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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Love the Sunshine

Well it looks like the House and Senate have finished their 'sunshine' budget conferences on higher education. I found it amazing how fast they closed the gap in conference (not). I'll never be good at politics because I find it hard to lie to someone straight to their face and smile the whole time I do it. Budget cuts to UF will be somewhere between 40-50 million which is about 1/2 of what the planned budget cuts were for. I suppose we should be happy about that, but the truth is that 50 million still allows the administration to rid themselves of whatever they don't particularly value and that might include my own department. We shall see. I suspect that UF is already looking at its options even given the preliminary numbers. If I hear anything, I'll post it here.


Joe Meert

Senate Accepts House Offer

The senate agreed to the house offer. There are still a few small differences, but the big ones General Revenue and total budget are essentially the same.

That's a shame since this simply must have been the back-door deal that was agreed upon before conferencing. Now we'll just have to see how it breaks down by University.

I've just received the following preliminary indications of the UF budget from a highly reliable source

Under the current proposal - which is subject to change - we estimate UF's base budget to be cut by approximately $68 million. Tuition would generate more than $21 million in revenue, and we get $2.4 million additional lottery dollars. This makes the net reduction about $45 million.

Since the budget has not been approved by both houses or signed by the governor, it's best to view these numbers as 'ballpark' rather than firm estimates.


Joe Meert

Next update

The Senate should have their counter-offer on the table for higher education later this morning. The current proposal is tough to fully evaluate even for those who are in the know. Here's a quote regarding the UF Budget

At the University of Florida, officials say they could still lose $30 to $50 million with the new budget.

“Our people are still analyzing what these cuts mean,” said UF spokesman Janine Sikes. “It’s an improvement from where the House was.”

30-50 million is a big range. At the 30 million dollar level, most programs could be salvaged. As you head up to the 50 million range, things get dicier. We'll have to wait and see what the senate does and ultimately how the funds are allocated.

In the meantime, transparency is a bit opaque in these discussions!


Joe Meert

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Latest Numbers out of Tallahasee for Higher Education

Before today:

Senate $ 3,016,003,106
House $ 2,753,132,815
Difference $ 262,870,291


Senate $ 3,016,003,106
House Offer #1 $ 2,925,015,362
Difference $ 90,987,744

Senate can respond later today. Best to contact everybody again and ask them to move more towards the Senate budget.

Here are the people sitting on the conference committees

Higher Education Appropriations -- Senator Lynn, Chair; Senators Constantine, Deutch, Gelber, and King

State Universities & Private Colleges Appropriations - Proctor (Chair), Precourt (Vice Chair), Heller (Democratic Ranking Member), Burgin, Dorworth, O'Toole, Patterson, Reed, Taylor.


Joe Meert

Florida finally limits animal sex

Yes, I guess it was ok to have sex with animals in Florida. Even more surprising is that there are 16 other states without such laws. The Florida house is not as kind to some animals because any animals who endanger airplanes can be killed without penalty. I'm packing a gun next time I fly! Oh well, I digress.

The budget committees are meeting today to iron out differences between the house and senate. One of those committees will decide the budgets for individual universities in Florida meaning that we might know in the next couple of days exactly how large the cuts to UF will be. It looks like this morning it's simply a meet and greet (45 minutes are scheduled).

The senate also passed a bill supporting a 15% increase in tuition for state universities and the house is expected to also support this legislation. For the University of Florida that means an extra 20 million or so for the next year. These tuition increases can continue (no more than 15%) until Florida is in line with most other states in terms of tuition costs.


Joe Meert

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Geology may be saved along with much of higher education

The house has agreed to budget negotiations and have sliced nearly 80% of their proposed cuts to higher education. The total of the cuts is thought to be $120 million so for UF that's about a 30-40 million cut. Much of that will be made up via tuition increases such that we may be safe. Having said that, the budget is not finalized until the governor signs it, but it's a move in the right direction. The details have not been released nor have any agreements been signed. We'll have to wait, but I consider this some progress.

I really liked this comment:

$110 million in cuts to universities, which should be covered by $125 million from tuition increases;


Joe Meert

Budget deal near

Word out of Tallahassee is that a budget deal will be announced shortly. No word on the exact details, but looks hopeful that the deal will be done either today or Wednesday.

Although this makes it sound less likely.

TALLAHASSEE -- House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, just told reporters what has become obvious: lawmakers physically don't have enough time to finish their budget work by the Friday adjournment of the regular, 60-day lawmaking session.

Because the finalized plan must sit on lawmakers' desks for 72 hours before it can be passed, the $65 billion-plus spending plan would have to be negotiated and off the printers by midnight Tuesday. But Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul haven't yet even signed off on how much money committee chairmen would have to divvy out to spending programs. So the chances of turning around the budget in the next 29 hours is near-impossible.

"First, you've got to agree on how much money you want to spend and reductions you have to make," said Cannon, who has been pushing to carry over a large surplus for when the state's share of the federal stimulus money runs out in two years.

But Cannon deflected just about every other question, saying the decision-making has been in the hands of the presiding officers since the end of last week.

It is confirmed that conferencing talks will begin at 4 pm today with hopes of finalizing the budget by May 8, 2009. No word yet on what deals were struck to reach this point.


Joe Meert

Monday, April 27, 2009

President Obama's Address to the National Academies

Remarks of President Barack Obama - As Prepared for Delivery
National Academy of Sciences
Washington, DC
April 27, 2009

It is my privilege to address the distinguished members of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the leaders of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine who have gathered here this morning.

I'd like to begin today with a story of a previous visitor who also addressed this august body.

In April of 1921, Albert Einstein visited the United States for the first time. His international celebrity was growing as scientists around the world began to understand and accept the vast implications of his theories of special and general relativity. He attended this annual meeting, and after sitting through a series of long speeches by others, he reportedly said, "I have just got a new theory of eternity." I'll do my best to heed this cautionary tale.

The very founding of this institution stands as a testament to the restless curiosity and boundless hope so essential not just to the scientific enterprise, but to this experiment we call America.

A few months after a devastating defeat at Fredericksburg, before Gettysburg would be won and Richmond would fall, before the fate of the Union would be at all certain, President Lincoln signed into law an act creating the National Academy of Sciences.

