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Capitol loss

The only department offering graduate degrees in geology in the District of Columbia is closing its doors at the end of the academic year. The fates of the geology faculty and students at George Washington University remain unknown at press time, but the reasons for closing the department echo past geoscience losses in other academic institutions: a volatile mix of tight budgets, low student enrollments and other, often complex, factors.

Generally, faculty members have been folded into geography or other academic departments, in an effort to save money spent on maintenance and support costs. But more nebulous issues that include anecdotal tales of students’ slacking interest in pure geology and the ephemeral status of geology as a science are more difficult to pin down and may in part be responsible for the degree and departmental losses across the United States.

In the case of George Washington University, faculty may be moved into the biology, geography, chemistry and physics departments while the administration attempts to maintain a geosciences program. “The danger is we will become a service group without having an academic presence,” says George Stephens, a structural geologist on the faculty there who may soon be a member of the geography department.

Naomi Lubick

Link:

"University losses at home and abroad," Geotimes, March 2004

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