The College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.

The College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.

Martin Holst Friborg Pedersen/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Budget crunch could dissolve Berkeley’s College of Chemistry

The University of California (UC), Berkeley, is considering disbanding the university’s College of Chemistry to help cope with a cash crunch at one of the country’s most prominent public universities. According to an article in today’s Daily Californian, the university’s flagship campus is $150 million in debt, and faced with flat income from tuition and rising costs. Though no decisions have been made, closing the College of Chemistry and absorbing its departments into other university colleges is just one of the many plans being considered to save money.

The College of Chemistry dates back to 1872. Today, it’s home to 101 faculty, as well as 1492 students and postdocs.  Its chemistry and chemical & biomolecular engineering departments are regularly listed among the top worldwide. Thirteen of the college’s faculty and alumni have won Nobel Prizes. And since 1940, College of Chemistry scientists either led or participated in the discovery of more than a dozen humanmade elements, including berkelium, californium, and seaborgium.

Supporters of the college have started a petition asking Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to scrap the idea of disbanding the school. As of this morning, more than 2250 people have signed the petition. Among the signees is Carolyn Bertozzi, a former Berkeley chemistry professor, who recently moved to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and posted a comment on the petition’s webpage quipping that the only beneficiaries of the move would be competing institutions.

“UC [Berkeley] College of Chemistry has impacted the chemical sciences, indeed the world, more than any counterpart at any other institution. Dismantling this paragon of excellence is only a good idea if you are at Stanford!” Bertozzi wrote.

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