Lincoln refused to accept that our nation's sole purpose was merely to survive. He created this academy, founded the land grant colleges, and began the work of the transcontinental railroad, believing that we must add "the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discoveryŠ of new and useful things."

This is America's story. Even in the hardest times, and against the toughest odds, we have never given in to pessimism; we have never surrendered our fates to chance; we have endured; we have worked hard; we have sought out new frontiers.

Today, of course, we face more complex set of challenges than we ever have before: a medical system that holds the promise of unlocking new cures and treatments - attached to a health care system that holds the potential to bankrupt families and businesses. A system of energy that powers our economy - but also endangers our planet. Threats to our security that seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness so essential to our prosperity. And challenges in a global marketplace which links the derivative trader on Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street, the office worker in America to the factory worker in China - a marketplace in which we all share in opportunity, but also in crisis.

At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science. That support for research is somehow a luxury at a moment defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been. And if there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it's today.

We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States. This is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it is not a cause for alarm. The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a Public Health Emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively. I'm getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies, and the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take. But one thing is clear - our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community. And this is one more example of why we cannot allow our nation to fall behind.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened.

Federal funding in the physical sciences as a portion of our gross domestic product has fallen by nearly half over the past quarter century. Time and again we've allowed the research and experimentation tax credit, which helps businesses grow and innovate, to lapse.

Our schools continue to trail. Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others. Another assessment shows American fifteen year olds ranked 25th in math and 21st in science when compared to nations around the world.

And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.

We know that our country is better than this.

A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation; to invest in education, in research, in engineering; to set a goal of reaching space and engaging every citizen in that historic mission. That was the high water mark of America's investment in research and development. Since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income - our GDP. As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation's great discoveries.

I believe it is not in our American character to follow - but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than three percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the Space Race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.

Just think what this will allow us to accomplish: solar cells as cheap as paint, and green buildings that produce all of the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us. We can do this.

The pursuit of discovery half a century ago fueled our prosperity and our success as a nation in the half century that followed. The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another fifty years. That is how we will ensure that our children and their children will look back on this generation's work as that which defined the progress and delivered the prosperity of the 21st century.

This work begins with an historic commitment to basic science and applied research, from the labs of renowned universities to the proving grounds of innovative companies.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and with the support of Congress, my administration is already providing the largest single boost to investment in basic research in American history.

This is important right now, as public and private colleges and universities across the country reckon with shrinking endowments and tightening budgets. But this is also incredibly important for our future. As Vannevar Bush, who served as scientific advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, famously said: "Basic scientific research is scientific capital."

The fact is, an investigation into a particular physical, chemical, or biological process might not pay off for a year, or a decade, or at all. And when it does, the rewards are often broadly shared, enjoyed by those who bore its costs but also by those who did not.

That's why the private sector under-invests in basic science - and why the public sector must invest in this kind of research. Because while the risks may be large, so are the rewards for our economy and our society.

No one can predict what new applications will be born of basic research: new treatments in our hospitals; new sources of efficient energy; new building materials; new kinds of crops more resistant to heat and drought.

It was basic research in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today's GPS satellites are based on the equations that Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.

In addition to the investments in the Recovery Act, the budget I've proposed - and versions have now passed both the House and Senate - builds on the historic investments in research contained in the recovery plan.

We double the budget of key agencies, including the National Science Foundation, a primary source of funding for academic research, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which supports a wide range of pursuits - from improving health information technology to measuring carbon pollution, from testing "smart grid" designs to developing advanced manufacturing processes. And my budget doubles funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science which builds and operates accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, high-energy light sources, and facilities for making nano-materials. Because we know that a nation's potential for scientific discovery is defined by the tools it makes available to its researchers.

But the renewed commitment of our nation will not be driven by government investment alone. It is a commitment that extends from the laboratory to the marketplace.

That is why my budget makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent. This is a tax credit that returns two dollars to the economy for every dollar we spend, by helping companies afford the often high costs of developing new ideas, new technologies, and new products. Yet at times we've allowed it to lapse or only renewed it year to year.. I've heard this time and again from entrepreneurs across this country: by making this credit permanent, we make it possible for businesses to plan the kinds of projects that create jobs and economic growth.

Second, in no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new technologies to produce, use, and save energy - which is why my administration has made an unprecedented commitment to developing a 21st century clean energy economy.

Our future on this planet depends upon our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution. And our future as a nation depends upon our willingness to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to lead the world in pursuit of new discovery.

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik a little more than a half century ago, Americans were stunned: the Russians had beaten us to space. We had a choice to make: we could accept defeat - or we could accept the challenge.. And as always, we chose to accept the challenge.

President Eisenhower signed legislation to create NASA and to invest in science and math education, from grade school to graduate school. And just a few years later, a month after his address to the 1961 Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, President Kennedy boldly declared before a joint session of Congress that the United States would send a man to the moon and return him safely to the earth.

The scientific community rallied behind this goal and set about achieving it. And it would lead not just to those first steps on the moon, but also to giant leaps in our understanding here at home. The Apollo program itself produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gasses; energy-saving building materials; and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers. And, more broadly, the enormous investment of that era - in science and technology, in education and research funding - produced a great outpouring of curiosity and creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable.

The fact is, there will be no single Sputnik moment for this generation's challenge to break our dependence on fossil fuels. In many ways, this makes the challenge even tougher to solve - and makes it all the more important to keep our eyes fixed on the work ahead.

That is why I have set as a goal for our nation that we will reduce our carbon pollution by more than 80 percent by 2050. And that is why I am pursuing, in concert with Congress, the policies that will help us meet this goal.

My recovery plan provides the incentives to double our nation's capacity to generate renewable energy over the next few years - extending the production tax credit, providing loan guarantees, and offering grants to spur investment. For example, federally funded research and development has dropped the cost of solar panels by ten-fold over the last three decades. Our renewed efforts will ensure that solar and other clean energy technologies will be competitive.

My budget includes $150 billion over ten years to invest in sources of renewable energy as well as energy efficiency; it supports efforts at NASA, recommended as a priority by the National Research Council, to develop new space-based capabilities to help us better understand our changing climate.

And today, I am also announcing that for the first time, we are funding an initiative - recommended by this organization - called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E.

