Psychology Department History

Brief History of the Psychology Department

Prior to 1959, Psychology had "program" status within the Education Division of San Francisco State College, and the faculty was housed on the third floor of the Education building. Psychology played an important role in the college breadth requirements: all students completed 9 units of psychology - a personal, social, and occupational development sequence (6 units), and a 3-unit psychology of the family course. An educational psychology course of four units paired with an educational sociology course, often jointly taught with an educational sociologist, served as a major core of the large teacher training program in existence at that time.

In 1960-61, with the mission of the college broadening beyond its original teacher preparation charter and with a new President, the college was restructured. Based on its diverse offerings and services, Psychology was assigned "division" status, with a Director as head of the Division. Further restructuring occurred in 1964-1965, when "divisions" were designated as "schools." This led to the designation of Psychology as the Department of Psychology and its assignment to the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Meanwhile, in 1965, as part of the physical expansion on campus, a separate building - the Psychology Building - was constructed with an augmentation grant from the National Science Foundation to be used for constructing research space in the new building. An additional floor, plus experimental facilities, brought the department to its full range of offerings. As many as 65 faculty positions were created to cover the range of courses, and many of the positions were filled by lecturers. Research became an important dimension, with many faculty receiving grants and contracts that enabled them to obtain released time from teaching to carry out research and scholarship activities.

Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s the department maintained its large size, serving undergraduate majors, expanding the graduate programs, and providing other departments with a variety of courses to fulfill curricular needs.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, however, enrollments in Psychology courses dropped dramatically. This was due in part to a general shift in students' choices of major toward more applied areas such as business and computer science and away from the behavioral and social sciences. Another contributing factor was the change in the state-mandated general education program that now omitted the required courses in psychology. The department's past practice to hire lecturers rather than tenure-track faculty now became its undoing. The administrative decision to avoid layoffs of permanent faculty resulted in departments with large lecture staffs absorbing more than their fair share of reductions.

By the end of the 1980s psychology courses again were in great demand. However, despite this increased demand, the late 1980s and the 1990s brought still further reductions in the faculty allocation to Psychology. During this period, retirements and other attrition eliminated any gains made from hiring new tenure-track faculty. At the time of the 1992-1993 review, the department had 31 faculty members (including 4.5 pre-retirement faculty), which totaled a position allocation of only 26.5 per semester.

Faculty attrition without replacement is occurring at a time when Psychology is one of the most popular majors on campus. This trend is a consistent one found throughout the United States at both private and public universities. The overwhelming demand has initiated some changes in the department that led to the revision of the undergraduate major and its M.S. graduate programs. In 1995, the department introduced its new undergraduate major. It was designed to eliminate bottlenecks caused by understaffing and to ensure that students graduate in a timely manner. In 1997, the Clinical and School Psychology Master of Science (M.S.) programs revised their curriculum in order to address staff shortages while still complying with the requirements of Federal and State accreditation boards. Two years later, the Industrial/Organizational Psychology M.S. program revised its curriculum to address staff shortages and changes in the discipline.

In addition to faculty resource issues, two milestones characterized the 1990s. In response to excess faculty workload, the department proposed a 9-unit teaching load that was approved by the Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Since 1996, the Psychology Department workload has consisted of a 9-unit teaching load and 3 units for professional development. Faculty development activities have increased dramatically since the implementation of the 9-unit teaching load. A review of faculty curricula vitae demonstrates this most clearly. Faculty presentations at conferences, grant awards, and publication rates have increased as a result of the change in workload. At the same time that the faculty began to make strides in its professional development activities, the CSU implemented a system of merit pay, the second milestone of the 1990s.