2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM

Anatomy of a Department Closure: When Workforce Needs and Administrative Priorities Meet the Worst Case Scenario

HOLBROOK, John and LOWELL, Gary, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The Univ of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX 76019-0049, holbrook@uta.edu

Periodically universities are struck by abrupt financial downturn. The need to make difficult choices is immediate and real. Such was the case at Southeast Missouri State (SEMO) in 2003 after a 10% budget loss. Geology was discontinued.

All programs with major enrollment in the lower quartile, including geology at 26, were evaluated for closure. Departments were judged on criteria which summed the total of expenses vs. costs. Most notably, workforce success and academic strength were forbidden criteria. As is common for geology, our program was known on campus for great success in meeting workforce needs with strong academic preparation, but tallied as a comparatively expensive academic unit. Likewise, majors that found the program after arrival and service-course enrollment were counted less, the logic being these students would be generating credit hours regardless of our presence. These factors weakened our case. Further, we vocally bucked the trend of the university, objecting to a newly adopted model that prioritized financial over academic performance. Citing literature and trends in university management that favored closure of select programs (geology named specifically) over weakening of others, the administration closed the Geosciences program, and released three full Professors.

Workforce success and other strengths of geology programs can quickly become mere words to a business-model administration in time of financial shortfall. Geology is an attractive target for savings. Long-term survival of programs through economic cycles depends on either increasing financial profile and/or an administration sold on the long-term benefits of geology, and willing to carry the added expense through down turns.