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State restrictions continue to inhibit Cuba-related research

State restrictions continue to inhibit Cuba-related research
By Quincy J. Walters, STAFF WRITER
Published: Monday, April 14, 2014

In 2006, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that
prohibited Florida universities from funding to “terrorist”
states, including Syria, Iran, Sudan and Cuba.
But the politics behind that bill may be prohibiting academic research
eight years later.
Frank Muller-Karger, a professor of biological oceanography, said the
ban has posed obstacles for his research.
Access to Cuban waters needs to be re-opened for the examination of
biodiversity, he said. Marine life doesn’t acknowledge borders, and what
happens in Cuban waters is often consequential to Floridian waters.
“A lot of the resources that we use — in terms of lobsters, corals and
fish — come drifting over from Cuba and we don’t necessarily understand
how, when or why,” he said.
Prior to 2006, Muller-Karger said he was able to use academic funding to
study the interconnected system of American and Cuban waters.
But after the bill, state funding for such research is prohibited.
“I think that’s a gap in our knowledge and the only way to fill that gap
is to work with people over there and sample and understand the
resources better,” he said.
The appeal to end the restriction isn’t motivated by politics,
Muller-Karger said. It is motivated instead by the pursuit of knowledge
regarding the nature of the world we all share.
This isn’t the first time Florida’s terse relations with Cuba have
created challenges for academics at USF, though.
In 2011, Noel Smith, curator of the USF Institute for Research in Art
(IRA), was one of eight Florida faculty plaintiffs along with the
American Civil Liberties Union who filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s
travel ban to Cuba, a ban that hindered the IRA’s ability to host Cuban
artists or travel to Cuba to seek artists.
At the time, Rachel May, director of the Institute for the Study of
Latin America and the Caribbean, said USF once offered a Cuban studies
certificate for graduate students, but the program is no longer offered
after a study abroad program could no longer be offered.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court stated they would not hear the case,
leaving the ban in tact and many professors, such as Muller-Karger,
still searching for solutions.
Mark Amen, director of Graduate Political Science Studies, said
Florida’s isolationist mindset against Cuba is rooted in beliefs from
decades ago.
The U.S. placed a financial on Cuba in 1960 to punish a
communist regime, and further diplomatic and travel sanctions were
placed in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis — the climax of the Cold War.
“This has been a problem since the embargo,” Amen said. “It reinforces
our boundaries with Cuba.”
Five decades later, Cuba is in the process of economic liberalization,
political resentment in the U.S. has cooled and the practicality of the
embargo is being discussed without fear of the communist label.
In recent years, U.S. Barack Obama has loosened restrictions
on travel and some universities in other states have pursued academic
endeavors there.
“I don’t see the value (of the ban),” Amen said. “It blocks all kinds of
exchanges with humans that are meaningful.”
Muller-Karger said while there are alternatives to the research he
wishes to conduct, satellite imagery cannot really be a means of
conducting his research.
“Unless you go there and sample the water or the clay or the sand, you
won’t be able to know (why the changes occur) just by looking at the
colors from a satellite,” he said. “This is what we call ground proofing.”
Muller-Karger said the standoff-ish attitude of the existing ban values
pride over progress.
“We’re wasting an opportunity to fill the knowledge gaps, which would
benefit our state,” he said. “We lose the knowledge, while other people
gain the knowledge…that’s a problem for Florida.”

Source: State restrictions continue to inhibit Cuba-related research –
The Oracle: of South Florida –

2 Responses to State restrictions continue to inhibit Cuba-related research

  • The link to the source you cite is not working. Was this article simply re-published from USF’s student newspaper?

    • Yes the article was a full copy of the text.
      This is another proof it was posted:

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