Professors face hostile eviction

It all started in October.

Three FAMU professors noticed that the key, which seemed to work in previous years, suddenly didn’t fit the keyhole of their research labs.

It was clear that the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory was sending a message that professor Bill Tucker said was being expressed for years.

“They’ve always wanted us out, from the day we came,” said Tucker, who’s accused the laboratory for years of malicious harassment. “They figured we should have our own stuff.”

Tucker is one of the three university physics faculty members who believes the NHMFL is to blame for kicking them out of the research facility.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the professors have until the end of April to decide whether they will sign a tenant agreement. If they do not sign, they may face eviction.

Tucker said the arrangement, made in 1992, is unwritten so there is really nothing that could protect them from misfortunes such as this one.

“FSU owns the lab, and they have the right to this because we don’t have a (written) agreement,” Tucker said. “They wouldn’t offer us an agreement.”

In a memorandum, sent in response to Interim President Castell Bryant’s letter concerning the situation, Greg Boebinger, NHMFL director said there was an agreement.

In a memo, dated Feb. 28, 2005, Boebinger said that the physics department was invited to use the lab for free, temporarily.

The understanding was that the FAMU physics department could borrow the services of the lab until the University physics building was renovated. In 1998, the new building was ready for the department and Boebinger said several members of the physics’ faculty moved in.

But Kennedy, Tucker and Stampe remained at the NHMFL.

“Since that time, the Kennedy/Tucker/Stampe research group has enjoyed a rent-free operation, despite several requests by both NHMFL and FAMU administrators to have them move in 1998,” said Boebinger, in a note to Bryant.

The professors said the building is inadequate for the development of their research.

“You can’t duplicate something like this (NHMFL),” Kennedy said. “This lab has a budget of $40 million a year. FAMU can’t run that type of operation.”

Since they have occupied the mag lab, Kennedy said the research group has been the most productive lab in the department.

Kennedy said the destruction of this program at the mag lab would be a severe blow to FAMU’s physics department. Kennedy also added that he doesn’t understand why Provost Larry Robinson hasn’t taken time to talk with him.

“I have begged the provost to come out and see this, and he won’t come out,” said Kennedy, adding he doesn’t recall the provost welcoming them back to FAMU.

Tucker said the only way he is updated about the situation is by reading the newspaper.

On any given day, you can visit the mag lab and see more than $2 million worth of FAMU physics’ devices sitting in piles in different corners and offices of the building. Some of their equipment is in pieces because Kennedy said the lab people who moved them cut cords and carelessly threw pieces all over the lab.

The professors said they fear that if they do not find a more suitable place to store their equipment soon, they may never get another opportunity to do so.

“People started stealing things, and (owners of the lab) issued a police action,” Tucker said. “Then people started bringing what they stole back. But we don’t know if we got it all back.”

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