Protecting Philosophy from Budget Cuts


This week’s Chronicle of Higher Education has three pieces on protecting philosophy departments from budget cuts. All currently paywalled, they include an interview with Amy E. Ferrer, Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association (APA), an article on “how to help your department avoid the ax,” and some tips on supporting philosophy on campus.

From these pieces:

  1. The APA is developing a toolkit that philosophy departments can use to defend themselves from budget cuts.
  2. “At least nine philosophy departments have been threatened with restructuring or elimination since 2010. Four have earned a reprieve, three have been cut or restructured, and two more remain on the chopping block with decisions yet to be made.”
  3. When the APA learns of threats to the departments, it has, in recent years, “written letters privately to the university administrations, trying to help them see the value of philosophy,” says Ferrer.
  4. Ferrer: “waiting until you get a report from a task force that your department may be on the chopping block is the wrong approach. Departments are getting the sense they need to be doing the proactive work to educate administrators about what philosophy does, or what it even means. We need to educate them well before there is any kind of review or prioritization process, when it’s almost too late.”
  5. Bryan Hall (St. John’s University) says: “In many cases when departments were eliminated, philosophers should have tried to get involved in the process a lot earlier… The best way of not being adversely affected by university policy is being the one who’s writing it.”
  6. “Having philosophy… integrated into university efforts to educate across degree programs” can be a way of preventing philosophy from being cut, Ferrer says.

Sally Scholz, chair of philosophy at Villanova, describes some of her efforts to bolster philosophy there, including:

  • Making sure people in the admissions office know what to say to students who might be interested in philosophy.
  • Publicizing what recent philosophy majors have done after graduation.
  • Making sure that college tours highlight not just research by scientists, but by philosophers. (Scholz: “I’ve reached out to those who conduct the tours and said: Here is how you describe our interesting research in a one-sentence sound bite.”)
  • Providing postcards with general areas of interest in which a philosophy course—or even a major—might apply for undergraduate advisers who help students choose courses.
  • Giving out swag: when students declare philosophy their major, the department at Villanova gives them each one of the blue or green shirts that say “Philosophy”.
  • Creating new courses or interdisciplinary programs in response to the interests of undergraduates.

Your suggestions welcome.

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