Philosophy Major, Tenured Professors at Risk at Mills College

The Department of Philosophy at Mills College in Oakland, California is one of a few departments that the school’s administration has identified as operating at a “negative net revenue,” and as a result, the administration may eliminate the philosophy major and tenured philosophy faculty at the school may lose their jobs.

In May, the college Board of Trustees announced that it was undergoing a “financial emergency” and gave themselves the power to fire tenured faculty.

A faculty member at the school stressed that Mills is not in a state of financial exigency, as defined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP): “imminent financial crisis which threatens the survival of the institution as a whole.” The school is operating with normal offerings and has continued to educate students successfully.

The Department of Philosophy has two faculty: Marc Joseph, a tenured full professor and Jay Gupta, a tenured associate professor. Professor Joseph writes,

We’re small: each year we graduate maybe one or two majors and several minors, and our classes enroll an average of 15 students, which is just shy of the College average of 16. We would like to see these numbers grow, but at Mills we take our scale to be a virtue. We’ve sent graduates on to programs in philosophy, comparative literature, criminology, Afro-American studies, performance studies, etc. at major schools—Cornell, Chicago, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Davis. Many of our students, too, stay local; we have alumnae who are lawyers, businesswomen, social workers, etc. etc.

The faculty has questioned the way that departmental revenue is measured is flawed. Professor Joseph notes that the department would be in the black if he and Professor Gupta were assistant professors. If the major is cut, there is a possibility that philosophy faculty will lose their jobs.


Faculty have met with administration at the school, and the Faculty Executive Committee there has contacted the AAUP. However, the future of philosophy at Mills is uncertain.

Perhaps the APA’s Committee for the Defense of the Professional Rights of Philosophers could be of assistance here.

Professor Joseph adds,

Our alumnae have mustered and sent messages to the administration and BOT. Some people have shared their messages with me and Jay, and it really is heartening—our alumnae testify to the ways that philosophy and our teaching have had real impacts on their lives, freeing them from oppression and showing them paths they never knew existed. Our alumnae are passionate about their philosophy education; it’s nontrivial that we’re a women’s college and teach in a field dominated by men’s voices. Even in a progressive place like the Bay Area, there are obstacles to women’s succeeding, and we do a good job equipping our students with the skills they need to flourish in their personal and professional lives.

Those interested in contacting Mills College President Elizabeth Hillman can write to her at [email protected].

Mills Hall, Mills College campus, Oakland, CA

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Maja Sidzinska
Maja Sidzinska
7 years ago

As a Mills alumna, and a future professional philosophy hopeful, this makes me profoundly sad and angry. The two philosophy professors mentioned here have had a profound impact on my life. I don’t believe that the Mills administration is without other options. If at all possible, please write to the Mills president, urging her not to revoke tenure.

Rhiannon Hecht
Rhiannon Hecht
6 years ago

Fundraiser for this cause set up by Rhiannon Hecht, class of 2009. Please donate!