COLUMBIA — The tenure home of four MU professors will be changing.
According to several reports from university administrators, the Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute will split Thursday to become a nuclear science academic program and a research program under the MU Office of Research.
The four professors who were part of the graduate school program will have to choose another department in which to hold tenure and put through grant proposals. The change is expected to be finalized July 1.
It is unusual for professors to be housed in a graduate school program and not have an affiliation with a specific department.
George Justice, dean of the graduate school, said the school doesn't have the structure to maintain tenured positions and support for faculty research because that is not its purpose.
"We're changing the focus to be able to do what graduate schools do," he said.
Justice said that when the institute was created its goal was to create an interdisciplinary program that would grow and include professors from various departments. This is still the goal of the nuclear science academic program that will remain associated with the graduate school.
With the restructuring of the graduate school, four nuclear engineering professors will have to find departments to become a part of. Justice said these faculty members are professors Sudarshan Loyalka, Mark Prelas, Tushar Ghosh and Robert Tompson.
Ghosh and Prelas recently won a Texty Award for the second volume of their 2011 textbook on energy.
Justice said the four faculty members will have to approach faculty, department chairs and deans of the colleges they seek to join and ask for a position in the department. They have two years to make this switch, and Justice said he has offered to help them.
"I am still their dean until they find new homes," he said.
Justice said neither the faculty members' jobs nor the academic programs offered are at risk of disappearing.
For current students, Justice said, the program will stay the same, but future students could see a change if the college of engineering decides to offer a nuclear engineering program that is more specific than the nuclear science program offered through the graduate school.
Potentially, the program is seeking to involve faculty from the colleges of medicine, engineering and arts and science, as well as any others that are interested.
Not all on the same page
Although Justice sees the restructuring of the program as a way to expand its reach, not everyone is as optimistic. Justice said several faculty members have told him they're not as confident in the plan.
Ghosh said in an email that the changes weren't necessary and put some of the institute's past successes at risk. He cited the rankings by American Analytics, a company that analyzes doctoral program productivity, as evidence of the program's merits. The institute was ranked No. 1 in 2007 and No. 3 in 2010, he said.
"We have proven ourselves, both individually and collectively, what we can do in terms of productivity, national recognition for our program and for the campus," Ghosh said.
Ghosh said he is less worried about his own ability to find a new department than he is about the success of the program after this change.
"The changes only communicate lack of support to Nuclear Science and Engineering research and education in this campus by this administration," he said.
"To be successful in getting grants, the reputation of the program matters a lot. This will certainly will provide a negative perception of the campus and is bound to affect our ability to get grants."
Ghosh also said the medical physics program received accreditation in 2010, and the restructuring is putting that accomplishment in jeopardy.
Prelas said he is unsure about the changes because he hasn't studied the documents well enough yet, but hopes that even with the changes the program can continue to improve.
"We are currently rated No. 3 by academic analytics," Prelas said. "I will support anything that will get us to No. 1. But I don't believe that this plan will."
A surprise or a long time coming?
When the institute was created in 2002, it was an experimental program that would be reviewed later by an external review committee.
In November 2002, a letter written by then-Chancellor Richard Wallace stated that, if there was a negative administrative review, the institute could be shut down and tenured faculty would be reassigned to other academic units.
In 2010 the external review committee published a report citing many of the strengths discussed by Ghosh but stating concern that the program had not become as campus-wide as originally intended in 2002.
Ghosh, however, said he's upset that there was not further communication before the decision was made to restructure the program. He said he did not know this change was going to occur until it was announced.
"We are blindsided," Ghosh said. "No input was sought. Also, I could not find any rationale for doing this in the middle of the semester without consultation with faculty."
In other news:
- On Thursday, the Truman School of Public Affairs will become its own college and will award tenure and grants, as well as have its own dean. The goal is to use its new status to increase its scope and effects in both the campus and national community, according to a letter from the provost.