awards; and participation in numerous commissions and associations. Please be sure to peruse the professor’s CV narrative’s remarkable list of accomplishments. Professor Steiner belongs to a select group of University of Alaska faculty who have attracted such substantial media exposure over their career; indeed, he has attracted coverage in virtually all major media outlets across the world.  As you know, Professor Steiner’s work toward a constructive resolution of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill is legendary.

As recently as January 24, or just a few days ago, the United Kingdom’s well-regarded Guardian newspaper described Professor Steiner  as “one of the world’s leading marine conservation scientists” as well as “one of the most respected and outspoken academics on the oil industry’s environmental record.”

Professor Steiner’s global conservation work has been exceptional, in particular his work on conservation issues in high-risk, conflict zones around the world, some of which are listed here:

1999 – He worked in the Colombian Amazon, during a FARC offensive, traveling  on the Amazon (with a team of heavily armed guards) talking to indigenous tribes    about biodiversity conservation;

2003-2004 – He worked on behalf of government of Pakistan, at a very dangerous time, to establish and lead the first Natural Resource Damage Assessment  (NRDA) program in a developing country

2006-2007 – He worked in the Niger Delta during violent uprisings, conducting a preliminary NRDA program for 50 years of oil damages in this troubled and  violent region, with Ministry of Environment of Nigeria, etc.;

2006 – He was asked by the Government of Lebanon to come to Lebanon during  the Israeli / Hezbollah war, when Israeli air force bombed the fuel tank farm at the a power station south of Beirut, causing a massive eastern Mediterranean oil spill.  Prof. Steiner organized their environmental damages assessment, response, and later proposed a settlement between Israel and Lebanon for damages ensuing from the war;

2010 – He recently conducted a fact-finding mission for IUCN in a violent region of northern El Salvador, investigating the recent assassinations of several environmental leaders opposing a proposed gold mine, at considerable risk.

Although Professor Steiner will no longer conduct his conservation work through the University of Alaska, we understand that his work will continue. It would be in the university’s best interest to continue to have its name associated with this work, as it provides great credit to our institution.

Of course, we are aware of some of the controversies between Professor Steiner and the administration, but any university striving for distinction must recognize the value of faculty who are willing to raise public policy questions in the public arena, or we do not have a university as society’s free marketplace of ideas. As Professor Steiner has now resigned/retired, we recommend that his work be honored with the respect, recognition, and dignity that it deserves.

If Professor Emeritus appointments are based on merit, Professor Steiner’s appointment will be an easy decision. You will demonstrate that the ideals of a university far surpass any bumps along the road, any disputes or differences that inevitably occur during rigorous discussion and debate that must be part of any search for truth.  You will be recognizing a long-time faculty member who has dedicated the overwhelming majority of his professional career to the University of Alaska. We ask you to recognize someone who has made enormous contributions to the state, the nation, and the world.

We respectfully request that you appoint Professor Richard Steiner to Professor Emeritus status directly, as provided in university regulation.


Susan B. Andrews, UAF Professor of Humanities/Journalism

John Creed, UAF Professor of Humanities/Journalism

Attachments:  Steiner CV; CV appendix; CV narrative

CC Professor Richard Steiner

Emeritus Support for Others

Professor Steiner was not the only colleague we supported for emeritus status in 2010. We both wrote letters supporting another retiring faculty, friend, and Professor Ron Illingworth, whose nomination, unlike Professor Steiner’s, sailed through the process without a hitch. Here is John’s letter:

January 30, 2010

Dear Chancellor Rogers:

I am pleased to nominate a gentleman and my long-time esteemed colleague, Professor Ron Illingworth, for Professor Emeritus status as he approaches retirement from UAF. Few others deserve this honor more, if Emeritus recognizes intelligent, goal-driven leaders who envision challenging, practical goals and dreams—and then achieve them.

