Agenda Item FA 08-24

Submitted by the Executive Committee

Proposal for Autonomy for the Chemistry and Physics Programs

06/05/08: Passed

06/27/08: Approved

Proposal for Autonomy for the Chemistry and Physics Programs

The faculty of the Department of Chemistry and Physics request autonomy for their respective disciplines through the creation of separate departments for the chemistry and physics programs. This request has been expressed by a vote of the faculty, 20 in favor and none opposed.  Through this vote, all of the tenured and tenure-earning faculty in chemistry and physics have indicated their support for creating separate departments.


Benefits :
Chemistry and Physics is one of the largest and most complex departments in the College of Arts and Sciences with 30 faculty positions, 3 administrative and professional positions, and 2 full-time and 1 half-time support staff positions.  Issues that must be dealt with by the chair and faculty scale with the number of personnel and the number and size of the classes taught in the department.  We offer a variety of lecture and laboratory courses in chemistry, physics, astronomy, and earth science that require a broader range of expertise than is typically found in individual departments of chemistry or physics.  The chemistry and physics disciplines are professionally and culturally distinct and are at quite different stages of evolution.  Physics has two or more faculty each in assistant, associate, and full professor ranks, whereas recent retirements left chemistry with no full professors and three of eight tenure-track faculty lines to be filled.  It is particularly important to have well-informed leadership for the chemistry program in this period of transformation during which new faculty will be hired, new agendas of research will be established and the future direction of the chemistry program will be determined. 

Separating these programs will create two departments that are more manageable both in size and in disciplinary scope.  It will enable the faculty in each department to focus on improving their respective programs with the support and leadership of a chair who has expertise in the same discipline.  This provides significant advantages in recruiting new faculty, attracting talented students to our undergraduate programs, securing external grants to fund research, and establishing collaborations for research with faculty at other institutions.  Having a senior chemist to chair chemistry will help to ensure that our B.S. program continues to be certified by the American Chemical Society. 


An external search in 2008-09 will be conducted for a senior chemist to chair the Department of Chemistry.  Some of the salary savings created by the retirement of four full professors in chemistry and physics will be used to fund this position.  The departments will initially share some resources in personnel and space.  Our half-time secretary position should be upgraded to a full-time senior secretary to provide one for each department.  Eventually, we will need to hire a laboratory manager for one of the departments in order to separate the operations of our laboratories in chemistry and physics.  The two departments will initially share the reception area that is currently used by the combined programs.  Furniture will be acquired to convert our conference room to an office for the chair of one of the disciplines.  The shared conference room will be relocated.  A new office suite for one of the departments can be planned in the future.