Philosophers From Women’s Colleges Oppose Eliminating Philosophy At Mills


Philosophers at Wellesley, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, and Barnard—all women’s colleges—have authored a letter opposing the proposed elimination of the philosophy department at Mills College.

Below is the letter, courtesy of Erich Hatala Matthes (Wellesley):

Dr. Elizabeth L. Hillman
President 
Mills College 
5000 MacArthur Blvd 
Oakland, CA 94613 

Dear President Hillman and Members of the Mills College Board of Trustees,

We write to express our dismay and opposition to your recent decision to eliminate the Mills College philosophy department and lay off the two tenured professors of philosophy who teach in the department. Philosophy is the backbone of a liberal arts education, and the decision to eliminate your philosophy program is flatly inconsistent with your academic mission.

No doubt you will receive many letters to this effect. But in addition to reinforcing this general concern, we write to you as members of the philosophy faculty at Wellesley, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, and Barnard to emphasize the pivotal role of philosophy in women’s colleges in particular. For one, philosophy remains a male-dominated field, and women’s colleges are uniquely positioned to bring new voices to the discipline. More importantly, however, we occupy a political climate in which truth and reason are under assault, with particularly adverse consequences for women, people of color, and others who have been the subject of systematic injustice. Philosophy teaches students powerful skills that will enhance their ability to make a difference in the world, and women have an essential role to play in that mission. The dismissal of philosophy thus impoverishes both your students and our society.

We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision.

Sincerely,

Macalester Bell
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Bryn Mawr College

Nalini Bhushan
Professor of Philosophy
Smith College

Taylor Carman
Professor of Philosophy, Chair
Barnard College

Maud Chaplin
Professor Emerita of Philosophy
Wellesley College

Ann Congleton
Professor Emerita of Philosophy
Wellesley College

John M. Connolly
Sophia Smith Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Smith College

Helena de Bres
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Wellesley College

Jill de Villiers
Sophia & Austin Smith Professor of Psychology & Philosophy
Smith College

David Friedell
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Barnard College

Jay L. Garfield
Doris Silbert Professor of Philosophy
Smith College

Corinne Gartner
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Wellesley College

James Harold
Chair and Professor of Philosophy
Mount Holyoke College

Susan B. Levin
Roe/Straut Professor in the Humanities; Professor of Philosophy
Smith College

Karen Lewis
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Barnard College

Erich Hatala Matthes
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Wellesley College

Mary Kate McGowan
Margaret Clapp ‘30 Distinguished Alumna Professor of Philosophy
Wellesley College

Alison G. McIntyre
Virginia Onderdonk ’29 Professor of Philosophy
Wellesley College

Ifeanyi A. Menkiti
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Wellesley College

John Morrison
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Barnard College

Albert G. Mosley
Professor of Philosophy
Smith College

Frederick Neuhouser
Professor of Philosophy
Barnard College

Elliot Paul
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Barnard College

Jeffry L. Ramsey
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Chair
Smith College

Elizabeth V. Spelman
Barbara Richmond 1940 Professor in the Humanities, Philosophy
Smith College

Katia Vavova
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Mount Holyoke College

Julie Walsh
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Wellesley College

Catherine Wearing
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Chair
Wellesley College

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Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
4 years ago

Has anyone posted a copy of the Mills College Faculty Handbook online? Based on the AAUP’s letter, it seems they were able to get one. We can sign as many letters and petitions as we want, but this is a contract issue and that handbook will likely govern the contracts.

These stories are also important reminders that we should be encouraging our younger colleagues to read through these handbooks before proceeding too far in the job application process, and certainly before they accept a position. Just because we may have a shared understanding of what tenure means doesn’t mean that the college or university will share that understanding. Report

Maja Sidzinska
Maja Sidzinska
4 years ago

From what I have seen of the Mills Faculty Handbook, there is NO mention of a process under which tenured faculty may be cut. It only references the potential for the non-renewal of contracts of tenure-TRACK faculty. Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Maja Sidzinska
4 years ago

Do you have a copy of it? If so, can you post it somewhere and provide a link here.Report