The Cavalier Daily – :: Systems Engineering students speak out against proposed merger with Civil Engineering department


Impacts on teaching quality among concerns cited by students in discussion with Systems department chair

The Systems and Informations Engineering department held a discussion in Olsson Hall Wednesday afternoon to gauge undergraduate student opinion of a potential merger with the Civil and Environmental Engineering department. The room was filled, with roughly 75 students in attendance, and most students who spoke out during the meeting were against the merger.

The discussion was led by Systems Prof. and Department Chair Barry Horowitz and Assoc. Systems Prof. Peter Beling, and was conducted in a question-and-answer format.

Beling opened the discussion by explaining the reasons for the proposed merger, which included a desire to see the Engineering School rise in national rankings as well as to create an increased emphasis on research at the University.

“It’s really a concept that’s been driven by a desire to improve the school, improve the rankings of the programs in the school and the departments in the school,” Beling said. “It’s primarily driven by the opportunity to see an improvement in the research standing of the School of Engineering as a whole and of the individual departments in the school.”

Beling said Systems and Civil Engineering are moving in the same direction.

“When we thought about who was moving in the same direction within the School of Engineering, we came to the conclusion … that the closest department to us in terms of this same kind of vision is CEE,” Beling said. “CEE shares a couple of things in common with us in sort of an abstract level. One is the trends are all the same for them. What’s happening in the world of civil engineering, environmental engineering is all moving in the systems direction.”

After laying out his reasons for the merge, Beling then opened the floor up to questions and comments. Student opinion was overwhelmingly opposed to the merge.

Several students voiced concerns about the quality of teaching decreasing if the new department places an increased emphasis on research.

“The overall worry is not the process, but it’s more of we value our undergraduate education,” fourth-year Systems Engineering student Jeannie Blackwood said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “And we know that when you bring in the best researchers, you’re not bringing in the best professors. Our favorite professors are teaching professors.”

Beling said the merge would not change the academic experience of current Systems students, and that he could not see the academic experience of students being negatively affected.

“We have no plans, none at all, to change the degree program,” Beling said. “If we can get more…

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