On Monday, Feb. 8, MU announced that the College of Human Environmental Sciences was being dismantled. HES would cease to exist as a college at MU, and its five departments would be farmed out to other existing schools and colleges within the university.
“All of the programs in the college will continue, and students shouldn’t have any concerns,” and “the consolidations will help combine research, learning and teaching” were statements that were included in the news release.
What really happened is a 121-year-old college at MU was unceremoniously dumped and split up like a piece of meat. HES is ranked No. 3 in the nation for colleges of its kind and No. 1 among all AAU universities. It boasts nationally and internationally recognized educational units, and it also has a distinguished and accomplished faculty. HES has doubled its research expenditures, proposals and awards over the last six years. It ranked No. 1 in 2019 in ROI for campus dollars invested in the college. Performance, successful interdisciplinary interaction with other campus entities, extension and outreach impact and student satisfaction apparently were not considered in the decision to tear apart HES.
As one of 19,000 HES alumni, to say I am disappointed with this decision is a huge understatement. Our alumni willingly and generously donate their time, talent and treasure to HES. We recognize the contributions were not only directed toward MU but to the larger Columbia community that HES has created over the years. To have our college destroyed with minimal notification and little-to-no stakeholder engagement is insulting.
The decision to dismantle the College of Human Environmental Sciences is disheartening. Once the college is broken into pieces, there is no way to put it back together. I understand it is important to plan for the future of MU. I just do not think it should be at the expense of a successful, celebrated and contributing college like HES.
Tootie Burns of Columbia is a 1988 HES graduate. She is a past president of the College of Human Environmental Sciences Alumni Board and vice chair of the College of Human Environmental Sciences Deans Strategic Leadership Council. She also is a lifetime member of the MU Alumni Association.