Tobacco Front-Group Chairman And Climate Science Denier Named President Of New Mexico State University

by Brad Johnson, campaign manager for Forecast the Facts

Garrey Carruthers, NMSU President

By a 3-2 vote on Monday, May 6, the New Mexico State University Board of Regents selected Garrey Carruthers, who questions the science of climate change, to be the next president of the land-grant institution in drought-plagued Las Cruces, despite widespread concern from faculty, students, alumni, and local legislators.

After news reports that Carruthers chaired a tobacco-industry front group in the 1990s and is a global warming skeptic, four New Mexico state representatives sent a letter to Board of Regents chair Mike Cheney questioning the wisdom of his candidacy. Last weekend, over 300 New Mexico residents signed a Forecast the Facts petition to the Board of Regents, saying: “Don’t select Garrey Carruthers, who rejects the science of climate change, to be the next president of New Mexico State University.” The petition was delivered to the board by an NMSU student.

Board of Regents Chair Mike Cheney, a local businessman and one of the three supporters of Carruthers, told reporters that he did not speak with the legislators concerned with Carruthers’ ties to Phillip Morris and his questioning of climate science:

On Monday, Cheney said he had not talked to Carruthers about his involvement in TASSC and still hoped to speak to several of the legislators about their concerns about Carruthers’ work on behalf of Philip Morris.

“When we began the search process, we realized immediately that our next president must clearly understand the environment,” Cheney said without a sense of irony.

In a comment on the Forecast the Facts petition, Dr. Stephen S. Mulkey, the president of Unity College in Unity, ME, urged against the selection of Carruthers:

Higher education should be leading our civilization in addressing the causes and impacts of climate change. It matters little whether or not Mr. Carruthers is a scientist or economist. What matters is that he respect and accept the overwhelming consensus of the experts, and that he lead his institution in responding to what is simply the greatest threat to civilization in the modern era. College and university presidents have an ethical obligation to this generation of students. Given the clarity of the scientific reality, failing to accept this charge should disqualify any candidate from a leadership position in higher education.

Last year, Dr. Mulkey explained on ClimateProgress his college’s decision to become the first in the nation to divest from fossil fuels.

In April 2007, NMSU President Michael Martin signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. As part of the commitment, NMSU submitted a comprehensive Climate Action Plan which lays out a framework for “climate neutrality” by 2050, with zero net greenhouse pollution. This commitment is institutional, and not subject to changes in the presidency — in 2012, the university reported major progress in cutting greenhouse pollution. The Presidents’ Climate Commitment website has been updated to reflect President Carruthers’ responsibility in carrying out the action plan.

Carruthers has not yet commented publicly whether he will ensure the NMSU Climate Action Plan is followed.

Carruthers was previously the Republican governor of New Mexico from 1987 to 1991. From 1993 to 1998, Carruthers served as chairman of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), an organization funded by Phillip Morris to deny the health risks of smoking and other public health threats. TASSC has labeled global warming “junk science.”

17 Responses to Tobacco Front-Group Chairman And Climate Science Denier Named President Of New Mexico State University

  1. kelly anspaugh says:

    Not surprising. Gordon Gee, the president of The Ohio State University — and the highest paid university prez in the land — served for nearly a decade on the board of Massey Energy, a coal company with one of the most horrific environmental records imaginable and led by Donnie “King Coal” Blankenship, an infamous and outrageous global warming denier. Gee was eventually pressured by Ohio public interest groups to step away from Massey, but he did so very reluctantly (and no wonder, given that he was pulling down almost a quarter mil a year for serving). When I asked Gee point blank if he supported his university’s own climate scientists (OSU the host institution of the Byrd Polar Research Center) in their ongoing struggle against global warming deniers, Gee refused to give a straight answer, saying instead that he felt “all viewpoints should be given a hearing in the classroom” — the now familiar fallacy of false equivalency detectable here. So no, not surprised that a major state university should hire as president a global warming denier if he is politically well connected, as ex-gov Carruthers obviously is.

  2. Ed Leaver says:

    The viewpoints heard in a university classroom — and how they are presented — are usually at the discretion of the individual professors and their department curricula committees. Mr. Caruthers’ job is to help maintain academic freedom; it would be curious if he were to try to influence these.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Under capitalism everything, every institution, every impulse is corrupted by the desire for gain. A society based on insatiable greed to the exclusion of all else is inherently malignant.

