Mineral economics cut questioned


I would like to address some substantive misperceptions contained in your Jan. 20 article concerning the elimination of the mineral economics program. The Office of Arid Lands Studies proposal came originally from its director and was developed with our, faculty, cooperation. It was not simply a transfer of an existing program. Dean Smerdon and Provost Sypherd vetoed this offer. A proposal to split the three faculty among three departments made at about the same time originally failed when Provost Sypherd claimed, in a taped meeting (September 1993), that he had seen a memo signed by the three accepting deans and department heads rescinding their offer. On that basis, with no place to go, Provost Sypherd recommended, and President Pacheco endorsed, a co-termination proposal for the program and its tenured faculty. The termination to be without even a terminal year; less than that now proposed for nontenured physical education adjunct faculty. There was no phaseout provision for students.

Upon checking with the deans and the department heads, none had seen or signed a recision memo. There was no document. Under Arizona Board of Regents rules, a wrongful discharge could have resulted. Making a virtue of a necessity the administration revived the faculty split up, canceling the termination threat only when this proposal was approved. Delays occurred as we sought an adequate phaseout for the graduate students within mining and geological engineering. Dean Smerdon sought to have them transferred with us, to their cost.

At the Jan. 17 meeting, Provost Sypherd repudiated his September 1993 statement. Now, a year and a half later, he remembers that one of the deans, not one to whom I would have been responsible, told him that he changed his mind. There is still no documentation. Despite this long-term memory, the current tapes show that Provost Sypherd was unable to remember the principal thrust of the OALS proposal.

If Arizona Board of Regents rules do not apply to eliminations of less than departmental size, no such separable subunits are safe nor is the tenure of any faculty associated with them, even though their tenure is formally in a department.

The terms used in the warning letter came from a generic 1991 budgetary and reorganization analysis of the UA. No internal or external faculty review applied it to our program. Its use far exceeded that needed to warn prospective students that the program was under study.

Award of tuition and fee waivers was based on student GREs and GPAs. For the year in question, students in the mineral economics section of mining and geological engineering were sent to the back of the bus; Dr. Steinberg wanted them considered only after his proposed students and their alternates had been served. The Graduate College understood this and made special provision for our students that year and the next. Other student concerns can best be explained by the presidents of the Mineral Economics Students Society.

Michael Rieber


Economics/Mining and

Geological Engineering

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