Professor Illingworth came to UAF 30 years ago, already a man seasoned with the wisdom of career military service. As a rural faculty member, I have worked extensively with Professor Illingworth over the years. Though technically he does not live in rural Alaska, Ron always has demonstrated a special talent for engaging and inspiring colleagues in Fairbanks to ensure that decisions large and small consider rural students.

Professor Illingworth has always recognized the essential role of policy-making at a university striving for greatness. He has developed or assisted in numerous certificate and degree programs that now thrive at UAF on both the rural and urban campuses. Ron’s fingerprints are all over programs as diverse as construction trades and paralegal studies, rural human services and tribal management.

Professor Illingworth does not just teach a curriculum; he stirs students with a passion exuding from his heart and soul. Ron expresses this in so many ways because he demands excellence in himself and inspires it in others.

Fortunately, years ago Ron chose as his pedagogical focus one of the least appreciated, least understood, and most essential disciplines in the academy: developmental studies. Professor Illingworth’s advocacy for and preparation in developmental studies have heightened the profile, respectability and effectiveness of this essential discipline to retain and advance students successfully in the system. That’s in addition to Ron’s literary expertise and love for Native American literature.

Finally, Ron Illingworth is just a kind, gentle, fine human being and a true friend. Wishing him all the best in his retirement, I nominate Professor Illingworth for Emeritus status with outsized enthusiasm, enormous pride, and a little bit of envy.


John Creed, Professor
Humanities & Journalism
Chukchi College–Kotzebue

We believe both professors handsomely deserved emeritus status, though we must admit Steiner operates in a league of his own.

UAF Chancellor Rogers did not immediately acknowledge receiving our letters, but only a few days later Susan received an unusual phone call from a man who at first didn’t identify himself beyond his name. He lighted into her for the Steiner emeritus letter. Eventually the man did identify himself. It was the dean of UAF’s School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Denis Wiesenburg. He was livid about our letter supporting Steiner.

Wiesenburg hired on to UAF in 2004. His harassment of Steiner for exercising his free speech and academic freedom rights is well documented, and we guess this was another episode in a continuing assault. A few days later, Susan emailed Wiesenburg:

To:  Denis Wiesenburg, Dean, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Fr:  Susan Andrews, Professor, Chukchi Campus–UAF

Re: Telephone call regarding Professor Rick Steiner

Date:  February 18, 2010

Dear Dean Wiesenburg:

On February 9, you called me concerning a letter of support in which my colleague, John Creed, and I have nominated Professor Rick Steiner for emeritus status at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

At the time, I had told you I could not speak on behalf of Professor Creed, who co-signed the nomination letter. If you would like to respond to this email message to set something up, let’s do that.

Meanwhile, since you were clearly attempting to dissuade us from supporting Professor Steiner, please know we both solidly stand behind our letter nominating Professor Rick Steiner for emeritus status. In fact, we have never nominated anyone for emeritus status with a stronger statewide, national and international profile of accomplishments as a UA faculty member than Professor Steiner. Indeed, we are surprised that anyone would not recognize Professor Steiner’s phenomenal contributions to the University of Alaska instead of joining with us in recommending his 30 years of service be so honored as emeritus.

Unfortunately, I have real concerns about the tenor and tactics of your February 9, 2010, phone call to me.  When you first introduced yourself, for example, you shared only your name. You did not identify yourself as the dean of the SFOS.  All I could ascertain was that someone from Fairbanks was on the telephone line, immediately grilling me about my letter of nomination for Prof. Steiner.

In particular, you were asking whether Professor Steiner essentially had “put us up to” nominating him.  While I stated that I would not have a conversation about our nomination letter without my co-signer of the letter present, I will refer you to a short excerpt from our letter where we explain that “his unit peers may feel reticent to nominate him directly, as they may have justifiable concerns about the possibility of reprisal from their administrators.” Given your approach toward us, we now better understand why his unit peers would be wise to either remain silent or seek your approval by opposing Professor Steiner’s bid for emeritus.

