Tom Cunillo: Save Newell Hall for agriculture

Published: Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 11:11 p.m.

In response to The Sun's Nov. 27 story "UF plans to renovate historic Newell Hall with newfound money":

The first and continuing function of UF is as a land grant institution, duplicated throughout the nation after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act and it became law on July 2, 1862. The language of that Act granted "an amount of public land … to the endowment, support and maintenance … to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanical arts … "

Newell Hall, in 1910, was the first agricultural experiment station in Florida and has housed Soil and Agronomy Departments until President Bernie Machen decided that agricultural was not really one of his favorite colleges. No one in IFAS has stood up to object and Machen has had a free rein. Before he leaves he will have relegated agriculture to off-campus R&D sites, all but destroyed classical music programming in the city and not achieved his main goal to put UF in the top ten except sports.

Agriculture is a liberal art and includes animal science, botany, entomology and by extension zoology. "Save Newell Hall" and hybridize the space to reinvigorate the study of sustainable food production.

The Marston Science Library has become a sort of barn and has the space that $30 million could be used to expand needed study space.

Tom Cunilio is a UF graduate who lives in Gainesville.

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