Future of Mackay School of Mines draws more interest

RENO -- The University of Nevada, Reno faculty senate meets this week to consider a recommendation to split up the College of Arts and Science and to put the Mackay School of Mines in the new College of Science.

It's a debate that has prompted a protest and led to the firing of the mining school's dean after she sent a memorandum to faculty, administrators and people outside the university voicing her opposition to the plan.

Last year, Robert Mead resigned as dean of the College of Arts because he opposed the reorganization. A poll of the faculty last fall showed about 75 percent were against the plan.

However Robert Sheridan, chair of the chemistry department in the College of Arts and Science, told a Reno newspaper he favors dividing the school and having his department become part of a College of Science.

"Combining the science and math departments from the College of Arts and Science with Mackay will bring together common missions and values, modes of operation and student and research concerns," he said.

A recent survey of Mackay faculty found more than 80 percent didn't want to come under a College of Science, the Gazette-Journal reported on Monday.

On Feb. 14, the day Jane Long was fired as Mackay's dean, a faculty senate ad hoc committee released a report that recommends the faculty senate not endorse the plan as it is proposed.

The faculty senate meets Thursday to vote on that recommendation. Its decision will be forwarded to university President John Lilley for his consideration.

Those who oppose the plan to restructure Mackay say it will weaken the school's programs, hurt its reputation and risk the loss of funding it now gets from the mining industry.

However Rich Perry, managing director of North American operations for Newmont Mining Corp. doubts that will happen as long as UNR continues its commitment to mining education.

"Although Newmont would rather see the school of mines as it is now, we realize the university has financial issues," he said. "Our second choice is to keep Mackay intact as what we have proposed as the Mackay School of Earth Science and Engineering."

Perry, who also is a member of the Mackay advisory board, said there are only six schools in the United States that focus on earth science and engineering. Of those, he said Mackay probably ranks third or fourth.

Mackay has an annual budget of about $12 million, Perry said, with more than half of its operating costs coming from external sources rather than state taxpayers.

The mining school receives about $7 million in government and industry research grants plus money from the $12 million in its endowment fund, he said.


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