This is based on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to Sputnik. It has been charged throughout its history with conducting high-risk, high-reward research. The precursor to the internet, known as ARPANET, stealth technology, and the Global Positioning System all owe a debt to the work of DARPA.

ARPA-E seeks to do this same kind of high-risk, high-reward research. My administration will also pursue comprehensive legislation to place a market-based cap on carbon emissions. We will make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America. And I am confident that we will find a wellspring of creativity just waiting to be tapped by researchers in this room and entrepreneurs across our country.

The nation that leads the world in 21st century clean energy will be the nation that leads in the 21st century global economy. America can and must be that nation.

Third, in order to lead in the global economy - and ensure that our businesses can grow and innovate, and our families can thrive - we must address the shortcomings of our health care system.

The Recovery Act will support the long overdue step of computerizing America's medical records, to reduce the duplication, waste, and errors that cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

But it's important to note: these records also hold the potential of offering patients the chance to be more active participants in prevention and treatment. We must maintain patient control over these records and respect their privacy. At the same time, however, we have the opportunity to offer billions and billions of anonymous data points to medical researchers who may find in this information evidence that can help us better understand disease.

History also teaches us the greatest advances in medicine have come from scientific breakthroughs: the discovery of antibiotics; improved public health practices; vaccines for smallpox, polio, and many other infectious diseases; anti-retroviral drugs that can return AIDS patients to productive lives; pills that can control certain types of blood cancers; and so many others.

And because of recent progress - not just in biology, genetics and medicine, but also in physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering - we have the potential to make enormous progress against diseases in the coming decades. That is why my Administration is committed to increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health, including $6 billion to support cancer research, part of a sustained, multi-year plan to double cancer research in our country.

Fourth, we are restoring science to its rightful place.

On March 9th, I signed an executive memorandum with a clear message: Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over. Our progress as a nation - and our values as a nation - are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy.

That is why I have charged the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with leading a new effort to ensure that federal policies are based on the best and most unbiased scientific information. I want to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions - and not the other way around.

As part of this effort, we've already launched a website that allows individuals to not only make recommendations to achieve this goal, but to collaborate on those recommendations; it is a small step, but one that is creating a more transparent, participatory and democratic government.

We also need to engage the scientific community directly in the work of public policy. That is why, today, I am announcing the appointment of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, known as PCAST, with which I plan to work closely.

This council represents leaders from many scientific disciplines who will bring a diversity of experiences and views. I will charge PCAST with advising me about national strategies to nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation. It will be co-chaired by John Holdren, my top science advisor; Eric Lander, one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project; and Harold Varmus, former head of the National Institutes of Health and a Nobel laureate.

In biomedicine, for example, this will include harnessing the historic convergence between life sciences and physical sciences that is underway today; undertaking public projects - in the spirit of the Human Genome Project - to create data and capabilities that fuel discoveries in tens of thousands of laboratories; and identifying and overcoming scientific and bureaucratic barriers to rapidly translating scientific breakthroughs into diagnostics and therapeutics that serve patients.

In environmental science, it will require strengthening our weather forecasting, our earth observation from space, the management of our nation's land, water and forests, and the stewardship of our coastal zones and ocean fisheries.

We also need to work with our friends around the world. Science, technology, and innovation proceed more rapidly and more cost-effectively when insights, costs, and risks are shared; and so many of the challenges that science and technology will help us meet are global in character. This is true of our dependence on oil, the consequences of climate change, the threat of epidemic disease, and the spread of nuclear weapons, among other examples.

That is why my administration is ramping up participation in - and our commitment to - international science and technology cooperation across the many areas where it is clearly in our interest to do so. In fact, this week, my administration is gathering the leaders of the world's major economies to begin the work of addressing our common energy challenges together.

Fifth, since we know that the progress and prosperity of future generations will depend on what we do now to educate the next generation, today I am announcing a renewed commitment to education in mathematics and science.

Through this commitment, American students will move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math over the next decade. For we know that the nation that out-educates us today - will out-compete us tomorrow.

We cannot start soon enough. We know that the quality of math and science teachers is the most influential single factor in determining whether or a student will succeed or fail in these subjects. Yet, in high school, more than twenty percent of students in math and more than sixty percent of students in chemistry and physics are taught by teachers without expertise in these fields. And this problem is only going to get worse; there is a projected shortfall of more than 280,000 math and science teachers across the country by 2015.

That is why I am announcing today that states making strong commitments and progress in math and science education will be eligible to compete later this fall for additional funds under the Secretary of Education's $5 billion Race to the Top program.

I am challenging states to dramatically improve achievement in math and science by raising standards, modernizing science labs, upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the use of science and technology in our classrooms. And I am challenging states to enhance teacher preparation and training, and to attract new and qualified math and science teachers to better engage students and reinvigorate these subjects in our schools.

In this endeavor, and others, we will work to support inventive approaches. Let's create systems that retain and reward effective teachers, and let's create new pathways for experienced professionals to enter the classroom. There are, right now, chemists who could teach chemistry; physicists who could teach physics; statisticians who could teach mathematics. But we need to create a way to bring the expertise and the enthusiasm of these folks - folks like you - into the classroom.
There are states, for example, doing innovative work. I am pleased to announce that Governor Ed Rendell will lead an effort with the National Governors Association to increase the number of states that are making science, technology, engineering and mathematics education a top priority. Six states are currently participating in the initiative, including Pennsylvania, which has launched an effective program to ensure that his state has the skilled workforce in place to draw the jobs of the 21st century. I'd want every state participate.

But our work does not end with a high school diploma. For decades, we led the world in educational attainment, and as a consequence we led the world in economic growth. The G.I. Bill, for example, helped send a generation to college. But in this new economy, we've come to trail other nations in graduation rates, in educational achievement, and in the production of scientists and engineers.

That's why my administration has set a goal that will greatly enhance our ability to compete for the high-wage, high-tech jobs of the 21st century - and to foster the next generation of scientists and engineers. In the next decade - by 2020 - America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. And we've provided tax credits and grants to make a college education more affordable.

My budget also triples the number of National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships. This program was created as part of the Space Race five decades ago. In the decades since, it's remained largely the same size - even as the numbers of students who seek these fellowships has skyrocketed. We ought to be supporting these young people who are pursuing scientific careers, not putting obstacles in their path.

