U cuts, merges grad programs

Jerret Raffety

The University’s Graduate School on Tuesday announced a major reorganization that will close four programs, merge 16 others and leave room for more changes in the future.

According to a document from the office of Victor Bloomfield, vice provost for research and interim dean for the Graduate School, officials will also consider combining or eliminating 16 other programs.

The programs being eliminated are East Asian studies, Russian area studies, biomedical science and manufacturing systems engineering. No students are currently enrolled in any of those programs, the document stated.

The merging programs represent approximately 143 students, or 1.3 percent of Graduate School enrollees. According to the document, the remaining programs still to be considered represent approximately 170 students, or 1.6 percent of the Graduate School students.

The eliminations and mergers are part of an ongoing review of program interest, enrollment and graduation rates at the University.

Student leaders react

Two student government leaders said Sunday that the decisions were made without their consultation.

“We wanted to be collaboratively involved in a transparent, open process involving student input,” said Kristen Houlton, a Council of Graduate Students representative to the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and the Student Senate.

Several student groups, including the council and GAPSA, had written resolutions expressing interest in being a part of the process, which were ignored, Houlton said.

“It’s a bad sign about how this university is being run and shows no regard for the voice of student government,” she said.

GAPSA President Abu Jalal said the lack of consultation appeared as if University leaders had little trust for student government.

“We received this news from a newspaper and not from our own graduate schools,” he said.

Biomedical science

The biomedical science program hasn’t existed at the University the last two years, said Tucker LeBien, director of the University M.D./Ph.D. program.

“At the level of the (University’s) Medical School, the program hadn’t existed in some time, and now, the Graduate School is where we are,” LeBien said.

The biomedical science program was meant for medical students who wanted to pursue the research outside the regular programs, LeBien said.

When the M.D./Ph.D. program eliminated biomedical

science, there hadn’t been a student enrolled in it in more than five years, he said. The program had hosted two students since its inception, LeBien said.

“When this program was created 10 to 15 years ago, it was for all the right reasons, but as the institution evolved, it wasn’t necessarily needed anymore,” LeBien said.

“All of our students are being served by other degree tracks.”

East Asian studies

Christine Marran, an Asian languages and literatures professor, taught in the East Asian studies program.

She said she was unsure whether eliminating programs because of low enrollment will contribute to the University’s goal for academic excellence.

“Administrative efficiency is good, but bigger programs are not necessarily better,” Marran said.

Although the program is closing, graduate students in interdisciplinary studies might still be able to study similar academic tracks, she said.

“Many departments allow interdisciplinary work to be carried out,” Marran said. “Rigid disciplinary boundaries are breaking down, making it easier for students to transition between departments in their degrees.”