In addition, all faculty members seeking support either for promotion, tenure or emeritus status must actively seek out fellow faculty. For example, Professor Ron Illingworth of UAF’s College of Community and Rural Development also requested a letter of nomination from us for emeritus status. We are not mind-readers. Professor Illingworth had to ask us for support and provided ample justification, as did Professor Steiner. We hope you will join us in honoring this distinguished faculty member’s record of dedicated service to the state, the nation, and the international community.

During our telephone conversation, before I fully realized to whom I was speaking, you identified yourself  partly by stating that you were “described in the letter as having a contentious relationship” with Professor Steiner. Then you questioned how a person who has resigned from his faculty position in protest could at the same time be seeking emeritus status.

As I responded then, I still do not see these two issues as mutually exclusive. Just because a faculty member has disagreed with university policy, your apparent effort to block an institution of higher learning from honoring nearly three decades of service only reinforces the image of a rigid system where faculty members who do not walk in lock-step with the administration will suffer lasting retribution.

I am concerned about your phone call because you began grilling me without first fully explaining your stake in the situation, which indicates an attempt to intimidate.  Also, your narrow view of emeritus—that it is bestowed upon only those faculty members who demonstrate, implied or otherwise, that they have taken a “loyalty oath” to the UA administration, strikes at the heart of academic freedom. If universities are truly to function as society’s marketplace of ideas where dissent is not just tolerated but encouraged, Professor Steiner’s meritorious candidacy for emeritus must be recognized.

In his 30-plus years of service to the university, Professor Steiner has amassed an international profile and has a remarkable body of work that has greatly benefited not just the university but also the State of Alaska—and, indeed, well beyond the state into national and international circles.  Based upon merit, my husband and colleague, John Creed, and I, find Professor Steiner especially worthy of emeritus, probably more so than other past and present emeriti candidates who haven’t served the university nearly as long and who do not have records nearly this extensive.

Thank you.

Susan B. Andrews
Chukchi Campus–UAF

In his written response, Wiesenburg denied attempting to “grill” Professor Andrews on the phone but “obviously disagree with your suggestion” to join her in supporting Steiner’s emeritus bid.

Wiesenburg continued: “My concern was that if Professor Steiner was not privy to your nomination . . .”

Our letter to the chancellor was explicit that Steiner knew of our nomination. Here is the salient sentence: “Professor Steiner has provided us with a curriculum vitae packet to forward on to you, including his CV, a CV appendix listing his presentations over just the past 10 years, and a CV narrative that briefly discusses some of his philosophy and accomplishments.”

Wiesenburg knew all along that Steiner had asked us for support, and if he didn’t, why didn’t he ask? What was Wiesenburg’s concern about our nomination? According to the dean, “. . . that Professor Steiner would be offered Emeritus status and then would very publicly reject the university offer.”

Here is what a UA middle manager who himself bears significant responsibility for disparaging the University of Alaska’s reputation on a bedrock principle, academic freedom, wrote about Steiner: “Such a rejection (of emeritus) would potentially damage the reputation of the university.”

A few days later, Susan responded.

Hello Dean Wiesenburg,

Thank you for your email message and the opportunity to clear up some confusion in the matter of our nominating Professor Rick Steiner for emeritus status after almost 30 years of outstanding work at the University of Alaska.

As I stated in my recent email message to you, Professor Rick Steiner is aware of having been nominated for emeritus status. To reiterate from my original email message, it is normal practice for faculty to secure letters of nomination for their own emeritus nomination, which is the case here. In addition, I want to assure you that Professor Steiner has no plans to embarrass the University of Alaska, as you fear, by rejecting emeritus status if offered. In fact, I reached him by phone this morning. “Of course I’m going to accept emeritus status if it’s offered,” he said.  Consequently, if that truly was your sole concern, I invite you to join others in honoring Professor Steiner’s long, distinguished and outstanding work in Alaska and around the world by supporting him for emeritus status.

