Friday, December 26, 2014

UAlaska-Anchorage: "We have been unable to fill an organic chemistry faculty position that has been open for several years."

From the Alaska Dispatch, news that the University of Alaska - Anchorage "can't find" an organic chemist to fill its empty faculty position: 
Trouble finding faculty members and a growing hole in the state budget have forced the University of Alaska Anchorage to suspend its degree programs for chemistry majors.
UAA said the decision would not affect current chemistry students, but the school will not be accepting new chemistry majors until the program can be restarted. 
John Stalvey, dean of UAA's College of Arts and Sciences, said there are 95 chemistry majors enrolled at UAA. Ten of those are co-enrolled at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which will retain its chemistry degree program.  
The program's suspension came as a surprise to students and professors, Stalvey said, but the program could not be sustained. 
"It's one of those things that has happened over a period of years," Stalvey said. "We have been unable to fill an organic chemistry faculty position that has been open for several years, with several failed searches. One of our young professors will leave this year. Unfortunately his family didn’t love Alaska as much as we love Alaska, and we have another retirement coming up in May." 
The university is in the process of finalizing its Program Prioritization Report, which is due for release in a few months. That report will help UAA officials decide which programs to enhance and which to potentially cut, as the state -- the main source of the university's funding -- faces an estimated $3.5 billion per year shortfall over the next two years....
I'm not an academic, but it seems to me that the hiring and retaining of young faculty is one of the most prominent responsibilities of department chairs and university administrators. Instead, we have a dean throwing a (soon-to-be)-former employee's family under the bus. Well done, Dean Stalvey!

Pardon my language, but there's no f---in' shortage of people who want to be academic organic chemists. You could hire this position on at $39,000 and there'd be takers. If you can't fill this position, it's on YOU. 

13 comments:

  1. Im sure an inconsequnetial deduction of Stravleys salary as an administrator would be enough to support a full time position for an assitant professor of organic chemistry *sigh*

    However, if overpaid administratiors/deadwood faculty are causing the close of Science programs such that supply of scientists will dry up a little, it may be for the best. *sigh*

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  2. There is no shortage of departments / universities that make things miserable for their junior faculty... and then blame it on the junior faculty member's family if they leave. I'm at one of those universities right now. The slow exodus of young faculty members and inability to hire junior faculty makes it a really unpleasant place to work.

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  3. I know I only have a handful of publications and none in the glamour journals, but I submitted for this position years ago. Never hear a word a word from them. Ever. Granted, at this point my wife has a very lucrative job and we would not leave, but a few years ago when we were almost starving because none of us had a job I would have ran to Alaska in a second. I may not have pulled in a large RO1 grant in my first seven years there, but I'm a great teacher and their students would have left knowing their Organic Chemistry. Every department wants Corey to walk in the front door begging for a position that they forget their first goal. Keep the department running with people qualified to train their students.

    Oh well, things worked out for us and probably better than they would have there. The funny thing is we're the type that would have loved Anchorage and stayed.

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  4. That comment in the article about start-up budgets being a part problem is ridiculous. Just make it clear what the limits are in the ad. Make sure the tenure guidelines are reasonable for a smaller budget. Shift the focus to teaching or get people who can do research without a lot of money (there are chemists out there who can! Just look at everyone who does research at PUIs!).

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  5. I am waiting for some idiot to write an article using this as an example of the need for more "highly skilled immigration" because employers can't find people with the right skills. What a joke. I feel very confident in saying there are more than enough qualified job seekers for that position.

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  6. Out of the 12908908409812 postdocs applying for 3 academic positions each year, they couldn't find someone suitable???

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  7. anon electrochemistDecember 28, 2014 at 6:18 AM

    Places like University of Manitoba have had problems with this. Once the wife decides it's time to leave, there's not much a dept head can do to keep them.
    This is obviously a case of mismanagement though.

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    1. FYI Had the same experience as Anonymous December 26, 2014 at 1:24 PM with UManitoba. The application/selection process was a joke, with one of the "internal" candidates given the job at the end. There is no shortage of good candidates for academic positions at the moment, but some departments just refuse to hire "suitable candidates". One often wonders why.... Cannot speak for Alaska, but Manitoba is certainly among them.

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  8. Surprised to see that cj's position on this isn't more equivocal. Sure, UAA should have been able to fill that post. On the other hand, it sounds like 95 fewer B.S. chemists will fight for their lives in an unforgiving job market. Maybe the true winners here are...Alaskans?

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    1. That's actually an interesting point, anon. I hadn't thought of it that way -- dunno if I agree or not.

      (I figure the job market for chemists in Alaska is all right, but I dunno.)

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  9. Funny thing is a 'chemist' in Alaska probably is a water quality tech at a mine or oil patch.... Employers likely will do on the job training. I know someone in another rural state who only has a HS degree but was trained as the 'chemist' for a oil patch. With a MS in chemistry (top tier university) and multiple years experience at well respected industrial companies I could not get an interview for a similar position at another company in the area.

    If Alaskans want to be a 'chemist' they should take HS chemistry. It is likely more than enough.

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  10. Here are some facts about the Chemistry program at the University of Alaska: UAA stopped handing out chemistry degrees a while ago, and stopped doing real chemistry research even longer back. They never even had a FT-NMR. The people who used to teach organic chemistry at UAA were not even organic chemists. Instead, they were "environmental chemists" and "biochemists". They are now at UAF. In the entire state of Alaska, there is a single organic chemistry professor who is actually an organic chemist, and will be retiring in 2-3 years (at UAF). If you're an undergrad, and love orgo, then your only option is to leave the state for your college/university education.

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  11. @December 28, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    I work as a lab tech for an Oil/Gas company and have a Chemistry Degree. Employers prefer not to do on the job training, but are willing to if they need someone fast or a recruiter can't find someone after several months. Generally these types of jobs go to a managers friends because they are safe and high paying. Chemistry knowledge won't really help you because companies are secretive of what the chemicals actually are. When they're hiring they mainly want someone who understands that testing one thing will give different results from testing another thing, so the company doesn't lose millions of dollars.

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