Chemistry department under attack

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by cal6n, Mar 20, 2006.

  1. cal6n macrumors 68000


    Jul 25, 2004
    Gloucester, UK
    Hi to everyone on the forum.

    I hope that it's not considered inappropriate to post this here but, as you may, or may not, know there is a proposal to effectively close the Chemistry department at Sussex University (UK).

    This is the department where Harry Kroto, in colaboration with Rick Smalley and Bob Curl of Rice, first isolated buckyballs.

    It's unacceptable for the following reasons:

    1. The Chemistry Department is in financial surplus
    2. We are one of the Highest rated departments at the University of Sussex (2 in the Guardian and 6 in the Times)
    3. We have two active Nobel Prize winners and grade 5 in the latest RAE (Research Assessment Exercise)
    4. There has been a 40% increase in UCAS applications this year against national increase of 5.8%
    5. Sustained increase in quality of undergraduate admissions
    6. Vibrant department with a healthy age profile and excellent staff student relations
    7. Chemistry generates over half the University IP income (patent) of the whole university
    8. Chemistry faculty generates more that 1 million per year in third stream income for the university

    The reasons for this proposal have nothing to do with the department, but are the province of the University administration:

    1. Chronic mismanagement by senior officers (£6 million overspent)
    2. Decisions made with little or no objective academic input
    3. Decision to "refocus" chemistry into chemical biology is fundamentally flawed and will not succeed in the absence of a viable chemistry department
    4. No market-testing of chemical biology
    5. Missed business opportunities due to Management
    6. Sustained diversion of chemistry RAE income into less highly rated departments
    7. Malign neglect
    8. Failure to retain to key, highly distinguished staff
    9. Chronic failure of the senior management to respond to the concerns of chemistry faculty
    10. The Dean of Life Sciences has admitted that the reorganised schools has been a disaster

    At a meeting on Friday, Senate effectively asked the VC, Mr Smith to come up with an alternative proposal in 6-7 weeks time. However, the struggle is obviously far from over. The Council meets on Friday and Court is directly afterwards. As I understand it, where Senate looked at the academic implications, Council and Court will consider financial matters. In addition parliament has now become involved.

    The Guardian asked for 800 words from me. This is what they published on Friday:,,1733418,00.html

    Please, if you care about science in education in any country, can you take the time to write an email expressing your concerns to Alasdair Smith, with a copy to me at

    Finally, there are 2 online petitions here:

    and here:

    They both need signing!

    Phew! If you've made it this far, thanks.
  2. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    damn, one of my friends applyed to do biochemistary at sussex....

    ah my fond memorys of chemistary, stealing potassium nitrate and sodium chlorate when the teacher wasent looking....
  3. UKnjb macrumors 6502a


    May 23, 2005
    London, UK
    That is truly AWFUL. What on earth is going on in this effingly maladministered, morally bankrupt and corrupt country of ours? This is the first I've heard of what is going on there and am about to look at all your links. FWIW, I shall be signing the on-line petition, shall e-mail the VC (with a cc to you) and express these concerns as strongly as possible. As soon as I've ht the Submit Reply button here.

    Just what is the point?

    So many very best wishes
  4. zami macrumors regular

    Dec 19, 2003
    South London
  5. Counterfit macrumors G3


    Aug 20, 2003
    sitting on your shoulder
    And this is what happens when you run a school as if it were a business. ****ing administrators.
  6. After G macrumors 68000

    After G

    Aug 27, 2003
    It is sad when schools have to be run as businesses just to keep operating.
    Schools do this kind of crap to attract business investment, because the state won't pay for enough of it.
    In California, this is in addition to cutting student services, hiring cheap workers, and raising fees by 4%.
  7. zami macrumors regular

    Dec 19, 2003
    South London
    In California the fee increase is 4%? At Sussex and other UK universities it is going to be 200% in the autumn.

    You have problems with the neo-cons? Here in the UK we have a minister for Education who is an active member of Opus Dei and also looks scary as f*ck.
  8. hoyboy9 macrumors member

    Oct 1, 2004
    I'm a senior at Rice University, and we are pretty well indoctrinated with the Curl/Smalley/Kroto buckyball legacy. It's extremely surprising to me to see that Sussex's chemistry department is on the chopping block.

    I add my outrage to yours.

