The University of Alaska Anchorage offers a major in chemistry with two concentrations: biochemistry and chemistry. At present, a total of 80 students have declared chemistry as their major. Of these 80 students, 70 have declared a concentration in biochemistry, and only five have declared a concentration in a general studies track of chemistry called “chemistry.” In response to low enrollment, the College of Arts and Sciences has decided to suspend the chemistry concentration.
The university does not currently offer all the courses needed for students with a declared concentration in chemistry to graduate. UAA cannot add the needed courses because there are not enough students who require them. As a result, biochemistry will become the only available concentration for students pursuing a bachelor’s of science with a major in chemistry.
The change was announced via email, but some students mistakenly interpreted the statements about suspending the specific chemistry concentration to mean a greater breadth of the chemistry program was being suspended.
Students became vocal about the change. Some posted their views about the issue on Facebook, and a group of students voiced discontent about the perceived affair at the Dean of Students’ Office.
“I understand why people were so upset, because it (the email statement about the change) was misstated,” said Patricia Linton, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s too bad that this track is called ‘chemistry’ with no adjective. It would be better if it was ‘general chemistry,’ which is what I think it’s called at UAF. But it would be a better descriptor to say that the ‘general chemistry’ track is suspended.”
John Stalvey, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, clarified reasons why the university would not suspend the chemistry department as a whole.
“We have plenty of non-majors who need chemistry, so we have many students across the university interested in chemistry,” Stalvey said. “That would be another reason not to do away with chemistry.”
The College of Arts and Sciences at UAA will be partnering with the University of Alaska Fairbanks to offer current students with a concentration in general chemistry some of the upper-division courses needed in order for them to graduate.
“If we suddenly had tons of students interested in general chemistry, we would reopen it. There just does not seem to be that many out there,” Linton said.