Center for Dewey Studies Is at Risk

The Center for Dewey Studies at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, is facing drastic budget cuts that would severely curtail its activities, according to a report in The Daily Egyptian, the school paper.

Over the past fifty years The Center for Dewey Studies put together and published 37 volumes of John Dewey’s Collected Works, and over 22,000 pieces of Dewey’s correspondence. Its current main publication project is the Dewey Class Lecture Notes. The Center is a treasure trove of Dewey’s papers, original versions of his manuscripts, his professional library, photographs, and memorabilia. Additionally, it is home to a vast collection of secondary sources in the Works About Dewey collection, containing over 10,000 individual items. Additionally, the Center cosponsors conferences and has assisted in the establishment of six international Centers of Dewey Studies.

In short, it’s amazing. But not $20,000 amazing, according to the state government and, apparently, the university administration. According toe The Daily Egyptian article,

The center, which is home to Dewey’s works and studies, is one of the non-academic units asked by the university to prepare for a 50 percent cut in state funding, equating to nearly $76,000… The state must pay some of the Dewey Center’s staff, as about $56,000 of the $76,000 is contractually obligated to salary. The remainder [$20,000]  is all the state can get away with cutting without breaking the terms of the contract.

Larry Hickman, professor of philosophy and director of the Center, says:

What it would mean is, for [a savings of] very little money — less than $20,000 — the Dewey Center would be kneecapped… The question becomes, ‘Is the Dewey Center worth $20,000 to the university?’…  [This cut] would be a serious blow to the work of the center, since we have already been cut a number of times and are down to the minimum staff required to do our work.

Eric Weber, who is associate professor of Public Policy Leadership at the University of Mississippi, and who got his PhD in philosophy at SIU, says:

The Center for Dewey Studies was integral to the reason I came [to SIU] as well as my success… There is no doubt in my mind that one of the premier, best-in-the-world programs that SIU has is the Center for Dewey Studies… Cutting funding for a program like that is like removing your legs so you don’t have to buy shoes.

Watch this space for updates about how to help the Center for Dewey Studies.

UPDATE: Eric Weber, quoted in the article, suggests that Illinois residents submit op-eds, send in letters to editors of newspapers, and write to their representatives supporting the Center, which he describes as “low-cost excellence.”

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