This is how we will lead the world in new discoveries in this new century. But it will take far more than the work of government. It will take all of us. It will take all of you.

And so today I want to challenge you to use your love and knowledge of science to spark the same sense of wonder and excitement in a new generation.

America's young people will rise to the challenge if given the opportunity - if called upon to join a cause larger than themselves. And we've got evidence. The average age in NASA's mission control during the Apollo 17 mission was just 26. I know that young people today are ready to tackle the grand challenges of this century

So I want to persuade you to spend time in the classroom, talking - and showing -young people what it is that your work can mean, and what it means to you. Encourage your university to participate in programs to allow students to get a degree in scientific fields and a teaching certificate at the same time. Think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, like science festivals, robotics competitions, and fairs that encourage young people to create, build, and invent - to be makers of things.

And I want you to know that I'm going to be working along side you. I'm going to participate in a public awareness and outreach campaign to encourage students to consider careers in science, mathematics, and engineering - because our future depends on it.

And the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation will be launching a joint initiative to inspire tens of thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering and entrepreneurship related to clean energy.

It will support an educational campaign to capture the imagination of young people who can help us meet the energy challenge. It will create research opportunities for undergraduates and educational opportunities for women and minorities who too often have been underrepresented in scientific and technological fields - but are no less capable of inventing the solutions that will help us grow our economy and save our planet. And it will support fellowships, interdisciplinary graduate programs, and partnerships between academic institutions and innovative companies to prepare a generation of Americans to meet this generational challenge.

For we must always remember that somewhere in America there's an entrepreneur seeking a loan to start a business that could transform an industry - but she hasn't secured it yet. There's a researcher with an idea for an experiment that might offer a new cancer treatment - but he hasn't found the funding yet. There is a child with an inquisitive mind staring up at the night sky. Maybe she has the potential to change our world - but she just doesn't know it yet.

As you know, scientific discovery takes far more than the occasional flash of brilliance - as important as that can be. Usually, it takes time, hard work, patience; it takes training; often, it requires the support of a nation.

But it holds a promise like no other area of human endeavor.
In 1968, a year defined by loss and conflict, Apollo 8 carried into space the first human beings ever to slip beyond the earth's gravity. The ship would circle the moon ten times before returning home. But on its fourth orbit, the capsule rotated and for the first time earth became visible through the windows.

Bill Anders, one of the astronauts aboard Apollo 8, could not believe what he saw. He scrambled for a camera. He took a photo that showed the earth coming up over the moon's horizon. It was the first ever taken from so distant a vantage point, soon to become known as "Earthrise."

Anders would say that the moment forever changed him, to see our world - this pale blue sphere - without borders, without divisions, at once so tranquil and beautiful and alone.

"We came all this way to explore the moon," he said, "and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth."

Yes, scientific innovation offers us the chance to achieve prosperity. It has offered us benefits that have improved our health and our lives - often improvements we take too easily for granted. But it also gives us something more.

At root, science forces us to reckon with the truth as best as we can ascertain it. Some truths fill us with awe. Others force us to question long held views. Science cannot answer every question; indeed, it seems at times the more we plumb the mysteries of the physical world, the more humble we must be. Science cannot supplant our ethics, our values, our principles, or our faith, but science can inform those things, and help put these values, these moral sentiments, that faith, to work - to feed a child, to heal the sick, to be good stewards of this earth.

We are reminded that with each new discovery and the new power it brings, comes new responsibility; that the fragility and the sheer specialness of life requires us to move past our differences, to address our common problems, to endure and continue humanity's strivings for a better world.

As President Kennedy said when he addressed the National Academy of Sciences more than 45 years ago: "The challenge, in short, may be our salvation."

Thank you all for your past, present, and future discoveries. God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.

Life Goes On

Lots of news today about the Florida budget mess, but not any of it is all that interesting. Basically, the leaders of the House and Senate are trying to cover their future political asses (and here I'm talking about the republicans). Rep Cannon is poised to take over leadership of the House and he wants to have a very lean budget so that he can campaign for future office without having to impose higher taxes during his term as speaker. His solution is to cut funding to higher education (among other targets). Meanwhile over on the other side of the aisle is Sen Atwater who has political aspirations for governor or US Senate but does not want the baggage of being the one who killed the University system in florida. Charlie Crist meanwhile just wants everybody to get along and does not say much at all because whatever he says might be held against him in his bid for the US Senate. In the meantime, the state faces a $40,000/day extra session because their political aspirations take precedent over their job.

Still, today was a good day because I found out my proposal to do more work in India will be funded.


Joe Meert

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Not much happens on Sunday. The news from around the state indicates that there is not much movement on the Florida budget. In reading editorials and comments to the editorials, it appears that the state is still polarized regarding its support (or lack thereof) for education. Here's what our own Jon Martin had to say about geology in the Gainesville Sun:

Geology's mission vital to UF's future

The Sun's recent article explaining how President Machen's commitment to the environment goes beyond a symbolic gesture of riding an electric bike to work is encouraging.

His actions during the current budget crisis, however, belie these words, particularly in his acceptance of proposed budget cuts offered by the Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences to "eliminate program in Geological Sciences."

Geological Sciences is much more than collecting and classifying rocks; we take a uniquely holistic approach to the study of the Earth, especially the Earth's physical environment in which we all live.

Active areas of research and teaching within Geological Sciences at UF address many topics, to name just a few: the Earth's magnetic field, which shields us from solar radiation; climate change; carbon cycling; links between earthquakes, tsunamis, and water flow in oceanic crust; groundwater quantity (Florida's drinking water source); groundwater's vulnerability to contamination; excess nutrients in groundwater and surface water; sinkhole formation and other ground disturbances; glacier dynamics; rates of sea level variations; hurricane frequency; and beach erosion.

All of these processes affect the sustainability of civilization, and many, such as climate and sea level change, are crucial for Florida's future.

Each year, we in Geological Sciences typically teach 4,000 to 5,000 students in a variety of courses about the Earth, contributing significantly to the education of citizens of Florida about these important issues.