At the same time, I continue to find the approach, tone and intention of your original phone call questionable and inappropriate.  Nevertheless, I hope you can share in recognizing the merits in Professor Steiner’s candidacy for emeritus.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Susan Andrews

Wiesenburg did not respond except to “apologize for upsetting you with my phone call.”

Academic Freedom Warrior?

If Hamilton truly was a warrior for academic freedom, he would have called off Wiesenburg and the rest of his administration. Instead, Hamilton allowed his administration to put Steiner in an office he considered a hostile work environment.

Professor Rich Seifert, a long-time energy and housing specialist at UAF, contends that Hamilton, who had received more than $30 million in discretionary funds from the oil industry since 1998, had plenty of leeway in how to use that money.

Hamilton could have set up a professorship where Steiner could have done his work without harassment, he said.

“I did support Rick in his quest to get exactly that,” said Seifert. “It would have prevented us from getting to this point of ‘no return’ regarding Rick’s position.”

Seifert also supported Steiner’s emeritus status but said Wiesenburg never contacted him.

“I have known and supported Rick for more than 20 years,” said Seifert. “He is unique, stubborn and very widely experienced and dogged in his pursuit of environmental protection for the oceans. He has always been forceful and controversial and honorable.”

Meanwhile, last May at UAF commencement exercises at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, UA’s Board of Regents conferred emeritus status on Hamilton as he exited the university.

Steiner did not attend that graduation. He was not in Fairbanks. When Hamilton was receiving an honor that, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, is “usually reserved for faculty members,” Steiner was far away from Alaska. But he wasn’t brooding.

The professor, who for years had warned of the dangers of off-shore oil drilling in Alaska waters, was battling the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, fire, oil spill and cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a strange ironic twist, Steiner was cleaning up the new backyard of his old dean, Denis Weisenburg.

Weisenburg resigned from UAF this summer, returning to Mississippi not far from the Gulf of Mexico at the University of Southern Mississippi.

But Weisenburg wasn’t finished with Steiner. Even as he was preparing to move out of Alaska earlier this year, Weisenburg continued to hound Steiner, including emailing the New York Times after Steiner was quoted in a front-page story on the BP spill.

“I know the New York Times strives to be accurate,” wrote Weisenburg, claiming that, according to University of Alaska records, “Mr. Steiner has never had a grant from NOAA. Many people have, unfortunately, reported what Mr. Steiner has said without checking the facts.”

Steiner said he was able to “work through this” with the New York Times.

“They finally came to understand that Denis was lying, that I clearly had a NOAA grant that had been terminated due to my public criticisms of offshore oil, and so forth,” Steiner said. “I had had NOAA Sea Grant funding my entire career at the University of Alaska.

Steiner also wrote the UAF chancellor, Brian Rogers, and Mark Hamilton, the outgoing UA president to ensure that their underlings “cease and desist” from attempts to discredit him with the press.

“They all know very well that I had NOAA funding for my entire career at the University,” Steiner said.

As for making news, Steiner was all over the media about the BP oil spill. He did several on-air interviews with CNN International and Al Jazeera TV, reaching more than 200 million homes across the world.

Steiner also appeared on NPR as well as all the major evening news networks, including NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and even Fox. He appeared regularly on MSNBC and was quoted extensively in major print media, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

“Had the University of Alaska awarded emeritus status, then all of the international media I did over the summer with the Deepwater Horizon disaster would have been credited to UA,” said Steiner.  “As it was, I judiciously avoided any mention of UA in my credentials, and most (but not all) of the media obliged.”

According to Steiner, UA missed out on that publicity due to its “almost pathological resistance to any criticism of its number one benefactor, big oil.”

Faculty Support

UAF Professor Emeritus Rudy Krejci says the University of Alaska has changed little in the past 50 years. He compared Steiner to William O. Pruitt and Leslie Viereck, two professors fired by the administration of the late William R. Wood, a former UA president, also over conservation issues.

