Physics, entomology spared

Audit committee says the two programs should be maintained.
Sunday, January 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:24 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MU’s undergraduate physics program and its entomology department are off the hook. A campus program viability audit committee decided they are strong and should be maintained, MU officials said Friday.

The two departments were among were among the six programs and two departments selected for review by a UM system task force.

As a result of a review, a program could be left alone, enhanced, eliminated, consolidated or reduced. Systemwide, 48 programs were singled out for review.

Targeted for review were those that generate a low number of credit hours, have high instructional costs or graduated fewer than 10 students last academic year. Still to be reviewed are master’s and doctoral degrees in art history and archaeology, the doctoral degree in theater, master’s and doctoral degrees in exercise physiology and the department of industrial engineering.

“I was always confident that the program will be evaluated as a strong program,” said Marc Linit, who leads the department of entomology — the study of insects.

Linit said that any time a program is picked out for review, it raises some concerns. But while preparing the self-evaluation, he thought entomology would be maintained. All programs have until Thursday to submit a self-evaluation. The evaluations address costs and revenue, program quality and centrality to MU’s mission and need. The criteria are used in the review process and were developed by a subcommittee of MU’s Strategic Planning and Resource Advisory Council.

Henry White, chairman of the physics and astronomy department, said undergoing a review process was unfortunate. Students asked if they needed to finish their degree at other institutions, White said, and it set the department back in recruiting. Although programs within the department were targeted, the committee looked at the entire department.

“Is it upsetting? Yes,” White said. “Is it behind us? I think so.”

All programs and departments should be reviewed by the beginning of February, said Lori Franz, MU vice provost for undergraduate studies. The audits have to be finished in time for departments to make any necessary changes and decisions regarding their operations and student base, Franz added.

Linit said that he sees no problem with programs being reviewed as a part of a constant campuswide review process. He added that his concerns lie with the negative publicity a program might get by being singled out.

“Our biggest concern was not the review process,” Linit said. “What we were concerned about was the negative message sent to potential students and to our peer departments around the country.”

The department of entomology is the only one available in the state. The committee asked the department to explore the possibility of combining its operations with another department. Linit said that independent of the review process, entomology faculty are looking for ways to modify the department’s graduate programs.

White said that when identifying programs, the system should look at how important the program is to the university’s mission and should check with the department to see if the data gathered is correct.

The department of physics was asked to look for more cost-efficient ways of maintaining its quality. However, the committee said it was impressed by the material submitted on student engagement. Two thirds of MU’s physics graduates go on to get a doctorate, White said. More than half are double majors in math and physics.

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