Dear Mr. Schroeder,
While the University is making key cuts to personnel that are not moving their programs in the right direction, we feel strongly that you need to consider terminating the IANR reign of Vice Chancellor John Owens. Mr. Owens has proven through his faculty cuts, budget restrictions and the removal of key personnel that he is not working toward an agricultural university that is in line with the needs and wishes of the many livestock producers in the state of Nebraska. His reassignment of Animal Science Dept. Head Don Beermann to a position in which he will have little if any opportunity to continue the good work that he started by increasing enrollment and morale in the department should have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Following the publication of an article about the department in Feedstuffs magazine (link here)Trent received MANY e-mails and telephone calls from people stating their support for what he had written about Owens and the IANR. These messages came from alumni, current and past faculty and industry leaders in the state. The only comment that contradicted his article was from interim department head Sheila Sheideler. How ironic?
Owens appears to be trying to force the department away from production agriculture toward companion animals. The tax base of this "great livestock state" (to quote former professor Keith E Gilster) is dependent upon a strong university research, extension and teaching program that is focused on key farm animals - beef, sheep, swine and horses. While expanding the department to include companion animals certainly addresses the growing need for research and training in this area, we can't forget what brought us to where we are today and what puts food on the table for all. There is a long history of faculty that have retired or changed positions and these positions have not been re-advertised or filled again because of the decisions of Mr. Owens. We can ill afford to let even more of our good Nebraska kids go to K-State, Iowa State or any other land grant institution because we lose the faculty needed to make our program a great one.
As an alum of UNL, a graduate of the University of Kentucky and a former employee of the University of Missouri, I can tell you first-hand how our program stacks up to many others across the country when it comes to undergraduate education in animal science. UNL is top-notch and it is thanks in great part to the work of Dr. Beermann and Dr. Aberle before him. I find it interesting that, according to the governor's task force, one in three jobs in this state are tied to agriculture. Yet when we lose a great leader in an agricultural position, the press isn't lined up to drill the Chancellor about his decision like they do when we lose an Athletic Director. The state could go on without sports (although I hope it doesn't have to) but I don't think we will last long without the ability to produce food for the world's ever-growing population.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter. We would be glad to visit with you in person and look forward to the opportunity to work together for the future of agriculture in our great state.
Proud Nebraskans in Agriculture,
Kelli R. Loos (UNL 1988)
PO Box 545
Loup City, NE 68853