Rather than cut viable, productive programs that successfully address environmental issues, UF should strengthen its commitment to departments that conduct research and teach in the area of environmental science.

I hope Geological Sciences will be around to provide its unique contributions to the university's commitment to the environment, in whatever shape that commitment takes.

Jonathan B. Martin,


Other good reads on the state budget can be found:

Good video as well.

Harold Troxler on Higher Ed.

Given that tomorrow is a pretty hard budget deadline for no special session, it looks like we're headed to overtime on this one.


Joe Meert

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A cool letter

One of my students sent the following letter to Florida Senator Atwater. Pretty cool.

Senator Atwater,
I know that you place a great deal of emphasis on quality education as you have your own children enrolled in St. Clare’s (of which I’m an alum). Education in today’s global economy should be considered vital and should be a top priority for all administrators and politicians. How else can Americans expect to compete with countries that have a higher emphasis on higher education? I believe that you along with the other Senators should hold your stance on your proposed budget cut for higher education as opposed to the much higher budget proposed by the House. Higher education is the foundation on which we (future generations) must rely on to build our lives higher and higher and should it be weakened in any substantial way, it is as if we “will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” Matthew 7:26 As any sound Floridian knows, sand isn’t the foundation you’d want for your home, so why would you want to build your future with a weakened higher education system? I urge you not to agree to the budget cuts for higher education proposed by the House, for all future generations of Floridians who wish to pursue a quality education.

and the response

Thank you for your recent email expressing your concerns regarding the state budget and importance of adequate funding to our education system. I appreciate you taking the time to share your comments.

As a parent of four, I fundamentally believe it is the State of Florida’s paramount duty to provide an excellent school system and learning opportunities for our children. You have my assurance that I am going to do everything I can to hold education funding harmless from further cuts during this legislative session. I will continue to look at ways on how we can better support our schools including a review of potential new revenues and possible elimination of sales-tax exemptions.

I will be mindful of the important role these budget decisions play in our students’ academic future. Thank you for your commitment to better our education system. I appreciate the constant feedback as it is people like you that will shape the future of Florida for our children.

Jeff Atwater



The Terrafugia flying car---if cars can fly, why can't the House and Senate agree on a budget?

So it seems to be a slow weekend with neither the state house or senate getting very far in their double-secret probation meetings. The sticking point seems to be how best to fund (or not) education. Me, I took my spring break at Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland.


Joe Meert

Friday, April 24, 2009

Self-serving complaints?

I fully understand the sentiment that goes something like this "Meert is just trying to preserve his own program and fails to recognize that in saving his, someone else must lose". Guilty as charged to the first part of that statement. I am interested in saving Geology, but I was interested last year in trying to save the philosophy Ph.D. program at UF when that was cut. In fact, believe it or not, I'm interested in saving the religion department here, the geology department at Florida State, the anthropology department at FLorida State and most of higher education in Florida. I blog about Geology because it's what I know best and I understand the implications of those cuts to the state better than the others.

Higher education has been underfunded in Florida for a long time. Our tuition rate is the lowest among AAU member schools (and most other universities) and we have seen our budgets trimmed even before the present economic downturn. The more interesting thing about these particular cuts is that there are ways to save money and not have layoffs or departmental closures, but they require the administration to be clever and to think outside of the box. The UF plan was hastily put together without input from the faculty. For example, I believe that the faculty would be willing to collectively accept a temporary pay cut to preserve the academic integrity of the University. Shared pain for the better good. I know I would accept such a cut.

I am an unabashed supporter of education whether it's K-12 or higher education and see education as the key to economic recovery. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'll continue to defend science and education as long as I can.

Lastly, I'll note that in the current plan for cuts, my job is safe so I could just as easily sit back and do nothing, but it's simply too hard to watch as education takes a hit without fighting back.


Joe Meert

Panda's Thumb

Has blogged on the situation in Florida.

You can read the post and comments by following this link.


Joe Meert

Cut the budget for our sons and daughters

So says Florida House Speaker designate Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park). Yes, Representative Cannon, a downgrade in the bond rating for the state would amount to a temporary tax on our sons and daughters. However, if those sons and daughters can't attain the earnings provided by a college education, you've taxed them far more than you would by a temporary downgrade in Bond rating. In saving a dollar now, you are costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future. Of course, by then you will have served your term as speaker and had your picture hung on the walls of the capital. All-in-all why not say that your legacy is more important than our sons and daughters.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


To broadcast a 'state of the budget emergency' discussion tonight at 8 pm. I'll report on the discussion, but don't expect too much enlightenment. Provost Joe Glover, UFF Chair John Biro and a couple of Faculty Senate members will be on the panel.

A TV show where very little was said.

Glover claimed the Union broke the agreement, Biro said no. Glover was asked how the decisions were made on what programs to cut. He said we rely on the expertise of the deans who know the programs the best. The problem is that our Dean is new and had very little detailed information on our program. I suspect that is true about the other two programs targeted for elimination.


Joe Meert

The news from Tallahassee is not good

At least for higher education. The house and senate are in 'double secret' negotiations and it appears that the house is swaying the senate towards their funding levels. In particular, one of the future republican leaders is arguing for huge cuts so that the budget can look good under his leadership. None of the discussion seems to focus on how bad things look for the Universities at the moment.

The 11 presidents of the state universities are converging on Tallahassee to complain about the house plan. They will argue for their respective universities, but as one news reporter said "They are likely to come away disappointed".

I've also been reading comments to articles about cuts to higher education and for the most part, people seem to think it's a good idea. There's not much looking to the future only statements like "We have to tighten our belts, so should higher education". Nevermind that we've been tightening our belts for the past 4 years! At some point, higher education in Florida will cease to be 'higher' and due to the past budget cuts, the dream of a top university is gone. We now have to struggle to stay mediocre.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Applaud Cuts to Higher Education in Florida

The State University system is complaining about the massive cuts proposed in the House version of the budget. It’s time to applaud House Speaker Cretul (R-Gainesville) for insisting that any deal with the Senate include the cuts to higher education. After all, what good is higher education when the state is suffering through an economic crisis?

