Philosophy Program At IPFW To Be Eliminated (guest post by Charlene Elsby) / UPDATE: Link to Petition

The Philosophy Department at Indiana University – Purdue University, Fort Wayne (IPFW) will be completely eliminated by January, 2017, according to a plan announced by the Purdue Board of Trustees and IPFW Chancellor, Vicky Carwein

The decision overrides the earlier recommendation of Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, Carl Drummond, to merge the Philosophy Department with another department. The new plan eliminates the philosophy major, dissolves the Philosophy Department, and distributes its tenured faculty to other departments across the university. The status of untenured and non-tenure-track faculty is not mentioned.

Following up on two earlier reports on this situation, Charlene Elsby, assistant professor of philosophy at IPFW, provides additional details on this development in the following guest post.*

UPDATE (10/23/16): A petition has been launched to “save philosophy at IPFW.” The petition, authored by Philosophy Department chair Bernd Buldt, lays out a number of grievances about decision to close the department and the process that led to it. You can sign it here.

IPFW budget cuts

Administrative Fiat Eliminates Philosophy Department, Major at IPFW
by Charlene Elsby 

In May, the IPFW USAP Task Force released the recommendations to “restructure” 13 departments at IPFW. In September, the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs scaled back that restructuring, slating two departments to be merged with other departments within the College of Arts and Science: Philosophy and Women’s Studies.

Since then, the Purdue Board of Trustees and the IPFW Chancellor have deemed the VCAA’s September recommendations insufficient. In a surprising move, an updated list of recommendations has been released that completely eliminates three departments, as of January 1, indicates two others for merger, and suspends admissions to a multitude of programs, effective immediately. As of October 18th, 2016, it is no longer possible to register for a Philosophy Major at IPFW.  The department is scheduled to be eliminated as of January 1, 2017.

The changes are described in a document released by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Carl Drummond, which is just a list of departments and programs, organized by how they will be affected. The recommendation for the Philosophy degree appears in a short list, along with Geology and Women’s Studies, under the heading “Departments or programs eliminated January 1, 2016.” (We assume he means January 1, 2017.)

The administration has not responded to the department’s arguments that eliminating the department would exacerbate the University’s budget deficit. The Philosophy Department alone generates $2 million in revenue annually. By enacting the changes the administration recommends, the VCAA expects to save $200,000 annually—a pittance in comparison to the University’s $110 million budget.

According to a prepared statement presented to the IPFW Faculty Senate, Carl Drummond was ordered to make the recommendations by the Purdue Board of Trustees. Recently, there was a report released (the “LSA Report”) which proposed that IPFW’s departments be split up amongst Indiana University and Purdue University, with Indiana University to take responsibility for health science departments, and Purdue to take the rest. The LSA Report and the USAP recommendations were not originally linked, but they are now. According to Drummond’s statement, “The Trustees have directly ordered me to complete USAP recommendations 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3.  They expect as many changes as possible will be completed by January 1, 2017 with the vast majority of other changes completed by July 1, 2017.  They are not interested in a phased, multi-year approach, further study, or analysis.”

The same document outlines a process for relocating tenured faculty, such that “tenured faculty in academic departments that will be eliminated must find a new tenure home and establish a new supervisory relationship within that new department.” There is a notable omission of any process for non-tenured faculty.

Students in the affected departments may or may not be able to complete the major for which they came to IPFW. According to the statement, “the academic deans will work with department chairs and faculty to establish a procedure for the successful completion of currently enrolled students in academic programs that are closing.  For each program a credit hour and temporal threshold must be established that defines which students will be allowed to complete their current program of study.”

The administration continues to refer to a putative decline in enrollment since 2011, which they claim to be 30%, but the numbers are skewed. 2011 was a peak year for enrollment, and there was no corresponding increase in faculty. Ten years ago, the university was able to support a greater number of faculty on less revenue. Meanwhile, expenditures towards administrative positions have increased. And while the administration claims that a small University can’t support such things as a philosophy department, never have they questioned the logic in maintaining Division I athletics, which loses the University millions in excess of their expected budget deficit.

In response this and other decisions,“Not in our Future: Students Against USAP”, a student-group, will hold a Rally and Teach-In October 26th and 27th, 9am to 5pm outside of Kettler Hall, the administrative building at IPFW. More information can be found at their Facebook page.

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