Alright, now this has been burning my brain in fits and starts since the news broke, but after reading some e-mails exchanged between concerned alumni/students and Dr. Foglesong himself, I feel the need to shed a little bit of illumination on these current events in my little section of the hemisphere.
To make a long and sordid story short, word got out around the beginning of February that people working for campus landscape maintenance were being ordered to dig up daffodil bulbs from their flowerbeds and store them to be replanted in more "aesthetic" beds at a later date (if you care to peruse the various news coverage, Google has them here).
Students blessed with common sense stopped to scratch their collective heads--why is Doc telling workers to dig up flowers that are just about to bloom?! Surely this must be a rumor--however, a Facebook group was started where the truth would eventually out. Doc's orders to dig up the bulbs (many of which were heirloom bulbs, donated by a (very wealthy) family native to Starkville. A couple of days after the creation of the Facebook group, a student working for campus maintenance blew the whistle: the untimely and hasty removal of the daffodil bulbs from their beds was NOT a rumor, and was to be finished by the first of March.
The Facebook group "Save the MSU Daffodils" quickly grew to 500, then over 1,000 members, many of them protesting, saying how happy the daffodils make them, that their yellow blossoms are a happy herald that spring is on its way! More and more people (many of them landscape and horticulture experts from the university itself) began to send Dr. Foglesong e-mails regarding the matter, and apparently our dear President did not think that the snippy replies the students and faculty received would be posted for the public to witness...turns out he was wrong about that, too.
On February 13th, a horticulture student wrote:
With all due respect, I am very disappointed with the lack of communication with concerned students and student groups on the subjects of the daffodils. I understand that the initial decision was made to improve the aesthetics of the campus. However, I believe that as the president of the university that it is your responsibility to address these subjects rather than ignore them. Students have been aware of this issue long enough that something could have been done if we had been listened to.
We formed a Facebook group this weekend in order to raise awareness, and it has already reached over 500 members with over 1000 more who are being invited to join the group. I have personally spoken with several faculty and alumni that are upset by the removal of these beautiful flowers.
Please understand that this is not our challenging your authority, but we do know that you are not a horticulturist or a landscape designer. We, the concerned, are those things. It is from our knowledge of plants and planting design that we beg of you to please stop the removal of the daffodils.
Thank you for your time,
With all due respect, this campus looks better than it's ever looked because we have a committed and dedicated landscape office populated with experts who have professional experience to back up their decisions. This university has been straight forward about out intent to replace/replant flowers â not just daffodils â not unlike you would do in your front yard when flower beds need maintenance. We spend most of our time managing a $500+M operation to ensure we provide you a credible degree that permits you to be a successful professional when you leave here. I wish you were as worried about the proposed cut in our budget this year, or the safety issues that concern us around the campus, or the infrastructure that needs replacing badly in many of our buildings, or whether we can help needy students attend our school, etc. I can't tell a daffodil from a dandelion, but I can tell you what our priorites are around here. Learning, research, services to our citizens, your safety, our campus security, and a lot of other issues occupy my time. That's why I let real experts make decisions about flower beds.
Note well--budget cuts? Then why waste time and money on foolish disposal of beautiful Southern blooms? "Let real experts make decisions about flower beds"? So...our concerned horticultural faculty doesn't count for "real" experts?
While many faculty haven't stepped forward publicly due to fear of Herr Foglesong, the consensus among students who have discussed this with their professors is that it's an unwise move overall. Look again to a new example of how a well-thought, intelligent e-mail is met with belittling comments:
Hello Dr. Foglesong,
I was hoping to take a couple minutes of your time concerning an issue which has been receiving quite a bit of press lately. I'm Mark Cooper, the senior Horticulture major quoted in the Starkville Daily News and Clarion Ledger. I would like add that I believe SDN mis-quoted me, as the planned petition is to be directed to you, and not the IHL.
Many students are quite upset about the handling of the daffodils on campus. To many of them this flower (traditional in the southern landscape) is the first sign of winter's end and the spring to come. When other plants are dormant and days are dreary, daffodils are blooming brilliantly, adding color to an otherwise gray landscape.
Though many bulbs have been saved, it is my understanding that campus landscape has been told to weed eat and kill (via herbicide application) the remaining daffodils. To most of the 450 students in the facebook group “Save the MSU Daffodils”, this is unacceptable. We enjoy the color added by these flowering bulbs. I can understand that you want dense color in well kept beds. But daffodils can form small clumps wherever planted; leading to a more natural feeling in the landscape. If you are concerned with unsightly foliage post bloom, it is acceptable to weed eat or clip foliage once it has yellowed and fallen over; though it is preferable to allow the leaves to fully
dessicate prior to removal. The best time to dig bulbs is in the spring or early summer once the nutrients in the leaves have been pulled back into the bulb (for use next year).
In addition, one student in our group commented that campus landscape said that the daffodils have suffered from past droughts. Past droughts have most likely, not caused any stress to the plants as during the heat of the summer and fall, the plants are safely dormant in their bulb. The bulbs also asexually divide on their own, forming clumps.
I hope you will ensure that the remaining bulbs are kept in the campus landscape and look forward to hearing from you. I have also been in communication with Felder Rushing (a well know MSU graduate) and Horticulturdesigns for future plantings. If you would like I can meet with you to discuss this further.
In addition to all of this, Dr. Foglesong has contacted heads of the art department, requesting that posters and artwork be removed from windows of the ART buildings, furthermore that windows looking in on architecture and art studio spaces be COVERED, claiming all of the above to be an "eyesore" (just like the dafffodils...hm).
You may want to ask the faculty and staff if I listen to them since you question that -- ask them about the pay raises they got, ask them about the new faculty and staff we hired, ask them about the research and development money they got, ask them about the new classroom equipment we are buying for them, ask them about the jobs we are getting for you students when you graduate and the jobs we are bringing into the state for our citizens, ask them about the conferences we are now sponsoring for them, ask them about the extra money we've sent to their departments this past year, or ask them about a couple dozen other substantive issues where I have listened to them.
You may want to ask them about the campus appearance since I get dozens of e-mails from them about how nice the campus looks. Also, see if you can find another university president who spends as much time listening to or visiting students. Sure wish you were as interested in the fact that our budget may decrease vice increase this year, or that our faculty is both shorthanded and underpaid, or that our primary job is to educate you so you can easly [sic] move into our workforce, or that our infrastructure is old and needs replacing, or that we need to find a way to alleviate traffic and parkng [sic] issues given a funding shortfall, or that we need to focus on accredation [sic] to make sure you get a degree that will get you a good job. I have experts who have already graduated who plan our ground cover -- they make decision based on lots of facts -- vice urban myth. Maybe you can give me some help on the major issues that I noted above. I'll be happy to make some time to focus on the very things that impact our most basic missions -- learning, research, and services to the citizens of this state.
If you've only read partly through this post and are about to tell me there are bigger things to worry about, if you read nothing else except this: what started as a daffodil controversy is NOW about how Dr. Foglesong is handling our university. He is an Air Force general, yes, consultations and apologies may not go far in the service...this is also true. HOWEVER, Foglesong's "my way or the highway" attitude simply won't be tolerated at such a large, diverse university campus. This isn't the Air Force; common decency and genuinely listening to students and faculty without withering sarcasm in e-mails will take you far, Doc.
Foglesong personally addresses concerns of the Faculty Senate in his ever-charming manner
An open letter from the School of Architecture to Dr. Foglesong