But as Drury charts on his blog, his comment on the connections between that calamity and coal was too close to home. By day three of construction, the mining industry was accusing the university of ingratitude towards one of its main benefactors – in what some have seen as a veiled threat to cut funding.
“They get millions of dollars in royalties from oil, gas and coal to run the university, and then they put up a monument attacking me, demonising the industry,” Marion Loomis, the director of the Wyoming Mining Association, told the Casper Star-Tribune. “I understand academic freedom, and we’re very supportive of it, but it’s still disappointing.”
Then two Republican members of the Wyoming state legislature joined in, calling the work an insult to coal. The subject of university funding also came up.
“While I would never tinker with the University of Wyoming budget – I’m a great supporter of the University of Wyoming – every now and then, you have to use these opportunities to educate some of the folks at the University of Wyoming about where their paychecks come from,” Tom Lubnau, one of the state legislators, told the Gillette News-Record.
The university said it was standing by Drury’s work, although it was not necessarily endorsing his message.