Pruitt and the late Viereck opposed Project Chariot, a bizarre plan by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in the 1960s to create a deep-water harbor between Kivalina and Point Hope north of Kotzebue in Northwest Alaska by detonating up to six thermonuclear bombs. Both men paid dearly for their principled stand.

“It is not surprising that the University of Alaska lost sight of its mission and yielded to the cold war political ambience by dismissing Pruitt and Viereck,” writes Dan O’Neill in The Firecracker Boys, the story of Project Chariot. “What is surprising—and the lesson here—is that some scholars were able to hold strong to the principle of academic freedom and were willing to pay the highest professional cost in that ideal.”

While Viereck remained in Fairbanks after his firing, Pruitt said that Wood had blackballed him, so in order to work in his field he moved to Canada, where he became an eminent scientist, returning to Alaska only in 1993, when he and Viereck received honorary doctorate degrees from the same institution that had fired them three decades before. (Wood skipped the graduation ceremony that year.)

For now, Rick Steiner is honored outside the walls of the University of Alaska, as Cook Inletkeeper’s 2010 Muckraker of the Year.

“I wish something could happen in the hearts of the people of Alaska and UA professors
to see how we are being sold by our administration for the interests which have nothing to do with education,” said Krejci, the former philosophy professor. “Things have not changed during the last 50 years. There never was very much understanding and sympathy among rank-and-file members of the faculty for an open fight for any stated value system. Not then, not now.”

The University of Alaska has a motto, Ad Summum, meaning “to the highest point or amount.”

According to Krejci, who said he remains an optimist, “If Ad Summum has any meaning as the supreme goal of UAF, it should be identified with the deeds of these courageous men.”


Susan B. Andrews and John Creed are humanities and journalism professors at Chukchi College, the Kotzebue branch of the University of Alaska. Their latest book, “Purely Alaska: Authentic Voices from the Far North,” was recently published by Epicenter Press.

~Professor Rick Steiner in October 2010 on the Niger Delta where he is doing damage assessments from 50 years of oil spills. He is working with local people to restore their environment and find a secure peace.



33 Responses to “Former UA Professor Receives Cook Inletkeeper’s Highest Award”
  1. St. Elias says:

    Yes, Dr. Steiner, Congratulations to you. All Alaska should be holding you in the highest esteem today, for what you have given us by sacrificing your own economic well being. Someday, in the future, in Alaska, I hope our paths cross so that I can personally thank you.

  2. pdx mb says:

    AKM: I have a request that you put the authors’ info at the top of the story, rather than following. I find myself reading for a bit, then looking at the author’s profile box, which is sometimes you, sometimes other regular contributors. In this case, it was you, but you had a guest blogger, but it’s not clear right away who the guest is or what their creds are. It would be helpful. Great piece, by the way. I hope it gets wide circulation.

  3. Dagian says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Steiner!

    Let’s hope that UA makes the right decision. Evidently in the current climate, that qualifies as a morally courageous act. How sad for UA.

  4. Congratulations to Prof. Steiner from land-locked,no bears or salmon(thankfully no Palins yet) Iowa. I must say the politics at play here against the Prof. are as bad and/or dirtier than elections have been. I enjoy listening to Mr Steiner when he shows up on MSNBC. Thank Mother Nature there is one sane, person out there.

  5. sorry for the multiple comments – the text kept disappearing – and couldn’t see it on the page so thought it hadn’t posted – oopss

  6. Kath the Scrappy says:

    Congratulations Dr. Steiner, what a well deserved award!

    Wow, UA sure cut off their nose to spite their face. They would have had enormous ‘advertising’ during the BP oil spill disaster, but nary a mention. I truly appreciated Dr. Steiner’s honest and easily understood assessments, especially on Keith Olbermann.

    He is a national treasure! So I’m pleased that Cook Inletkeepers recognized and are giving him the honor. Well deserved.

