What’s Next for the Sciences?

SC Contributing Writer

Students within the science departments have expressed their concerns in regards to recent developments. Specifically, tenured professors have been retrenched or non-renewed within the Chemistry department.

On Monday, November 11, 2013, two students of the Chemistry department sat down with President Marcia Welsh and Provost Dr. Van Reidhead to address the concerns of chemistry students.

One concern is that with fewer faculty members, scheduling chemistry classes will become increasingly difficult.

“We already had trouble scheduling classes,” said Briana Magistro, an undergraduate biochemistry major here at ESU.

However, the Provost addressed this issue, assuring that the problem will be sorted out this upcoming spring. “We are in the process of addressing it. We have everybody looking at it in their own way right now and bringing forward their ideas on how to do it.”

The requirements of each science department are intertwined, creating a domino effect when there is a cut in one. For example, the Bachelor of Science degree for biology requires multiple chemistry classes, including General Chemistry I and II and Organic Chemistry I and II.

The Biology department has over 720 students when including double majors, and six chemistry professors are required just to cover their requirements. Therefore, the Chemistry department does not only serve its own students, but biology students as well.

According to Dr. Van Reidhead, “We are in conversation with Biology about some ways we can meet Biology’s needs more cost effectively, at a lesser burden for Chemistry. So I don’t know yet how we are going to address that right now, but we are in the process of addressing it.”

The decision to retrench has not been easy for Dr. Van Reidhead.

“By comparing Chemistry’s ratio of students to faculty with Biology, it only added up to that we could do it. So I felt that we had no choice but to try to put them on par with Biology… I didn’t have much choice but to make a difficult decision. We have to try and balance the budget.”

Currently, the ratio of students per Chemistry faculty member is 12:1, which is the average number of Chemistry faculty for all PASSHE institutions. However, with only six faculty members, the ratio will change to 26:1. This is the lowest amount of Chemistry faculty per student within the PASSHE system.

The retrenchment in the Chemistry department does not just affect those receiving chemistry degrees, but students throughout the sciences. Nevertheless, other factors affecting this difficult decision to retrench can be considered.

Although administration and faculty are still in the process of addressing how to accommodate the changes made to the Chemistry department, both President Welsh and Dr. Van Reidhead have assured the students that they will do all in their power to ensure that student needs are met.

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