Department of Psychology terminates minor program due to financial constraints, impacting non-majors

Professor of psychology Monica Schneider teaches her PSYC 100: Introductory Psychology class (pictured above). The Department of Psychology has ended its minor program for the time being due to the major’s size and lack of faculty to fill positions. (Malachy Dempsey/News  Editor)

The Department of Psychology has decided to suspend the psychology minor program at Geneseo. Removing the opportunity to pursue this minor has caused frustration for some students, even though the minor was discontinued to alleviate overloaded psychology courses, according to Chair of the Department of Psychology and Distinguished teaching professor of Psychology Ganie DeHart.

“We just have too many students to deal with,” DeHart said. “The size of our major has doubled in the last seven years and, needless to say, the number of faculty hasn’t, so we’re just increasingly crunched. That’s the whole story.” 

The temporary discontinuation of the psychology minor is not planned to be permanent. After three years, the department will assess whether the number of majors and the burden on professors has reduced sufficiently, according to DeHart. If it has decreased enough, the department may decide to reinstate the minor, DeHart said.

Since only pscyhology majors will be allowed to register for psychology classes, these students will register for the classes they need in order to graduate more easily, according to DeHart. 

This change may help mitigate the problems for students in this major, psychology major senior Michael Xenakis said.

“Hopefully [it will help] because it’s one of the more overpopulated majors here, so trying to minimize [the amount of] students is probably best,” Xenakis said. 

While the department feels justified in its decision, some students are frustrated with the situation. Students with minors in classes closely associated with psychology have also been locked out of these classes during registration and have to rely on open registration periods. 

Biochemistry major senior Joseph Mayernik took many of the classes he needed for a psychology minor, but kept struggling to declare the minor because he could not get into the psychology research methods course. Mayernik was never able to enroll in such a class and now that the minor has been discontinued, he was forced to reroute.

“When I got the email from DeHart saying [they were] discontinuing the psych minor, I went into panic mode, like ‘oh god what am I going to do with all these credits,’” Mayernik said. “I’m a biochemistry major and I’ve taken more psychology classes than I have biology classes, so I was frantically searching through the minors like ‘what can I do with this?’ Luckily … I can take the human development minor … but I can imagine there are other people who didn’t get lucky with what I did and can’t necessarily switch all of a sudden.”

Biochemistry major junior Rachel Guinther has a cognitive science minor and, due to the crossover with psychology, she struggles to register for psychology classes.

“With the psychology department, they consistently close classes to the majors, which makes sense given that the psychology major is huge and a lot of times there isn’t enough faculty for the students in the major,” Guinther said, “So they’ll close certain classes and I can’t sign up. That’s just been a recurring issue for a lot of the classes in the cognitive science minor.”

The college doesn’t have the budget to hire the professors needed to expand classes to accommodate all the students who want to take them, according to DeHart. 

“Ultimately, it’s all about funding, whether the legislature wants to support higher education in New York State or not. So far, they don’t seem to care,” DeHart said. “One of the things that students can do and can ask their parents to do is to contact their state legislature. New York State legislatures seem to think that there isn’t a constituency for SUNY, so they just ignore it, but the more they hear from students and their parents, the more likely they are to think this could be an important issue.”     

Interim Associate Provost for Personnel and Diversity Kenneth Kallio echoed DeHart’s sentiments about the budgetary strictures. The college tries to hire new faculty in overloaded departments when it can, but it’s very restricted when there are no budget increases, according to Kallio 

“We’ve been in a holding pattern,” Kallio said. “The state hasn’t provided any additional support for basic operations of SUNY in a number of years.”