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Seeds of change

Students petition to block Botanical Gardens from changing departments

Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 11:11

The College of Arts and Sciences is considering moving leadership of the USF Botanical Gardens from the Department of Geography, Environment and Planning to the Integrative Biology Department.

A petition opposing the change and requesting a public discussion was created Nov. 14 by members of the Student Environmental Association (SEA) at USF. The petition states that this request was made for student feedback to be heard before a final decision is made.

“It is important to at least have a discussion regarding this potential switch that includes students,” Sarah Marshall, director of politics and activism for SEA, said in an email to the organization’s members.

The petition states that if the move of leadership was to occur, then some opportunities available for students, especially those in the Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) major, may be taken away, such as garden plots, research opportunities, field trips to the gardens and festivals held at the facility.

As of Monday evening, the online version of the petition had collected 102 signatures. Shaza Hussein, a senior majoring in environmental science and chemistry and director of networking for SEA, said a hard copy version of the petition was also passed around to various students majoring in ESP.

Hussein said she signed the petition because the Botanical Gardens is used by the geography department and the surrounding community, and if leadership were to change, the gardens could become research-focused and possibly closed off to the community.

“I think the work that the Environmental Science and Policy department has done to revitalize the Botanical Gardens would be lost otherwise and that community events would be diminished,” Hussein said.

Hussein has utilized the Botanical Gardens’ facilities for two years, she said. Hussein said she has used the gardens for work in her classes, as well as for personal uses such as “meditation and yoga for mental and physical healing and relaxation.”

According to the website for the Botanical Gardens, the area was originally under leadership by the biology department in the ‘70s and ‘80s. During that time, the gardens primarily served teaching and research purposes.

Currently, the Botanical Gardens has a community outreach component, attracting visitors year -round and hosting events such as the Plant Festival and Honey Bee Day.

Professor and Department of Integrative Biology Chairman Peter Stiling said in an email that he is unsure of what will happen in the future concerning the leadership change and the petition. Stiling declined to comment on how the change would affect the integrative biology department.

Laurie Walker, director of the Botanical Gardens, said in an email that a meeting regarding the Botanical Gardens and the petition was scheduled to take place on Nov. 19, and in a later email, said that no changes have yet been made yet.

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