Arboretum deserves an equal opportunity
Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 13, 2011 14:02
The UCF Arboretum. Our back yard. Our giant, natural water filter. Our great, green liver.
Boundless educational opportunity, about to be chopped at the root by administrative hypocrisy.
Does UCF even stand for opportunity anymore?
It's become opportunity qualified, like "separate-but-equal," without the intensity of racial discrimination.
This is real. The UCF Arboretum, the pine flatwoods, the wetlands, the watershed, the sole community garden, the unparalleled hands-on environmental education program: those are real opportunities for educational growth.
UCF's desire to become "sustainable" and slap it on a list of accomplishments is an illusion.
It does not cease to perturb environmentally conscious students, faculty, and staff that the administration has been so underhanded and unfair in its quest to be rid of the environmental education center at the UCF Arboretum.
Bill Merck, vice president of Administration and Finance, and Lee Kernek, associate vice president of Facilities and Safety, this admonition is directed at you.
Two forums were granted by the UCF administration, two pitiful opportunities for students and faculty to voice their rationale and defense for the Arboretum. Separately.
Divided and conquered. Well done, Mr. Merck and Ms. Kernek, you played your students and faculty like pawns.
It would be awfully besmirching of your reputation if the UCF community was made aware that you did not show up to that faculty forum, that you did not have the decency to meet your faculty, your researchers and your employees eye-to-eye.
And no further cooperation has been offered to students since the student forum in November. No response. No transparency. No democracy.
The Student Sustainability Alliance wrote respectful e-mails inviting you for more elaborate discussion about the conflict. The Green Team helped gather more than 1,500 petition signatures in solidarity with the Arboretum. Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions spreads awareness of the conflict through media and social campaigns. Students for a Democratic Society published pamphlets on the Arboretum's behalf.
These are but a few efforts of student organizations you have denied.
Surely you will recognize the efforts of professional organizations that have backed the Arboretum?
The Florida School of Holistic Living and The Sierra Club of Central Florida created websites in opposition to the lift of the conservation easement. The Florida Wildlife Federation officially endorsed the SSA and its efforts in protecting the UCF Arboretum.
Google any of these pages and be aware of the true nature of this conflict.
Be aware of the weight of these endorsements. These are some of the most prominent environmental stewards of Florida.
And this says nothing of the St. Johns Water Management District, which ought to be lambasted for its inexplicable compliance with the UCF administration.
How can the very agency charged with protecting our watershed, our health, be the very agency that dooms it?
There are more locations on and around the main campus that can be developed into parking garages and student housing.
You won't say it, but we know you need these structures to keep this university on a course of exponential growth. What you fail to realize is that this institution will crash if that path is not curbed.
Exponential growth is not sustainable.
Why do you insist on carving such a profound educational opportunity out of the academic circle, land so critical for the education and health of your own community?
Let the Arboretum perish, and UCF will no longer stand for opportunity. Let the Arboretum perish, and UCF will stand for hypocrisy.
I think it's time we stop. Knights, what's that sound? What's going down? The environmental education center at the UCF Arboretum.
For what it's worth: be conscious, my friends. Be conscious.