Kentucky editorial roundup


Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

Dec. 16

Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on schools not doing enough to reward whistle-blowers:

The first in the University of Kentucky's list of 11 core values is "integrity." Also included are "personal and institutional responsibility and accountability," and "mutual respect and human dignity."

It is, frankly and sadly, hard to see those values at work in the story of Dr. Eric Smart and the man who blew the whistle on his faked research, Dr. William Everson.

As the Herald-Leader's Linda Blackford reported, Everson has lost his job, his research and his career since he alerted the dean of the UK College of Medicine to Smart's false data in 2009.

Smart resigned but not before he was recommended for another job and a letter about his probation for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment disappeared from his personnel file. Institutional responsibility and human dignity?

Indeed, the picture that arises is of a research community driven not by scientific inquiry but by ability to bring in money, of research assistants who rely upon the success and favor of their superstar bosses to advance, so much so that they're reluctant to complain about long hours, harassment, or even fudging the data.

This picture is especially troubling now, with the push to get more bright young students interested in science. It also presents an ugly face at a time when science is questioned among policy makers.

UK is by no means alone. ...

When Smart's research collapsed, UK gave Everson and others in Smart's lab, a year of lab space and financial support. "UK thought Everson would be able to get grants and bring money in, unfortunately for Dr. Everson it did not work out that way," UK General Counsel William Thro said. ...

UK has ambitions to stand out among research universities. A good way to start might be by punishing cheaters and rewarding whistle-blowers.



Dec. 14

Daily Independent, Ashland, K.Y., on smoking restrictions:

By a 2-1 vote, the Kentucky Court of Appeals has ruled an unelected county board of health can impose a smoking ban without the approval of the county fiscal court or any city councils or city commissions in a county. If it stands on appeal, the decision could greatly expand the number of counties in the state that restrict smoking in public. That would not bother us one bit except for how it is done.

Currently, countywide smoking restrictions are in place in 12 of Kentucky's 120 counties. In counties like Boyd, cities like Ashland have approved ordinances to restrict public smoking, while the remainder of the county has let individual businesses and employers continue to establish their own rules about smoking.

The elected members of the fiscal courts in the 12 counties restricting smoking have done so by approving ordinances. That's the way it should be. ...

In its ruling, the court of appeals said state law gives health boards the authority to impose regulations or ordinances involving public health. We support restrictions on public smoking and wish more area cities and counties would follow the lead of the Ashland Board of City Commissioners in approving a restriction that has made dining in restaurants in Ashland much more pleasant and healthy.

Despite the threats of opponents of the Ashland ordinance to work to defeat those commissioners supporting the smoking restrictions, the ordinance had no noticeable impact the next time commissioners faced city voters. All were re-elected, and the smoking ban was not even an issue during the campaign.

That's not surprising. ...

While there is no question smoking is a health issue, we don't think legislators ever intended the unelected members of boards of health to have the power to restrict smoking in public. Even if the Kentucky Supreme Court agrees with the appeals court when its ruling is appealed, as it surely will be, decisions on public smoking still should be left up to elected officials, not to appointed boards whose members most voters do not even know and have no way of influencing.



Dec. 12

Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky., on the WKU hiring of Bobby Petrino:

Western Kentucky University is taking a gamble. Not so much on a man whose knowledge of football and coaching abilities are in question. Wins are somewhat of a specialty for Bobby Petrino.

It's the off-the-field life Petrino has led that has some Hilltopper fans wondering whether Petrino brings more bad than good to the Hill as WKU's 18th head football coach.

Petrino sat, seemingly comfortably and relaxed, as an overflow crowd in the Harbaugh Club at WKU's Houchens-Smith Stadium welcomed him with fervor as he was named head coach, replacing Willie Taggart, who accepted the head coaching job at the University of South Florida.

Petrino's troubles at his last coaching stop - the University of Arkansas - are well documented. He had an affair with a young woman, a former Razorbacks volleyball player, whom he also had a hand in hiring to a university athletics job there.

In the end, Arkansas fired Petrino. That was the move that should have been made.

It's been a relatively short time since that firing. Less than a year, in fact.

Petrino addressed his ethical shortcomings at Arkansas during a WKU news conference. ...

Petrino said the past several months have been about healing and learning about himself. It's been a time, he says, about focusing on his family and holding on to his marriage.

Those are commendable actions, first steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation with his wife and family. ...

No doubt Petrino has been a smashing success on the gridiron. In eight seasons as a college head coach at Louisville and Arkansas, his record is 75-26 combined. He's taken teams to seven bowls in those eight years. He's led two programs to their first-ever BCS bowl berths.

He's coached in the NFL and has many years as an assistant coach in a game Petrino calls "my life."

We hope Petrino has experienced heartfelt remorse and has turned away from the troubling incident at Arkansas.

It's no doubt a gamble for WKU to hire him. His salary is $850,000 for four years, the biggest salary ever on the Hill for any of its employees. ...

Here's to hoping the gamble pays off and that Petrino revives an admirable on-field career with continued success, for WKU's sake and his.


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