  7. We have rousing fiddle, acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo – these guys are great – the Whiskeyjacks is the name of the band in case you missed it on the poster. OK – now I will go enjoy life instead of writing about it. where is the dancing icon when you need it?? 🙂

  8. PS standing room only crowd – yeah.

  9. Best Wishes to you, Dr. Steiner…thank you for being a respected authority and a principled person….!

  10. PS standing room only crowd – and another blogger who is here is Phil Munger – I just happened to plop down at his table to write and say hello

  11. PS – standing room only crowd – ! sitting next to Phil Munger who also blogs about Alaska.

  12. Hey folks – I am at the Cook Inletkeepers ball – Rick Steiner just finished speaking – AKM and Shannyn sitting up front – Shannyn on stage now introducing musicians, etc.

  13. seattlefan says:

    Thank you for all you do Dr. Steiner. I’m glad you are being recognized and a much deserved congratulations to you!

  14. leenie17 says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Steiner!

    Your work and your perseverance make this world a better place for all of us – human, animal and plant – and I thank you for that. In watching your interviews during the worst of the Gulf Oil disaster, I deeply appreciated your ability to make the information clear and understandable to those of us who have little background in that area.

    Enjoy your celebration and keep doing what you’re doing!

  15. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    If we lived in a just world, the treatment of Dr. Steiner by the UA administration would have achieved the bad publicity they ostensibly feared he would cause by refusing emeritus status.

    But it would appear that bullying, intimidation, violation of constitutional and academic rights on the part of administrators, who (if I understand the situation correctly) are political appointees and don’t earn their positions on merit, are not news-worthy.

    This is just another example of a larger trend. I have to congratulate the writers and Dr. Steiner for taking a stand on principle in the face of threats and intimidation. It is not easy to risk career and livelihood for principle, unless you value intellectual honesty and truth. Scientists and other academics, just like anyone else can be corrupted by the influence of money, whether they cooperate in the corruption or not. Resisting such corruption is not just a matter of intellectual courage but also physical courage, because those who are already corrupt and the money behind them will stop at nothing to preserve their hegemony.

    I hope Dr. Steiner and the authors here can continue to pursue productive careers. Those of us outside academia and eduction in general have to realize that there are powerful influences that see education as nothing more than “job training” and if possible would remake it into a kind of process of indoctrination. I still have considerable confidence in the integrity of our educational system but I have to condition that with the fact that never before in my lifetime has it been under such duress.

    I know it is only one of a bewildering array of problems. In a way they are all inter-related. It is yet another opportunity for activism. Turn off your Tee Vees and start thinking about how you can change your world. For the better.

  16. Sisuanna says:

    Yes, I hadn’t realized that Willie Wood’s free-speech allergy was this well known. What a vicious man. I nearly didn’t graduate because of him. Thank goodness for Mary Jane Fate. His stewardship of the university’s meager resources was at the very least a $3 million scandal. As mayor he was a freakin’ picket fencer.

    I still chuckle when I pass the big statue on the banks of the Chena across from that big hotel at First and Cushman. It was one of Willie’s projects. He seems not to have understood that the statue is facing what used to be a strip of gold-rush era bars that were removed for the hotel. The statue seems to be asking “where are the bars?” and that is how it is known in elite circles in Fairbanks. “Where are the Bars?”

    • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

      Sisuanna – just saw your comment and had to laugh because when I read: “the statue is facing what used to be a strip of gold-rush era bars” I immediately thought gravel bars, sand bars, places where alluvial gold is found. Then I realized you meant the other kind, and it lifted my sense of gloom a bit after the thoughts I didn’t attempt to express in my comment above.

  17. Zyxomma says:

    My heartfelt appreciation and congratulations to Prof. Steiner, whose work I always seek out to further my knowledge of environmental issues, and to the brave colleagues who wrote letters of support (and I read every single word).

    Alaska’s geographical proximity to Russia is illustrated (though Fairbanks is far from the west coast) by these Soviet-style tactics being practiced at an institute of (alleged) higher learning.

