Previous concerns over the possibility of the KSC geology program’s “extinction” became apparent in an e-mail sent to students last year. Now, over a year later, concerns regarding the program haven’t dissipated.
In an Oct. 6, 2016 article from The Equinox titled, “KSC puts a dent in geology program,” low enrollment and anticipated retirements of both tenure-track faculty members within the program triggered an administrative hold. New students were not being admitted to the major or minor, pending a program redesign.
More recently, however, conversations surrounding the future of the program have indicated that geology may soon fall under the environmental studies program umbrella, where faculty members would redesign a geology minor and eliminate the major for the time being.
At the College Senate meeting on Oct. 11, a member expressed worry regarding the program, suggesting the program elimination guidelines set forth by the group weren’t being followed.
According to Provost William Seigh, there have been long conversations between geology faculty members, environmental studies faculty members, Dean of the School of Sciences and Social Sciences Dr. Gordon Leversee and himself, and none of those, he thought, indicated anybody wanting to bring this to the College Senate regarding program elimination.
“We knew we were not going to have the faculty, but I wasn’t ready to say, ‘Let’s end it…’” Seigh said. “If [the future includes] having a geology major at some point again, that’s great. If it’s not time to take the geology major to the [College] Senate, I respect that choice, but I have a feeling because of retirements and future, I have a feeling that’s the path this is going to go down at this point.”
If the administration had said they were going to completely shut off the program, the College Senate would have come into play, but since they’re not deciding to replace full-time faculty members, “it’s kind of a grey area,” Assistant Professor of Geology Dr. Steven Bill said. The administration would ultimately have to make that call.
At the end of last year, full-time Professor of Geology Dr. Peter Nielsen retired, and the other full-time professor, Bill, said he plans to retire “sometime in the near future,” leaving only adjuncts to teach geology courses.
Seigh said the reality of immediately replacing these positions was looking unlikely, which he said led them to look at other ways to manage the situation.
In moving forward with the program, Seigh explained there were a series of small plans, one being to place the administrative hold while ensuring the current students could graduate “with a really solid curriculum that serves them.”
Second, administration and faculty members wanted to redesign a geology minor for students, while simultaneously continuing conversations about possibilities for the future program, whatever they may be.
Essentially, Leversee said the geology major would go away for the time being. In the past, he said, the political science major at KSC took a similar route, where it switched to a minor, and then became quite popular. After a redesign process, the program was offered as a major once again.
According to Leversee, this is a reasonable way to see programs change over time and predicts the geology program will be “reframed” as a minor in the “different departmental design framework” in environmental studies.
“You know, the fact is when the dust settles, the major program in geology as we’ve had it would no longer exist, so you can think of that as a program elimination, but it really is, I think, a redesign in the form of a new minor that, then, has the potential to grow into a new major over time,” Leversee explained.
However, Bill, who’s been teaching geology at KSC for 30 years, said there doesn’t seem to be much support in keeping the program around. Not only has the college removed all introductory geology courses, which were to be taught this coming spring semester, but they’ve also removed all major and non-major courses, as well as Integrative Studies Program (ISP) courses in geology.
Whether the classes were ghosted, meaning the geology department proposed the section and it did not appear on Student Planning during course selection, or the class was cancelled altogether before registration even began, eight courses are off the market for the spring semester.
Among the cancelled or ghosted courses include one section of GEOL-252 Evolution of Earth, three sections of INGEOL-110 Earth Systems Science, two sections of INGEOL-151 Physical Geology and two sections of INGEOL-320 Earth’s Climate: Past and Future. A total of five geology courses remained active for students to enroll in during the registration period.
Bill said, however, if he were to come up with a list of 10 students who needed to take a cancelled course, Leversee would consider reinstating the class. By cancelling so many sections though, a number of programs are both directly and indirectly affected.
“I would take this as a vote of non-confidence that they cancelled so many sections,” Bill said. “If you don’t even let the intro courses [run], it doesn’t really sound like you have much support for doing a minor in a program.”
Many geology students are feeling the effects of cutting the upper level courses. For one KSC junior and geology major Crystal Pringle, one class in particular that isn’t being offered could keep her and classmates from going off to graduate school following graduation.
A necessary prerequisite for graduate school, Field Study, has been cut from the schedule, according to Pringle.
Pringle said geology students were told if they kept up with their major and program, they were promised to graduate with the major they intended on receiving, but this seems to be inhibiting that promise.
“We’ve had to take a lot of these classes, like they’re offered now, this is your last chance, which is why schedules are so out of control. This is why we’re taking four lab classes in one semester and trying to find enough hours in the day to make this work and still have some sort of sanity…It’s take them now or you don’t get them and you don’t get your degree,” Pringle said.
In terms of the changes said to be made to the program in the future, Bill said he doesn’t want to see the program go away.
“It definitely hurts me to see the program go away,” Bill said. “We kind of are in never-never land….We don’t really know, [and] nothing’s been solidified.”
Jessica Ricard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org