It’s naïve to think that an educated populace can lead Florida out of this budgetary mess. It’s silly to believe that we need higher education in a state where the three largest industries are tourism, agriculture and mining. How much of an education does it require to put on a Mickey Mouse outfit and parade around Disneyworld to the delight of educated children from other states? Do we really need college graduates to work the parking lots of Universal Studios and Seaworld? Agriculture has been practiced by humans for millennia and certainly those who developed the citrus and strawberry industries in the state required no formal education. Just plant the tree, wait and in a few months you’ve got your crop. Mining? It’s pretty simple to dig up phosphate and put it in a dump truck. No intelligence needed.

It took great foresight and courage for the House to take monies from education in an effort to solve our current budgetary crisis. If we need a few leaders for business, we can get them from some other states that foolishly think that an educated populace is a good idea. The medical, scientific and legal community can get their leaders from other states as well. After all, Florida is a great melting pot. We don’t need to bother with education when educated people are going to move here anyway. I’m sure when they realize that they won’t have to pay taxes for education, that will make our state even more attractive.

I’m tired of hearing about the ‘brain-drain’ blamed on cuts to higher education. If those ‘perfessors’ had real brains, then they never would have come to Florida in the first place. We don’t need their research funding or their discoveries. We certainly don’t need the best of the best to educate our students because we really don’t need education. Our doctors, lawyers, scientists etc can be brought in from other states. We can supply them with support staff who can be trained on the job. I say, let academia in Florida rot away. It’s not the business of our state to support education, it’s the business of our state to support the big three industries, increase our tax base and play host to the educated people from elsewhere in the US. They don't want smart tour guides, they want guides who can make silly jokes and make the tourists feel smart.

Water issues? In Florida? We’re surrounded by water on three sides!! How can we possibly have water issues in Florida? Why do we need high tech industry in Florida? Isn’t that what silicon valley is all about? One needs only look at the problems in California to realize that high tech is not a solution to our problem. In fact, I’m not at all convinced that we need to fund K-12 education either. A 6th grade education should be good enough. Just teach our kids the basics of readin’, writin’ and arithmetic and turn them loose into the workforce. Any education beyond the 6th grade is really just a preparation for higher education and I think it’s clear Florida can do without higher education.

Call or write your legislator and tell them that “Floridian’s don’t need no stinkin’ education”. We’re already near the bottom in support for education, with this push by the House we can reach that goal and move on to more important things like football and basketball championships.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Drill baby drill

The florida house approves offshore drilling. Who you gonna call to help figure out the geology? The nonsense in this state knows no bounds. Exploit the geology, but don't train geologists.

and then we see this

But geology is not important, right?


Joe Meert

University of South Florida

Cuts jobs, but refuses to lay off tenured or tenure-track faculty. They also announced no majors will be eliminated.



Joe Meert

Florida House Speaker on Budget negotiations

Here's the timeline. The differences between the House and Senate budgets must be worked out by next Monday (perhaps Tuesday) in order to have the requisite 72 hour discussion period in place prior to voting on the last day of the legislative session May 1, 2009. I say Monday because the budget must be printed and distributed which can take a day or so. At present, the two sides are discussing the issues behind closed doors. House speaker Larry Cretul provided an update on those discussions this afternoon and the news is not good for higher education.

Cretul notes:

We have informed the Senate that we would be willing to consider supporting nearly all of the proposals for additional revenues contained in their budget. But in return, the House is asking the Senate to support nearly all spending reductions proposed by the House.

This will ensure a long-term, fiscally sound budget approach. That approach responsibly reduces state government spending in the coming fiscal year.Such a course would prepare the state for the expiration of federal stimulus dollars beginning next year.

Those cuts include huge cuts to the University system. This is getting dire. If you have not written your representative and senator, there is no more time.


Joe Meert

Dr. James Tull: Firing Squad

Received this today regarding geology at our sister school

The history of chivalrous firing squads is such that the individual is granted a final word. Although chivalry may have died at some point during the so far relatively short history of Florida government, last words may still be allowed. These may be some of them. Living the dream of academic accomplishment, success, and fulfillment is one of life’s greatest gifts to a fortunate few. Being able to contribute to the betterment of the future of society through teaching, mentoring, and conducting meaningful scientific research is both enriching and rewarding. This has been the story within Florida’s academic institutions for many decades as they rose toward national prominence and endeavored to serve, and, in so doing, to enrich the lives of essentially all Floridians. However, many are finding that there is a quick transition from this life dedicated to public service and expanding our world of knowledge, to being “targeted for closure,” words with a much different (and cold) ring to them. I am only one example, and maybe not so significant a one at that. One could look across the spectrum of dedicated public servants in this state and find many more, and perhaps better examples.
I, and several of my colleagues, have served in FSU’s Department of Geological Sciences for nearly 30 years. In the “current financial crisis,” our leaders, from the President, to the State Legislature and Governor, to the university administrators are being forced to make many very hard choices about the future of our state and country. Rarely in most of our lifetimes have we been more in need of wise leaders to steer us through troubled waters. Each has his or her perspectives and ultimate goals, yet history will show that the wisest will devise plans that will best enhance our children’s future. Now being forced to cut core academic programs, universities must make what amount to lose-lose decisions for their institutions. Programs offered up to the budget axe are presumably deemed to be academic areas that produce graduates that Florida and the nation can somehow afford to go without. Among those are Geological Sciences at FSU. In this case, our graduates are placed in: A) the nation’s oil and gas industry, mostly in exploration for energy resources, B) Uranium exploration-searching for future deposits to fuel our nuclear reactors, C) non-fuel mineral exploration and production-searching for all of the natural mineral and rock materials that modern society can not function without, D) water resources- finding, cleaning, safely disposing of, and protecting that fluid that is most vital for Florida’s present and future, E) government agencies (U.S. and Florida Geological Surveys, Water Management Districts, DEP, DOH, DOE, etc., and private industries, all of which deal with the public’s protection and understanding of a myriad of environmental issues ranging from regulatory functions, to public health, coastal erosion, waste disposal, causes and effects of sea level rise and global climate change, and oh yes, F) in faculty positions in academic institutions across the country and the region that do for their important constituencies what we do for Florida.
If you want to see high salaries, you will need to look elsewhere than with our faculty. Our graduates would be a good place to start. Historians (the ones not also “targeted for closure”) may someday say correctly, that FSU served as an important center for earth science education and research from early after its transition from the FSCW, to early in the 21st century, but then, even with their eyes gazing into the uncertain future, and with the words “energy”, “environment”, and “climate change” continuously echoing across political campaigns and media outlets, Florida’s leaders considered programs like earth science to be expendable at Florida’s premier institutions of higher learning because this great (4th largest) state apparently can’t even afford to maintain a few quality universities.
James F. Tull
FSU Professor of Geological Sciences

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stanley G. Tate wants to stop 15% increase

Here is his op-ed.

