Campus considers dissolving the College of Chemistry to cut costs

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Rachael Garner/Senior Staff

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The campus is considering dissolving the College of Chemistry and integrating it into another college as a cost-cutting measure.

The dissolution of the college is one of many options the administration is considering as the campus faces a growing and unsustainable deficit, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

“This is just a bad idea,” said campus senior Jonathan Melville, who created a petition Wednesday against the potential dissolution. “The College of Chemistry is vital to the academic prestige of Berkeley, and it’s a cornerstone of Berkeley’s historical scientific prowess.”

Mogulof said, however, that no concrete plans have been made yet regarding the status of the college. Campus officials are currently in the comprehensive planning phase, examining potential ways to make the campus more financially sustainable, Mogulof said.

“(The campus) is guided by the want to strengthen, not diminish, the academic foundation,” Mogulof said.

David Wemmer, chair of the campus department of chemistry, said the chemical and biomolecular engineering department could be integrated into the College of Engineering, and the chemistry department into the College of Letters and Sciences.

This example of reorganization might save money on a salary for a dean in the College of Chemistry, Wemmer said, but the respective colleges would still need to hire more staff.

“Academically, intellectually, we don’t see advantages,” Wemmer said. “But our perspective on financial advantages might not be the same as the highest administration.”

The Office of Strategic Initiatives is considering the restructuring of other colleges in addition to the College of Chemistry, Wemmer said.

The College of Chemistry was established in 1872. In the 20th century, researchers in the college at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discovered nine elements now on the periodic table. Today, the college is known as a pioneer in traditional and emerging fields of chemistry.

By Thursday evening, Melville’s petition, which addresses Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, had gained more than 1,800 signatures — more than the College of Chemistry’s undergraduate population.

Melville created the petition after Jeffrey Long, a professor of chemistry for whom he works, discussed the issue with some of his student researchers.

“I probably wouldn’t have come here if it weren’t for the College of Chemistry,” said Alec Glisman, a campus freshman in the college.

According to the February campus announcement of financial instability, campus administrators have been discussing ways to manage the budget deficit since June, talking with the Academic Senate, college deans, UC Berkeley Foundation trustees and the UC Office of the President, among others.

“Concerns are understandable, but I really want to emphasize that no decisions have been made,” Mogulof said.

The campus will deal with the budget issue in a transparent manner, Mogulof said, accepting input from students and faculty.

 

Ericka Shin covers research and ideas. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ericka_shin.