‘Troubled Waters’ to air as planned

University officials previously planned to delay the film, and said it needed further scientific review.
September 27, 2010

University of Minnesota officials reversed the decision to delay the premiere of "Troubled Waters," a film on pollution in the Mississippi River, and made it available to the public Thursday.


The documentary, which discusses the impact of sediment and fertilizer runoff at the river’s gulf, was originally set to premiere at the Bell Museum of Natural History on Oct. 3 and air on Twin Cities Public Television on Oct. 5.


Shortly after Labor Day, University officials cancelled both debuts. Allen Levine, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, watched the film with other CFANS deans and questioned its scientific validity. At least three deans said the film was unbalanced and portrayed agriculture in an unfairly negative light.


Bell Museum Director Susan Weller previously said the film was likely to premiere in the spring after a review panel was formed to analyze the film.


The delay raised public outcry, and under a "pressure cooker" of a timeline, Weller obtained documents showing the film had already gone through a review process.


The documents, including a bibliography of sources and correspondence with experts in the field, were saved on various databases and were difficult to gather, Weller said.


But after looking through the procedure taken, Weller determined that a second review wasn’t necessary.


The University reinstated the Bell Museum premiere, but as of Friday, TPT was still waiting for the University to grant it rights to show the film, Stephen Usery, a TPT spokesman, said.


Karen Himle, vice president of University Relations, called TPT to postpone the airing after she watched the film and had concerns about "commercial interests" and lack of focus on the Mississippi River. Before calling the station she talked with Levine, who told her of the deans’ concern.


Himle said she learned about the film’s reinstatement Thursday through an announcement from the University provost.


"I’m pleased that the concerns of Dean Allen Levine and other deans and faculty members from CFANS and elsewhere ... have been resolved," Himle wrote in an e-mail Saturday.


The Minnesota Student Association and a coalition of 13 environment and agriculture groups, including the Land Stewardship Project, an external adviser for the film, are separately calling for a review of the process and the University’s conflict-of-interest policy. They are also calling for Himle to step down if she delayed the film due to a conflict of interest.


Himle’s husband’s public relations company, Himle Horner, represented the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, a lobbying group for agribusiness. Himle listed Himle Horner as an outside source of income on her conflict-of-interest form for the University. She said the tie had no impact on her concerns over "Troubled Waters."


—Taryn Wobbema contributed to this report.

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