Gregory A. Mead: Geology not included

Published: Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 3, 2009 at 7:02 p.m.

Since 1987, when I entered the University of Florida as one of the geology department's first Ph.D. students, I have seen the department grow into a vibrant teaching and research program.

Its faculty has grown with nationally and internationally known researchers. The department attracts students from around the nation and around the world, and has brought in over $7 million in external grants this year alone. Its graduates have gone on to become successful researchers, professors, and professional geologists here in Florida, all over the US, and abroad. Geology Department classes are among the most popular at UF.

Topics taught and researched by UF geological faculty include some of the most important in today's world. Students learn about environmental and economic geology, groundwater, coastal geology and oceanography, the history of the earth and development of the solar system, the atmosphere and oceans, fossil fuel origins and exploration - all fields which are vitally important to our current civilization and which help us understand our state and indeed our planet. And that listing is only a small subset of UF's geology curriculum.

In today's economic climate, it is critical that our citizens know what makes our world and civilization work. Look around you. Virtually everything that you see that is not an agricultural or forestry product is geological in nature, whether it is the sheetrock and cinderblock that makes up your house, the silicon in your computers, iPods, GPS systems, and solar cells, the metals and plastic that make up your automobile, bicycles, appliances, etc., or the fuels, lubricants, and chemicals that power our modern society. We get our very drinking water from underground. Without an understanding of geology, our ability to obtain these necessities will suffer or cease.

Now, UF's Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences proposes to effectively destroy a department that has contributed greatly to UF and to our state. The budget cuts he proposes will cut so many faculty and staff that the department will essentially cease to function, and it will take decades to recover. This decision is incredibly short-sighted and damaging. UF constantly advertises itself as Florida's flagship institution and points out how it wants to become a national academic power. This is hardly the way to proceed.

I am proud to have been a student and faculty member at UF. If these cuts are implemented, certainly in my own little way, I will cease to support the University. In addition, I would think that many current supporters of what used to be a great university will reconsider their support, given that at an administrator's whim, entire, vibrant, and important departments can be destroyed, to the detriment of our academic system, state, and nation.

Gregory A. Mead, Ph.D., is an associate professor of geology at Santa Fe College.

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