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Feb. 21, 2013 Volume 34, No. 20

MU scientists and administrators discuss last year’s nuclear institute closing with council members


Faculty contend they were not notified of closing

During a sometimes fiery meeting, MU nuclear science professors, Faculty Council members and administrators voiced their views Feb. 14 on the closing of the Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute (NSEI) one year ago. 

Chancellor Brady J. Deaton had already agreed to Faculty Council’s recent request to open NSEI admissions and maintain its current curriculum. But participants still wanted to know why NSEI admissions closed in the first place, and what the future plans are for the nuclear engineering program.

The idea for restructuring NSEI began in 2010 when an external review by a prominent firm suggested the need, Foster said. Over the next couple of years, numerous meetings were held and invitations were offered to NSEI faculty to participate in discussions. 

On March 15, 2012, George Justice, dean of the Graduate School, where NSEI is housed, and Foster announced the institute’s closing — with the proviso that NSEI would remain intact until currently enrolled students graduated. 

Restructuring NSEI entails placing it in MU’s nuclear engineering degree graduate programs within the College of Engineering’s Nuclear Engineering Program. This will include the emphasis area of power engineering. Jim Thompson, dean of the engineering college, told council that student applications were being accepted into the program.

Foster said the reorganization was to develop a “broader nuclear program. We are talking about how we can expand our impact in nuclear engineering,” he said.

But some council members complained that, in their view, there was no shared governance involving the NSEI closing. Sudarshan Loyalka, Curators Professor of Nuclear Engineering and one of four NSEI faculty members, said professors learned of the institute’s closure on the same day the news went public. He said the MU handbook bylaw 320.150 — which states that administrators will discuss program dissolutions with affected faculty — was not followed.

Justice disputed this. “We have not broken the collected rules,” he said.

Responding to a question from Craig Roberts, professor of plant sciences, on why admissions closed, Justice said it was due to the 

restructuring. “I could not bring students into a structure [that would] not benefit those students or the institution,” Justice said.

The packed meeting was sprinkled with several dramatic exchanges and speeches, including from Randy Curry, director of the Center for Physical and Power Electronics. He worried about the public’s perception of NSEI’s closure.

“This [controversy] is hurting the quality of research at MU and getting grants in Washington,” he said.