According to a Facebook post from the University of Louisiana at Monroe Museum of Natural History, administrators have demanded that 6.5 million plant and fish specimens must find a new home on campus within 48 hours or they will be have to be donated or destroyed. Apparently, space is needed for the track team.
This is the full statement:
It is my sad duty to report to you that the ULM administration has decided to divest the research collections in the Museum of Natural History. This includes the 6 million fish specimens in the Neil Douglas fish collection and the nearly 500,000 plant specimens in the R. Dale Thomas plant collection. They find no value in the collections and no value of the collections to the university. The College was given 48 hours to suggest an alternate location for the collections on campus so that Brown Stadium can be renovated for the track team. With only about 20 hours left, we have found no magic solution yet. To add insult to injury on what was a very hard day, we were told that if the collections are not donated to other institutions, the collections will be destroyed at the end of July.
While we weep that our own institution would turn its back on 50+ years of hard work and dedication, we will not abandon the collections to the dumpsters. They did not have the courage to inform us face-to-face, but we have the courage to persevere through these dark times.
Oh, in other sad news, we were informed that there will not be any expansion of the public displays in Hanna Hall.
Gizmodo reached out to the faculty of the Museum today to inquire about more details. All of them informed us that they had been instructed to reply with “no comment” to any press that reaches out. We were directed to contact Dr. Eric Pani, Vice President for Academic Affairs, the man who was responsible for the decision. So far, our requests for comment have gone unreturned.
Pani did give a brief interview to a local news outlet in which he walked back the severity of the situation. Framing the decision as a budgetary decision, Pani insisted that the Facebook post could be misinterpreted to mean that the specimens will be destroyed in a matter of hours. He insists that won’t happen until mid-July and that the leaders of the College of Arts, Education and Sciences were given 48 hours to come up with a plan to keep the specimens on campus. “Unfortunately, the fiscal situation facing the university over the years requires us to make choices like this. We can no longer afford to store the collections and provide all of the public services we have in the past,” Pani said. You can’t spell Pani without pain.
We will update this post if and when the administration gets back to us.
Update 10:45 pm: Dr. Eric Pani sent us the following comments.
Because state appropriations have been cut more than 50% since 2008, we have struggled to provide public services. The collections have not been used for research by our students and faculty much in the last few years but are being used in class. Research use has largely been done by others from loans we have made to them.
Given that, I asked that Biology pare the collection down to something that would fit into a space typical of a classroom and would meet their teaching needs. The rest of the collection needed to be moved.
I asked that they begin to seek other institutions willing to accept our donation and transport it to their new home. As I further explained to them, this work needed to be done by mid-July because of the construction timeline involved in the renovation of the space. The 48-hr period mentioned in the Facebook post was based on their request to locate other space on our campus where the whole collection could be moved. Given what I know about campus space, I doubt they will find anything, so it would be better for them to spend the time looking for someone to accept the donation. However, I am willing to listen if they can find oncamous space. I just don’t want the search dragging on.
As for the track, the renovations will make it regulation size and will enable it to host meets. The visitors who attend those meets will add to our local economy and we will gain revenue. With the financial situation public higher education has faced for many years, that revenue is needed.
I hope this helps you understand the situation. It is not my ideal choice but it makes the most sense to me.