Low funding continues to trouble College of Science

By Gus Bode

Research numbers have improved despite problems

Jack Parker, the dean of the College of Science, is satisfied with the progress the college has made over the past few years. However, he said the college could not perform the competitive research discussed in “Southern at 150″on its current track.

“It’s not as if the college has a big check from the University that we are just holding on to,” said Parker, who has been with the University since 1977 and has been dean of the college for the past 11 years. “The college gets a budget from the University. We can’t make any progress without the University.”


The goal of the college, as shown by their mission statement, is to increase its total research expenditures in order to help SIUC become one of the top-75 public research institutions by 2019.

However, this goal cannot be obtained without the faculty, Parker said.

“The college has a role in furthering scientific education throughout the University and raising awareness of science and science education throughout the region,” reads the “Southern at 150”-mission statement from the College of Science. “This is accomplished by providing resources and encouraging quality teaching among the faculty in the College.”

John Koropchak, vice chancellor for research and development and dean of graduate school, emphasized that, in order to increase faculty, the college must obtain more money for salaries. Similarly, the college must recruit qualified faculty performing research in order to increase the number of grants the college receives.

Of the $53.6 million in research expenditures the University earned in 2002, the College of Science contributed $4 million. One goal of “Southern at 150” is to increase the amount the program brings in by 11 percent.

Koropchak said for each faculty member the college brings in, they can expect $200,000 worth of grant money for research.

The College of Science has considerably less faculty and funds than peer institutions, greatly effecting its ability to reach the goals of “Southern at 150,” according to a report from the Washington Advisory Group, a science consulting firm, that examined the University’s strengths and weaknesses in the year of 2001.


“It is nearly incomprehensible that a university administration would allow such stagnation and deterioration to take place,” the report said. “Especially during a period when science and engineering research flourished, federal support was available, and the role of the university in creating national and regional wealth was recognized.”

James Tyrrell, who has been at the University since 1967, said the gradual decrease in the program has much to do with firings that took place in the 1990s. However, he admits this number is small in comparison to the number of firings in the 1970s.

“I think we obviously benefited from the University’s strategic hiring,” said Tyrrell, the assistant dean for personnel and budget. “There’s been a significant amount of faculty units, especially in chemistry, which started after we saw a significant amount of funding coming in.”

Including a recent hire, the department has 10 faculty members. At its height in the 1970s, the program had 24 members. Faculty members who were at SIUC in the 1970s said it was during that time the program peaked. Tyrrell said the firings had a devastating impact, and the program is still recovering.

The report showed the budget and faculty of the different schools in the College of Science in relation to SIUC’s peer institutions. In both faculty and funding, the report showed SIUC near the bottom of the list of 13 universities in several areas including physical, life, geological and computer sciences.

According to the report, for a University that hopes to become a major research institution, the college is lacking a great deal in areas such as the physical sciences.

In 2001, the University was second to last in terms of research expenditures in the physical sciences, and it had a staff of only nine in the area of physics.

Even with no change in the number of faculty over the past three years, the closest peer institution, West Virginia University, still employs four more faculty members than SIUC.

Despite maintaining its position at the bottom of the list, the physics department has added two faculty members since 2001. It is not the only area to see this increase. Geology and chemistry both saw increases of four faculty members.

Even the decreases the school has recently experienced haven’t been drastic.

The departments of math and computer sciences and the biological sciences, which include zoology, plant biology and microbiology, have seen decreases of one faculty member each since 2001.

Aldo Migone, chairman in the department of microbiology, said the program is planning another faculty search in January.

“We were not the priority we should have been,” Migone said. “But now the process seems to be going fairly well.”

Most of the program’s research involves the graduate students. While all of the programs in the College of Science have a master’s program, there are some that rely on other programs as an outlet for their doctoral program. The physics program has petitioned for a doctoral program, but is still waiting for the Illinois Board of Higher Education for approval.

According to the report, there was no possible way the program could maintain professors’ salaries and build a healthy graduate program with the total budget it was allotted as of 2001. This is especially true of a program responsible for a great deal of research at SIUC.

Parker said the college has had little difficulty acquiring faculty, but has had some problem acquiring the appropriate amount of money to retain senior faculty.

Koropchak said the University hoped to assist colleges in their accomplishments through programs such as strategic hiring.

Parker said he recognizes the need for improvements in these areas, and said the college has put a lot of work into finding “the kind of people WAG and ‘Southern at 150’ think we need.”

“I’ve been here for 11 years and I’ve seen the budget cut continuously. It’s just this last year that we broke even,” Parker said. “Funding is important. It’s important for the technology of future scientists, for engineering and liberal arts. More faculty will help with more breadth and more depth.”