I've got to hand it to Mr. Tate for wanting to make college affordable to all Floridians. Here's the problem with his thinking. Even with a 15% increase in tuition, college does remain affordable in the state of Florida. Disproportionately so. A University education in Florida can be had on the cheap (or for free) thanks to the Bright Futures program. This program is also the same program that's going to kill the University of Florida system unless increased fees are approved. UF is poised to get hammered by the pending House budget. What good is a cheap education if the schools granting the degrees can't afford to provide you with a quality education?
Mr. Tate seems to think that quality can come cheaply. A good education requires top teachers and scholars. Those top teachers and scholars are running away from Florida because the legislature continues to underfund the Universities and because the cuts are causing the Universities to cut programs. Have a look at what UF and FSU propose if their funding comes in at 2009 House levels. A florida education may remain affordable, but its value in the market place will continue to fall. I can appreciate the need to educate Floridian's at the lowest cost possible, but we've been operating below the lowest cost possible for a long time. I salute Mr. Tate for his efforts to keep our educational system inexpensive, but I don't agree with his opposition to the 15% increase. Inexpensive is good, cheap is not.


Joe Meert

Another nice editorial

By Mary Ann Lindley on the AWOL Board of Governors. Florida higher education system (not just UF and not just Geological Sciences) is facing dreadful cuts and apparently the Board of Governors is taking a wait and see attitude. Not good. It might be good to e-mail or call the BOG. The contact information can be found by following this link.

Miami Herald reports that the House-Senate budget meetings have been delayed because they are so far apart. It gets really stupid if we have to go to an extended session. Basically, an extended legislative session would suck money out of the Florida budget to pay for the legislators to work on (and their staffs---and the lights etc). The house blames their lack of inaction this legislative session on the problems with the indicted former speaker. Just keep calling and telling them to figure this all out by May 1 and don't cut higher education.


Joe Meert

Interesting article

By Doug Blackburn

Florida's universities are primed to offer a new type of degree program designed to dovetail with the high-tech sector of the job market.
Called a professional science master's degree, it is one of the fastest growing programs in higher education. Some 60 universities in 25 states already offer PSM degrees.
The Florida Council of Graduate Deans met today in Tallahassee with representatives of the Board of Governors, the governor's office and perhaps most importantly, a handful of industry leaders in the state in an attempt to develop PSM programs at all 11 schools in the State University System.
There didn't appear to be any opposition to the initiative, which could begin to take shape at Florida State University soon. FSU already offers master's degrees in financial mathematics and computational science, and may apply for the formal designation to call them PSMs, said Nancy Marcus, dean of the Graduate School.
"It's a recruiting tool in a way to be officially designated," Marcus said. "We want to develop additional master's degree programs, particularly in health-care technology."
Fiona Crawford, associate director of the Roskamp Institute in Sarasota, said there's a genuine need for graduates with master's degrees. Roskamp is a growing basic science institute.
"Too often we're finding that Ph.D. graduates are far from ready to face the real world," Crawford said. "This would provide skill training with a focus, which we would welcome."
The national Council of Graduate Schools strongly supports Florida's efforts to develop a statewide PSM program, according to Carol Lynch, a program director at the council. She noted that the federal stimulus package provided $15 million for PSM programs.

One of the misconceptions about our department (and cited as to why we were targeted for cuts) was that geology awarded more MS than Ph.D. degrees. We made the point that for geologists, a master's degree is a professional degree. Students with the MS get better jobs and better pay than BS students (who also have no trouble finding jobs). While this is a 'new deal' for Florida, it's something UF has been doing for years. Wonder if anyone cares.


Joe Meert

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A few of the better commentaries on Higher Education in Florida

St. Pete Times.

Tunnel vision from the Gainesville Sun.


Nice Blog

News from the Orange and Blue

This was sent to me anonymously...thought I'd post it.

There was a little bird who attended the Orange and Blue game Saturday at the swamp. This little bird was able to fly up to the President's Skybox and listen in to the discussions about football, the University and the nonsensical things that people talk about at football games. This little bird indicated that perhaps all is not lost at the University of Florida (academically) and that expectations of program cuts are not as likely as it may appear.

We'll have to see if this little bird got the right message. In the meantime, an article buried in the local newspaper discusses the practical problems facing budget resolution between the house and senate. Ron Cunningham has a very nice editorial in the newspaper. There are also a couple of good letters from students involved in the cuts.

Here's the bottom line for those who are interested in saving higher education in Florida. Write your house members and tell them to up the funding. Write your senators and tell them not to drop their funding.

Oh yes, the Orange won the game 31-21.


Joe Meert

Saturday, April 18, 2009

University of Florida: Big News

In perusing the local newspaper, the Gainesville Sun, this weekend it's clear that there is one major concern. Will the Blue team or Orange team win the vaunted intrasquad spring scrimmage? Forget the fact that the University that the team supposedly represents is falling apart from within. Forget the fact that most of these student athletes will have to put food on their plates via some other means than athletics. The cuts proposed by UF are going to limit the options for these students and is going to diminish their degrees.

Look, I'm a UF alum so I'm all for college athletics and the pleasant diversions they bring and the loyalty they instill amongst the alumni. What I don't understand is when the athletics dominate the conversation over the mission of the University. Look at the Gainesville Sun forums. The cuts get maybe one or two comments whilst the orange and blue game is discussed like a war was taking place. It's an intrasquad scrimmage folks, that's it.

Well, this happens at other Universities. It will be interesting to see if the cuts are announced at the game with the request for fans to contact the Florida house. Right now the Senate budget would result in minimal damage whereas the House budget would devastate UF (and many other Florida Universities). It's too bad that UF alumni don't demand the same excellence from their academic programs as they do the athletic programs.
I've said nothing new here, I know but it makes me feel better to say it.


