Administrators at the University of Wisconsin-Superior surprised their faculty this week with news that they were “suspending more than two dozen academic programs,” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Remarkably, given all the times we’ve seen philosophy programs threatened over the past few years, the philosophy program at Wisconsin-Superior survived this round of cuts unscathed.
Both majors and minors across the school have been suspended “effective immediately.”
I reached out to Sarah LaChance Adams, a philosophy professor at the school, to learn more. She told me that as far as she knows, there has never been a philosophy major offered by the school. Philosophy there is grouped administratively in the Department of Social Inquiry, which lose its political science and sociology majors, and a history minor, under this new plan.
How did the philosophy minor survive? Professor LaChance Adams, noticing that her university is pushing for more online content, created an online philosophy minor (one of a small number of online minor programs), making philosophy more valuable to the school. She writes, “if they were to eliminate the on-campus minor, the online minor would have to go too.”
It’s also the case that philosophy courses have been integrated into other programs as part of a survival strategy. “Five of my courses are part of 6 other majors,” La Chance Adams says. Additionally, she teaches a number of high-enrollment general education courses, and even raised the caps on them in order to improve her value to the university, enrollment-wise.
While these efforts have helped preserve philosophy at Wisconsin-Superior, the process that led to these cuts apparently had little faculty input, and there have been reports that the administration shared the news of them with media outlets before telling their own faculty and students. The direction of the school appears to be one in which liberal arts programs, if they’re preserved at all, do so in order to serve the more vocationally-oriented majors.