With the downtick in the general welfare, universities and colleges have been trolling for deadwood. The axe has been falling on classics, philosophy, modern languages and such, which, of course, classicists, philosophers and modern language folk think destroys the thinking part of the academy. The general criterion is that there are few majors and there are very few.
Ben Hale, one of Ethon's favorite Boulderites, and an ethicist, is, as you can imagine, not pleased, and points to this piece of deception as a brilliant reply. Everyone is entitled to their mistakes.
However, as usual, this is not the point. Anyone who follows these things realizes that physics department have been undergoing the same trimming for decades now, driven by the decline in majors and the huge costs of maintaining a laboratory science program for the few left. The job bust in physics which started in the early 1970s has not helped. Chemistry at least has a chance of surviving because it has two major general education course, and biology, well, biology has pre-meds, lord bless their very little souls, but increasingly chemistry and physics departments are being shoved together, and there are very weird combinations as well as catchalls such as natural sciences, physical sciences, and so forth.
APS News writes:
Because of shortfalls in revenue, state boards of education have been forced to scrutinize the academic programs offered at schools and universities under their purview.” The result is that universities have had to make significant budget cuts,” said Theodore Hodapp, APS Director of Education and Diversity. “Physics is almost always on the chopping block because of the small number of majors at these smaller schools.”Most colleges and universities only need a small number of people to teach the introductory/survey courses in any subject. On the other hand, departments at R1s or the equivalent in other lands, often have more faculty than majors. How can this be. Soft money, lots of positions supported by research grants, which, in turn support graduate students, who become post-docs and then get soft money positions. This model has worked for sixty years, but it may not work very well in the future. It is inherently unstable.
Universities have had to take a hard look at enrollment in their offered courses, and often they’ve scaled back the physics programs, either by cutting certain physics-related majors, or physics majors themselves.
Hit hardest by state cuts is the Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, which dropped eight degree programs including its physics major, its chemistry major, its physics education major and chemistry education major.
“They’ve terminated both physics and chemistry, along with a couple of other programs at the end of the spring semester,” said Paul Withey, the head of the physics and chemistry department,
All the full-time positions will be cut, and the school plans on hiring instructors to teach the basic and service courses. Tenure has been revoked for professors in the affected departments. The university offered instructor positions to the formerly tenured faculty at a significant pay cut, but those affected have shown little interest in the offer.
“It took us all by surprise that not only would all the programs be eliminated, but also all the faculty,” Withey said “Physics is such a fundamental science, and it applies to all the other sciences and engineering. It doesn’t make sense for a university to completely eliminate the degree.”
Missouri has also had to cut out the physics major at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, MO.
“The governor of Missouri ordered a program review of all campuses in the state of Missouri system and said he’d consider eliminating all programs that graduate less than ten students a year,” said John Shaw, an associate professor of theoretical physics at Northwest Missouri State. “At Northwest they have eliminated a number of programs, of which the physics program was one.” The physics program at Northwest Missouri State graduated on average between one and two undergraduate majors.
“It was primarily because of low graduation rates in those areas,” said Douglas Dunham, Provost of the university. “It was hard to argue at the state level over the last four years that it was a program we should keep.”