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  February 9, 2004

Closing Geology Department
A Tough Decision, Says Dean

Tight budgets, declining student interest, and a poor external study have spelled the end of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, it was announced recently. Yet, says Ross MacKinnon, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the decision need not be a death knell for the field at UConn.

"I honestly hope and expect that those members of the department who want to continue to participate in the area will consider building an interdisciplinary program focusing on the earth sciences," MacKinnon says.

He notes that the opportunity exists for such an interdisciplinary program, in part because many of the courses leading to a degree in the field will continue to be taught, and because faculty from the department will continue teaching in similar fields.

Departments that have expressed interest in absorbing the faculty include marine sciences, physics, civil and environmental engineering, biology, geography, and the agricultural sciences.

MacKinnon announced his decision to close the department in an e-mail to the University community on January 22.

He says there are currently fewer than two dozen students majoring in geology and geophysics; and that a review of the department indicated it would be unlikely to become a department of excellence without the addition of at least two new faculty and additional support staff. Those additions, he adds, would cost upwards of $300,000 annually, funding that - in the current budget climate - was not likely to be available.

"It was a tough, tough decision," MacKinnon says. "This decision does not indicate in any way a lessened commitment by CLAS to contemporary geoscience or environmental science generally.

"The constraints (funding and low enrollment), together with recent developments at ERI; the Academic Planning Document, which includes environmental sustainability as one of its foci; and the broad environmental sciences undergraduate program, have led us to look for other alternatives to delivering quality environmental science research and instructional programs," he says.

MacKinnon says he expects all eight faculty in the department will be reassigned before the fall semester. Students majoring in geology and geophysics will be allowed to complete their degrees.

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