Committee drops bomb

By Adam Hartmann

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The UA's Nuclear Engineering department may be blasted right out of the university, according to a report issued recently by a campus-wide advisory committee.

William Farr, acting head of the Nuclear Engineering department, said he received a fax from the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee last Wednesday recommending the department's elimination.

The fax came the day before Farr was scheduled to meet with the committee regarding the fate of his department.

"I think it was very poorly done," Farr said.

But Michael Cusanovich, research vice president, said the committee only made a preliminary recommendation to Provost Paul Sypherd.

"We simply flagged areas of concern for the provost's consideration," Cusanovich said.

He said student hours per faculty member, balance between undergraduate and graduate programs and relevant research dollars were among the criteria the committee has used to identify questionable programs.

The committee recommended previously that the Journalism program and the Near Eastern Studies and Communication graduate programs be phased out gradually over the next three years.

"The whole thing is being overblown," Cusanovich said of the committee's recommendations. "This is not an adversarial situation. It only begins the process, it does not guarantee the outcome."

Farr said he received a two-sentence fax from the committee which stated that "this is a small department and there is no market demand for its graduates."

Farr disagreed, saying that the department has tracked 98 of its graduates, 90 of which are either employed or in graduate school.

"We're not aware that just size was a criteria for elimination," Farr said. "I'll stack our employment record up against anyone in the College of Engineering or in the university."

He also said the committee had not scheduled any meetings with him or his department to discuss the matter.

"Not that I've been invited to," Farr said.

Cusanovich said the committee would meet with him and other members of the department in the future.

John Williams, a nuclear engineering professor, said he was summoned to the meeting without being told what it concerned. He said he thought the university came to a decision without consulting his department and was now trying to avoid the issue.

"We're antagonized by it," Williams said of the recommendation. "I think it would make sense if that unit were not effective and productive in research."

He estimated each of the five tenured faculty members in the department brings in $80,000 in outside research money, a total he said has tripled over the last few years.

The department also has a nuclear reactor and there would be no means to dispose of the radioactive material if the program is shut down, he said.

"I believe the university does have a responsibility in that regard," Williams said. "The problem would not just go away when the university decided it didn't need (the reactor) anymore."

Larry Schooley, an electrical and computer engineering associate professor and the chairman of an internal advisory committee within the Engineering department, said a merger is one possibility being considered by his committee.

Schooley said the talks are in the early stages and the committee will issue a recommendation about the future of the Nuclear Engineering department in about a month.

He said one possibility is to merge the department with either the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering or Chemical Engineering departments _ an idea Williams said is unpopular within those departments.

Farr agreed that those departments were against a possible merger, because one was attempted several years ago and was handled poorly.

But Schooley disagreed with the notion that those departments were opposed to a merger.

"We've heard testimony from all the departments involved," he said. "There are certain conditions that have to be fulfilled."

Williams said students will still be allowed to enroll in the Nuclear Engineering program and those already in the program will be allowed to graduate. Read Next Article