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Geology cut in Missouri


Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau cut its geosciences degree, along with its geography and sociology degrees, last fall because of budget issues. The geology department itself will be dissolved by May 2005 if not sooner. Despite being “very productive,” the department did not attract enough majors to remain cost effective, says David Probst, the chair of the geology department.

The university will cut the seven-person geology department to three tenured faculty members, Probst says, and will eliminate courses such as mineralogy, petrology, geomorphology and sedimentary geology. “Anything that would have purely supported a traditional geology major,” he says, “those courses are being dropped. The only ones retained are in the general education curriculum or support general education and environmental sciences.” The geology courses that will remain include introductory geology, hydrology, remote sensing and an interdisciplinary course on the history of Earth and life through time that is part of the university’s general studies program.

Probst is in the physics department, which was combined administratively with geology at the beginning of this year. Physics was also “on the chopping block,” he says, but only lost one faculty position, owing to the central nature of that discipline to the university’s program. Probst also notes that physics students enter the university intending to major in physics, whereas geology students were “internally recruited, and from the administration’s point of view, they were already here.”

Probst says that the university decided to cut a few of its smaller programs, those with lower numbers of majors and higher costs, than to make university-wide cuts. “It really came down to money,” Probst says. “It’s a sad situation, but that’s the bottom line.”

Naomi Lubick

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