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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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


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