    I have some comments on some of the other posts:

    This comment doesn't make sense to me. All universities, both private and public, must be run as businesses, because they are. Why do you think state universities are so adamant about having strong athletics departments? These are often sources of millions of dollars of revenue outside tax revenue which goes into the general fund. If you had read cal6n's comments, it is clear that the administrators are NOT running Sussex like a business. If they were, they would realize the profitability of the chemistry department and would never consider getting rid of it. The administrators are incompetent, plain and simple.

    No matter how much I may disagree with a professor's point of view, the university setting is the one place where all ideas MUST be protected. Even racist ones. The minute society starts dictating what ideas we can and cannot entertain is the minute we lose our freedom to think. There is no such thing as freedom from offensive speech and ideas, no matter how much the ultra-PC crowd wishes it were not so.
  9. zami macrumors regular

    Dec 19, 2003
    South London
    "Professor Geoffrey Sampson, who published the article There's nothing wrong with racism, was, earlier this week, forced to resign his seat on Wealden district council in East Sussex, where he had been a Conservative member.

    In his article, the natural science processing professor described multiculturalism as "wicked madness", said racism was "natural" and claimed black people were "less bright" than whites.

    He concluded his essay by saying: "If I am told I am a racist, I don't splutter indignant denials... I just say 'racialist, actually'.""

    Well if you believe that finding the above unacceptable is as you say "Ultra PC" you would have been better off in the days of segregation.
  10. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Let me tell you a story about my university.

    In Science, there are 3 departments: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. There are other branches like biochemistry, Geology, Pathology, etc x 1000, but these are the 3 core areas (and Computer Science isn't a "science", so lets not go there ;)). It's the same all over the world.

    Anyway, the science department at my uni was either running low on money, or Physics was losing too much money and was mismanaged. Either way, the Faculty of Science decides to drop Physics completely. Yes......they wanted to drop 1 of the 3 basic, core science fields and tell their students that it wasn't essential anyway, as if it isn't essential for science students (and what about those engineers?) from all departments to be more well-rounded or something.

    What happened next? The Faculty of Engineering thought it was absolutely crazy and decides to "adopt" a program......PHYSICS! Gasp! Oh man, now I study Physics at this Uni and need to tell people that I'm actually in the Faculty of Engineering studying sciences.

    Funny thing is that "Engineering Physics" now makes money and generates a lot of important research and gets a tonne of grants and such. :)

    A University is a business.
  11. hoyboy9 macrumors member

    Oct 1, 2004
    And like I said before, it is sad that a university is afraid of dealing with controversial issues. Instead of attacking the ideas, they attack the messenger. This is the primary fault of the "Ultra PC" crowd, as I say. And I find that unacceptable.

    I bet Sussex never found what the basis of his beliefs are, and why he thinks the way he does before they forced him to leave. There is something to be learned here, and we just forfeited that opportunity.

    Especially on the subject of race, it is my belief that people are so caught up in race and paralyzed by it that critical questions cannot be asked.

    To prove my point, let us examine a racially-charged subject:

    Black students, on average, underperform whites in academic settings.

    Now, there are a number of POSSIBLE reasons that this may be true, and here are a few.

    1. Black students are concentrated in school districts with less money.
    2. Black students don't have access to good counciling.
    3. Teachers in schools with many black students are not as good as those in predominantly white schools.
    4. Black students are less bright than white students, on average.

    Now, any rational thinker must examine each of these points and weigh the evidence. Is it your position that there is absolutely no evidence that point 4 is true, and there never will be? What if said professor has seen research that proves the point? If research that did prove point 4 comes to light, would you believe it? Conversely, if we do not examine the question, we also can never determine if it is NOT true.

    Unfortunately, we never have the chance to examine point 4, because it is automatically written off as an impossible explanation, and anybody that thinks that way is racist. End of story, no more critical thought needed.

    Now imagine when a more important issue is at stake, such as allowing women to vote. If you lived in the 1800's, then your "radical and unacceptable idea" was not only ignored, but could have discluded you from society in tangible ways. According to your reasoning, the fact that women voting was "unacceptable" in the 1800's would have precluded any rational thought on the issue. Indeed, it took millions of pissed off (and rightfully so) women in the 20's to finally get people to think critically about the issue.

    I find that sad. It shouldn't take millions of protesting women to get people to think critically about allowing women to vote.

    Issues will never get resolved if people do not entertain a critical discussion of IDEAS, even unpopular ones. If I had to choose between a society that automatically demonized the unpopular ideas (and their messangers) and one that entertained and discussed them, I choose the latter.

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