    Have a great time at the ball tonight. I’ll join you in spirit, from an island off the east coast of the continent (Manhattan).

    p.s. Susan and John, please email your correspondence on this matter to Keith Olbermann at Countdown. Professor Steiner is a frequent, welcome guest, and perhaps sufficient media attention will garner him the emeritus status of which he is so very deserving.

  18. thatcrowwoman says:

    Many thanks, Dr. Rick, for your presence and assistance on the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the blow out of BP’s Macondo Well.

    Now the oil is out of sight, but not out of mind.

    Congratulations to Cook Inletkeeper’s Muckraker from this Emerald Coastkeeper a continent away.

    Quyana, toda raba, many thanks,

  19. jojobo1 says:

    Another story about how politics and religion have taken over our universities and colleges. Congratulations Mr Steiner

  20. uafperson says:

    I watched some of the Wiesenburg-Steiner battle from within at the time. What struck me at the time from Denis Wiesenburg’s perspective is that he didn’t like being challenged by Steiner ‘stirring up’ trouble, particularly with industries’ environmental practices, with whom Wiesenburg, as dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, was courting for financial contributions/endowments.

  21. mpb says:

    Hamilton’s record of approving censoring of faculty at rural campuses is even worse. He once was awarded a a free-speech honor for an issue at Anchorage at the same time he was firing faculty who spoke out in faculty meetings about the poor treatment of rural students. The rural faculty had their entire teaching files wiped off the university server.

    Academic freedom and academic bullying in Alaska is far more insidious and far-reaching than anyone discusses. At the very least, anyone who ever enrolled at the Alaska system had their personal info exposed for 5+ years. But more importantly, we simply don’t have the expertise and knowledge developed from rural and urban Alaska that we desperately need for economic development and a healthy Alaska society. Meanwhile, the governor(s) and legislature pour more money in to “fix” the problem of why Alaskans drop out of school and college but no effort into critiquing and correcting the existing system.

    Picking off the “inside agitators”, such as Steiner, one by one maintains the command structure by sinking the ship.

  22. tigerwine says:

    I worked for Cooperative Extension while in Bethel. It’s satisfying and heart-warming to see Steiner being appreciated, but at the same time discouraging to see how politics invades even the hallowed halls of academia.

  23. tewise says:

    Congratulations Prof. Steiner you definitely deserve the recognition. I have always enjoyed the articles that has been shared with us and your work in the Gulf.

    The above article is awesome. I could feel the pride that was wrote in the letters of referral. That phone call would have pi$$ed me off when I found out who it was also. Luckily you are a more professional woman than I am because he would have got cussed out very quickly before I even realized what I had done. Prof. Steiner can beam with pride to have people like ya’ll that are there for him in his corner.

    Prof. Steiner you keep on doing your thing, at night you will always be able to hold your head high because you still have your dignity. I wish we could all be at your Ball to help you celebrate……..

  24. jimzmum says:

    Congratulations, sir. I hope you have a wonderful evening!

  25. Bob Benner says:

    After reading those letters in support of the Professor, one would think other Universities would be fighting each other over the chance of getting him on their staff. I wonder why it hasn’t happened.

    • luckycharms says:

      I think the good professor has been juuuuust a little busy lately with his work in the Gulf and China and…. 🙂 Congrats Prof. Steiner! Enjoy the evening.

  26. bubbles says:

    congratulations Dr. Steiner. enjoy the dinner and may you have many, many productive years ahead.
    the university’s treatment of you speaks volumes about the leadership there. corrupt. just like the leadership at state government level. never mind, as long as that retirement check comes when it is due, spend it and enjoy life; and the admiration and respect offered by folks like me. if you are willing to teach; then i am ready and willing to read. to read and to learn from the best. that would be you Professor Steiner.

  27. Winski says:

    AND, he’s smart too!!

    Congrats Rick…

  28. MonaLisa (inCT) says:

    Congratulations, Rick. You deserve every honor, and then some!

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