Portland State University last week gave some of its students surprising, if perhaps welcome, news: No school this summer.

In the middle of exam week, mere weeks before summer courses were set to commence, the university sent out e-mails to students enrolled in a number of classes, saying they'd been cancelled due to "budget constraints beyond our control."

But people affected by the cancelations are wondering how that pencils out.

"All these courses were beyond capacity," said Greg Twiss, a pre-med student who'd counted on taking an Introduction to Genetics course this summer. "There were already three people on the wait list for it. What's the budget cut logic there?"

According to an email he received June 10 from the PSU biology department, Twiss' best bet to take the course is now to enroll this fall.

"Due to budgetary constraints beyond our control all sections of this course, as well as the associated recitations, are being cancelled for summer 2013," the e-mail says. "We apologize for the inconvenience this will undoubtedly cause, and recognize that this is a truly unfortunate situation for all. BI 341 Genetics will be offered during Fall term 2013."

That's a message Twiss was surprised to receive weeks before the class was set to begin.

"They opened registration for these course months ago," he said. "If they were gonna make a policy decision to make these changes, it would have between great to know sooner."

The cancellations apparently go well beyond Twiss' genetics course, but university staff has been unresponsive to my calls so far today.

PSU Adjunct Professor Carey Booth, who's sounding the alarm on the cancellations, says they appear to be aimed at saving money on outside staff—Booth is a lab instructor at Reed College, and only teaches at PSU during the summer.

"They won't explain to me or (Biology Department Chairman Jason Podrabsky): What is their logic?" Booth says. "How do they pencil this out?"

According to her own calculations, which Booth concedes are simplistic, the university stands to make something like $40,000 from her classes alone this summer. Here's her logic.


More on this when (if) the university decides to call me back.

UPDATE, 3:06 pm: Documents available to PSU students indicate the university is also slashing more than half of its summer economics offerings. According to this list [PDF], PSU had 17 summer courses in economics listed as of Monday.

Today, according to a screenshot Twiss sent, that list has been pared down to eight.