Update on the Threat to Philosophy at IPFW (guest post by Charlene Elsby)


In August we learned that the Philosophy Department at Indiana University – Purdue University, Fort Wayne (IPFW) was confronting the possibility of a “restructuring” that could result in its elimination, owing to the university’s financial problems and what appeared to be a stacking of the deck against units in the school’s College of Arts and Sciences in the procedure set up to address these financial problems.

At the time, IPFW assistant professor of philosophy Charlene Elsby provided some details about the goings-on there. She follows up today with an update, posted below. It appears the Chancellor intends to speed up the process and ram through the restructuring.


Update on the Threat to Philosophy at IPFW: Chancellor’s Rush to Eliminate Department Chairs Could Bypass Faculty Senate
by Charlene Elsby

 IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein ([email protected]) may attempt to bypass Faculty Senate procedures to implement ill-conceived departmental mergers.

The IPFW Philosophy Department, on which I previously reported as being “under threat”, has now been officially targeted for merger by the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, in a report distributed September 19th, 2016. At the time, the VCAA stated that he would invite feedback on his recommendations until November 15th, at which point he would develop a final plan to be distributed December 1st, and implemented for the 2017/2018 fiscal year.

According to the regulations of the Faculty Senate, any program restructuring must be preceded by the formation of three committees (a Unit Committee comprised of faculty members of affected departments, the Joint Budget and Revenue Subcommittee, and an Administrative Committee comprised of three individuals chosen by IPFW’s chief academic officer). After the committees report their recommendations to the Faculty Senate, the faculty is supposed to be provided with ample time for remonstrance. (These policies may be found within IPFW Senate Document SD 15-16.)

According to a recent communication, however, Chancellor Vicky Carwein intends to implement the department mergers by January 1, 2017. In an email dated September 27th, Carl Drummond writes: “This morning the Chancellor informed me that she wants the administrative reorganizations that will result from USAP 2.3 to become effective January 1.  That is, chair positions eliminated, clerical staffing reduced, etc. I will share this information formally on Monday at the special senate meeting.” (The senate meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 3rd.)

The deadline precludes any possibility of following Faculty Senate procedure for program restructuring, but, as has been pointed out to me, the Chancellor is not even required to follow these procedures, which are specifically for the restructuring of academic programs. The elimination of departments is not covered. Since students would still be able to register for a major in Philosophy or Women’s Studies (through some other department), the Faculty Senate procedures may not apply. Still, the recent implementation date of January 1, 2017 flies in the face of the Chancellor’s commitment, made July 6th, 2016 and communicated by email that, “Implementation of any restructuring plan will be a multi-step, multi-year process. Let me restate that no tenured or tenure track faculty will be eliminated. In addition, all relevant and applicable IPFW senate and university policies and procedures will be followed.”

Some background:

The recommendation for departmental mergers comes as the next step in USAP, the University Strategic Alignment Process. In May, the Year Two USAP Report recommended the “restructuring” of academic departments, most of which are within the College of Arts and Sciences. According to the Vice Chancellor’s most recent recommendations, only two departments are set to “merge”: Philosophy and Women’s Studies. They would both have to find new administrative homes in other departments. The recommendation to merge the Philosophy Department comes with very little justification, and the justification that is used is not presented with evidence. I provide here the recommendation in full:

“Philosophy – Viability of department is compromised by significant faculty resources directed towards religious studies program. As noted in departmental USAP report, religious studies programs are often aligned with other academic disciplines. Given the academic background of the religious studies TT/T faculty, realignment with the department of history is possible. Recommendation: administrative merger with the department of history in order to create a combined Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. Similar departments are common at institutions sharing IPFW’s size and mission (UT Martin, Montana State, Kennesaw State, Eastern Michigan Univ., Purdue NW, South Dakota State). Consider moving Philosophy to English and Religious Studies to History if other combinations do not work (e.g. USMA, Drexel, Idaho State, Arkansas State, Murray State, Georgia Southern).”  (Quoted from a document entitled, “Review and Recommendations for Academic Programs and Departments in Response to USAP Recommendations 2.2 and 2.3, author Carl Drummond, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, distributed via email on September 19th, 2016.)

The recommendation appears shockingly summary when the fact is taken into account that the religious studies program was not included in the process leading to the evaluation of the Philosophy department’s viability. Even more confusing is the fact that the recommendation claims the department’s viability is compromised, given that the department’s review indicated that, “This is a lean department with high annual credit hour production that generates a high amount of gross tuition $ for the university.” The revenue generated by the Philosophy Department is, in fact, an amount comparable to the University’s expected budget deficit.

The Faculty Senate met with Chancellors on September 12th to discuss the proposed actions; that meeting was recorded, but has not been made available online due to reported technical difficulties.

 

IPFW budget cuts

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