After months of thought and speculation, it was announced, to the initial dismay of graduate students, that a plan to dissolve the Department of Environmental Health, Science and Policy within the School of Social Ecology is being put into action.
This move comes as a result of five department reviews over the course of the past several months, conducted by both external sources, such as the Academic Senate, and internal advisors. Additionally, interviews were conducted with students and faculty to determine the quality of the programs within the department.
Based on factors such as low enrollment, lack of organization and too few faculty for departmental responsibilities, it was decided that EHSP was not functioning properly as a department.
According to Social Ecology Dean Ronald Huff, social ecology faculty discussed many possibilities to keep the academic content of EHSP intact, such as offering the undergraduate majors under EHSP as interdisciplinary once the department is dissolved or merging with the Department of Planning, Policy and Design.
The situation was frightening for graduate students in EHSP when they received a Nov. 22 memo announcing a freeze on graduate admissions within the department and a follow-up announcing a provost receivership period, where an interim chair would oversee the transition and alternative proposals would be considered.
According to Associate Dean of Criminology, Law and Society Jim Meeker, many of the students were initially unsure of their status in the school.
‘During this time there was a lot of confusion, because graduate students were the last to know,’ Meeker said. ‘Then, it wasn’t until December that we had the provost receivership memo.
This was a period of evolving and a vacuum of knowledge, so of course there were lots of rumors flying.’
To provide the students with increased support and help them better understand the terms of the situation, Meeker and social ecology counselor Jean Martinez scheduled one-on-one counseling sessions with each of the graduate students in EHSP and their faculty advisors.
In terms of faculty status, Huff was quick to assert that no one will be out of a job as a result of this adjustment. EHSP faculty have until June of 2007 to decide whether they want to remain within social ecology or venture to another school on campus.
‘The school is committed to maintaining the same level of administrative support,’ Huff said. ‘No one’s being fired. We assured [the students] that the structure stays in place and all the faculty that are involved in mentoring EHSP students have said that they will maintain an affiliation with whatever EHSP morphs into, in terms of a degree-granting unit.’
Though incoming undergraduates can no longer choose environmental analysis and design as a major for the time being, the School of Social Ecology is offering two new majors for all fall 2006 freshmen.
In collaboration with the School of Medicine, both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of sciences program will be available under the area of public health.
The provost receivership period will last until no later than June 2007, and during this time, various proposals will be discussed and adjustments will be made.
Every current student and faculty member, however, can be assured that his or her position in the school is secure.