  4. Superman1 says:

    I’ve known a couple of university Presidents. From what I could see, their main job was to bring in as much money as they could from as many sources as possible. That meant their viewpoints had to be acceptable to alumni, State and Federal government officials, industry, etc.

  5. Superman1 says:

    They were extremely well paid, and both were hard workers. Raising money was a truly full time job. My guess is that their views on climate change played a miniscule role in their selection. I suspect that was true with Carruthers as well.

  6. BillD says:

    I guess that this is part of a new trend to award former governors with positions as university president, even though they lack academic experience and credentials. I work for one such former governor. It still remains to be seen how they will carry out their jobs and how long they will last in such positions. They will not last long if they go too strongly against the interests of faculty and/or students.

  7. Joan Savage says:

    “When I asked Gee point blank..”

    Kelly, I for one appreciate the effort it takes to provide a first-hand report. They are rare enough that I have to make a note. Thanks.

  8. Joan Savage says:

    “My guess is that their views on climate change..”

    It seems that we should infer you didn’t discuss climate change with them, at least not in context of their university’s fund raising policy. A tacit silence was commonplace in decades past, so I would not be surprised if it were so in your experience.

    I hope that given another chance you’d seize the opportunity to have such a conversation, as you have found your voice about the severity of climate crisis.

  9. Superman1 says:

    That was not the purpose or focus of our discussions, and the topic never came up. As a retiree, I’m no longer in those circles, and am finding trying to convince my family, friends, and acquaintances about the seriousness of the issue is challenge enough.

  10. Superman1 says:

    New trend? Wasn’t e.g. Eisenhower President of Columbia? Many people without academic credentials have assumed such positions; the main purpose is to bring in the bucks, and academic credentials are not what counts in that sphere.

  11. Joan Savage says:

    Understood, been there.
    Please remember to let them breathe and claim it as their own issue. We are pressed for time, I know.

  12. kelly anspaugh says:

    As long as you are taking notes. I was for twenty years employed as a lecturer in English at Ohio State-Lima. For the second decade of my time there the sole climate teacher at our campus was a strident global warming denier — taught our students that global warming was “a liberal hoax.” When I attempted to counter what this guy was doing by educating students and faculty on the consensus view, I was told by the denialist’s friends in the administration to shut up about global warming or else. I appealed to Dr. Gee for relief in this oppressive situation. He ignored my pleas, clearly gave the local administration the benefit of the doubt. Eventually I was fired. So much for a university president respecting and defending academic freedom.

  13. kelly anspaugh says:

    Aye, there’s the rub. Does not take a genius to see that a good many of the men who own and run the world — oil men like the Koch brothers, media moguls like Rupert Murdoch, powerful national politicians like James Inhofe — have come down on the side of the climate contrarians. If one wants to reach into the deep pockets of these gentlemen, it’s probably wise not to offend them by pointing out that their views on climate change are not only stupid but morally reprehensible. Thus the depessing spectacle last year of OSU President Gordon Gee remarking to the Columbus Dispatch “OSU will be honored to have House Speaker John Boehner serve as our spring commencement speaker” — this the same John Boehner who once famously remarked that methane can’t possibly be a dangerous greenhouse gas since cows emit it every time they fart. I think it safe to say that most of the OSU science faculty did not share Gee’s view that having Boehner as commencement speaker “honored” the institution.

  14. kelly anspaugh says:

    Seems to me it is also the job of the president of a university to see to it that the institution’s mission of the advancement of knowledge is protected. Not sure it’s the ideal situation to have as your university president a guy who obviously cannot or will not distinguish between real science and oil company propaganda.

  15. Carruthers was a Dean, a professor, a lifetime resident of Las Cruces – and Governor. I hope he has changed is views on climate change from what the article describes.

    But to pretend he has no academic experience or credentials is just wrong.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    There is no ‘academic freedom’ to lie in the service of those who profit from suffering and premature death.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    That’s why Syria is going through Hell, like so many other countries before. To bring them just this sort of ‘Freedom’. The jihadists have similar ideas regarding freedom of opinion.