Joe Meert

Friday, April 17, 2009

Something different

Flew to Destin today on an Angel Flight just to get away from it all. Suffice it to say that along the flight we passed beaches undergoing erosion, rivers recently flooded and a whole bunch of phosphate and cement plants. It just goes to show that you can't really get away from geology in this state (unless you attend the new UF and FSU).


Joe Meert

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Whoop, dere it is (or isn't)

The President of the Medical School of Florida (er University of Florida) presented his plan for cuts to the University. As we have been all along, the department is still a deer in the headlights. The most brilliant comment was that our President claims that the use of stimulus funds is not an option because we might have a budget crisis next year!! Regardless of how people feel about stimulus money, the objective is for those monies to be used to help revive the economy and avoid cuts?? So if the monies are available and can help reduce layoffs for the upcoming year, what is wrong with using them for that purpose? If the economy does not recover, then the program can be discussed again next year. Here's what President Machen had to say:

While this appears to be a good solution, it is only a temporary fix. This practice of using non-recurring funds to pay for recurring costs puts us in a very dangerous situation in the future. Two years from now, our base state funding will be millions of dollars less than it is today, and there will be no stimulus dollars to make up the difference.

In fact, we have no idea if this statement is true. It is either an expectation by Machen or an excuse to trim money from some programs and prevent damage to his favorites. Consider that in the present budget, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences loses three degree granting programs along with a number of other cuts while Engineering suffers no real losses (they simply won't fill vacant positions). The College of Medicine loses 1 staff member and leaves some vacancies unfilled (note that the college is still hiring!).

So there it is and Machen tries to make the point that this is a worst case scenario. In my humble opinion, the University of Florida has a myopic view of the future and the budget proposal laid before the Faculty Senate is poorly conceived on many, many levels.

Fortunately, the Dean of our college has promised that if other Colleges do not follow the 'vertical cut' mandate, he will ask to revisit our plan. We'll see if that happens.

A last point, several people have asked to speak to Machen about the cuts to our department. His secretary said that he is not taking calls at this time.



Today is the day the UF will announce it's 'semi-final' plan from the president. It will likely be announced at the Faculty Senate meeting at 3 pm. The idea is to open up the process for comments. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The State of Stupid: Florida

Florida State University is not content to play second fiddle to the University of Florida. Today the President of FSU announced programs that will be eliminated if FSU's funding is decreased. Just like Florida, the FSU administration is targeting their department of Geological Sciences. These cuts, if enacted, will deprive the state of the majority of their Geoscientists trained in Florida. The points made regarding the importance of geology to the state can be reviewed here.


Joe Meert

Saturday, April 11, 2009

UF Budget cuts- Write to the Legislature

The Senate and House budget bills are widely divergent on the amounts allocated to higher education. The Senate bill is some $50 million more than the house allocation although both represent cuts. In order to minimize the damage to UF (and of course geology), it is imperative that we contact the legislators and urge them to support UF. There is a form located here that will send the e-mail for you, but I urge you to add a personal message so that they don't simply get a template e-mail.


Joe Meert

Thursday, April 09, 2009

More Drama at University of Florida

So today we've learned (through a little bird) that the three departments targeted for cuts in the college (religion, communication science and disorders and geological sciences) all have something in common. The current Dean of the college has only held that position for about 8 months. Previously he was at Kansas University (which has a very strong geology program). The Dean was interim, but is now the provost of the University. The interim Dean was also a candidate for the 'permanent' Dean's job. Here's where the story gets interesting. During the time that Glover served as interim Dean, he (along with UF) was named in two lawsuits. The Departments in which those lawsuits arose? Geological Sciences and religion. Consider that 8 months is not a long time for a new Dean to get to know each department in a large and diverse college. Consider that 'advice' on where to look for cuts may have originated from the previous interim Dean and you see where the story leads. So how does CS&D play into all of this? Well, the chair of CS&D was also the chair of the search committee for the new Dean. Her opinion on Glover? That he was not fit to serve as the dean of the college? 1,2,3 strikes and you're out? Who says politics does not play a role on campus?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Today's announcement from the Dean

Here is the letter we were given

Dear Colleagues:

Today I sent to the Provost the revised version of the CLAS 10 percent budget cutting exercise. Soon it will be posted on the Provost’s website. We will post it on our site as well.

The plan has been revised since it was first presented two weeks ago. Most noticeable is a change in the format of the document. Rather than aggregating the cuts into ten “tiers,” this document breaks them out more discretely into 47 individual cuts. This fits the format provided by the Provost’s office (and allows us to provide more detail on the consequences of each cut), but it doesn’t by itself change the content or sequence of the cuts.

Several changes to the numbers are fairly minor, and involve revisions based on more precise accounting or on updated expectations of attrition.

I have adopted one significant change recommended by the Finance Committee. In the original plan, Geological Sciences would take a significant reduction in “tier 8” and Religion would take a significant cut in “tier 10.” In the current plan, those cuts would be distributed more equally, so that both departments would take part of their cut in what used to be tier 8, and part in what used to be tier 10. Those cuts are now in lines 43, 44, 46, and 47. I think that the Finance Committee found this to be a more equitable approach, and I agree.

In conveying the plan to the Provost’s office, I will stress the following points.

1. Even taking half these cuts would be deeply damaging to CLAS, to our students, and to the University. Attrition will leave our capacity to pursue our mission considerably diminished.

2. Before any of the most serious cuts are taken (those that would dramatically cut a department) I would like to discuss the consequences directly with the Provost and President, and I believe that it would be appropriate for them to meet directly with the concerned departments.

3. If other colleges are allowed to implement plans that avoid vertical cuts, CLAS should have the opportunity to revisit its plan, which is based on the belief that vertical cuts are mandated.

There has been only one good part of this process, and that has been the thoughtful way all of you have approached this impossible situation. People have asked hard questions. They have listened to the answers, even when the answers were not very satisfying. Criticisms of both the plan and the process have been intense, but have been expressed civilly. I know that this process has damaged morale in this College, and especially in those departments that would bear the brunt of the cuts, but we have also demonstrated our ability to maintain our principles even under severe strain. I’m grateful for that.


Dean College of Arts and Science

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