The University of Louisiana at Monroe has some interesting priorities

They’re shutting down a museum collection to make room for a larger gym for the track team. Here’s a letter sent out by involved faculty.

Dear Friends,

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.

Do they even realize that a museum collection is an irreplaceable historical resource? Once it’s gone, there’s no way to decide to restore it at a later date, when funds become available. But they have short-sightedly decided that an academic treasure ought to be cavalierly discarded to benefit university sports.

Another problem mentioned at the link is that Louisiana has cut support to the university by 50%. It seems to me, though, that if you’re starving you pare away the non-essentials first, rather than critical resources. I guess ULM thinks their natural history museum is expendable, while their track team is not.


  1. says

    I remember Adam Savage telling a story about how there are no extant skeletal dodo birds – because they were so common in the victorian era that all the museums assumed someone else had one, and they all got rid of theirs.

    Bigger better track teams: making America great!

  2. nich says

    Gosh, I thought athletics were bringing in billions of dollars in revenue and without them the rest of the campus would be writing on slate boards and doing calculations on an abacus by candlelight…

  3. marcoli says

    I am hearing that many colleges and universities are seeing cuts in their funding from the state, and they are facing the need to cut this or that, including terminating staff and letting go non-tenured faculty. But I have yet to hear of any that respond by cutting back on their SportsBall. No sirree.

  4. mikeym says

    This reminds me of Half-governor Palin’s ignorant opposition to fruit fly research.

  5. microraptor says

    Marcus @2:

    IIRC, it was stuffed specimens that have all the plumage that all got thrown out, not the skeletal mounts.

  6. microraptor says

    Also, 48 hours to find an alternative home for a collection that size? Might as well have just declared they weren’t going to bother.

  7. Alverant says

    Is there anything we as individuals can do? I can take a few boxes in my basement.
    Yes. I am serious.

  8. says

    Apparently they never stopped to consider that some potential member(s) of their track team might be interested in attending ULM because of that specimen collection.

  9. Zeppelin says

    What do sports have to do with university anyway? I mean, sports physiology, psychology, nutrition, sure. Doing sports as a hobby while you’re studying, yeah. But professional sports teams with highly paid coaches and their own stadiums? That seems about as far removed from the purview of academia as it’s possible to get. It’s like bankrupting your municipal waste disposal services by making them fund international book fairs.

  10. gijoel says

    “On and on it seems to go, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.
    They paved paradise and put up a sports stadium.”

  11. antigone10 says


    University of North Dakota is! Of course, after they cut a bunch of other things first. But Women’s Hockey (but men’s hockey isn’t losing a dime) and the swim team are gone, gone gone! There, problem solved!

    Which makes not a lot of sense if you think about it. Women use the same hockey rink as the guys and they already have the swimming pool. It seems like you just cut the same amount of money from the men’s hockey team and everything’s zen, but that’s why I don’t make 400,000 + a year to tell college kids in what formation to skate.

  12. says

    @3 & 10,

    The only sports that ever generate net positive revenue are football and men’s basketball. And even then only about half of the time. And most of that revenue is sucked away by non-revenue sports like track and field, such that only a handful of schools actually have athletic departments that turn a profit. The other 99% or so are a financial drag, sometimes an extremely large one.

    I say this as someone who likes college sports (okay, just football), but holy hell, there needs to be some serious reform.

  13. dannysichel says

    @8 actually you probably can’t, since the specimens are mostly preserved in flammable liquids and need to be in facilities with high-level anti-fire systems.

  14. cyclenorm says

    The Natural History museums surely contain sacrilegious materials, like evidence of evolution. The track team contains zero evidence that intelligent life evolved. No wait, that would be the football team.

  15. Moggie says

    Occupy? If the university wants to throw out those collections, make it so that they have to drag out students and faculty first.

  16. wzrd1 says

    Worse, my company has a partnership with the university system out of Shreveport and Bossier satellite programs.

    Oh well, there is still the interview process…

  17. opus says

    I emailed the VP of Academic Affairs* and received a response.
    “Mr. (Redacted):

    We are now working with several institutions to receive portions of the collections and feel that we will soon have new homes identified. The specimens not in the teaching collection we retain will then be in a location where they will get more research use. Nothing will be destroyed and the Museum will not be closed.

    I hope this helps clarify our actions to you.”

    *Interesting dynamic here. The Athletic Department just stomped the academic folks, best I can tell. Did they force the VP of Academic Affairs to deal with the fallout, as some sort of dominance display?

    Eric Pani

  18. wzrd1 says

    Nothing will be destroyed and the Museum will not be closed.

    That’s a neat turnaround right there. Perhaps they did get some heat from Baton Rouge.

  19. kevindorner says

    Dunno if this will even be seen, but: SERNEC met over the weekend and this was one of the priorities. ULM has had two offers for the herbarium and one for the ichthyology from other institutions, plus they are now claiming (no doubt thanks to the publicity) that they never intended to destroy any part of the collections.