University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Plans To Discontinue Philosophy Program, Being a University
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has announced plans to eliminate the philosophy major at its school, along with majors in American Studies, Art, English, French, Geography, Geoscience, German, History, Music Literature, Political Science, Sociology, and Spanish.
These programs are slated for elimination as part of a plan to address the school’s “deficit of $4.5 million over two years because of declining enrollment and lower tuition revenues,” according to a press release. It is anticipated that some tenured faculty may lose their jobs.
The other part of the plan is to expand programs in Chemical Engineering, Computer Information Systems, Conservation Law Enforcement, Finance, Fire Science, Graphic Design, Management, and Marketing, and create degree programs for Aquaculture/Aquaponics, Captive Wildlife, Ecosystem Design and Remediation, Environmental Engineering, Geographic Information Science, Master of Business Administration, Master of Natural Resources, and Doctor of Physical Therapy.
The school stated that courses would continue to be taught in some of the fields that will no longer have majors, with minors or certificates offered in some of them, and that students already majoring in them “will have the opportunity to complete their degrees.”
Greg Summers, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the school, said that arts and humanities programs that have “clear career pathways” will provide students with opportunities to major in liberal arts fields.
The plan is not yet a done deal. The proposal to discontinue programs must be reviewed by a campus governance committee, then the chancellor and UW System Board of Regents. Perhaps some feedback to decision-makers at the school is warranted. Provost Summers can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (715) 346-4686.
(via Daniel Brunson)
For anyone in UW other than Madison, which is isolated from some of the fallout of the relentless political assault against higher ed only because it has big bucks, we know what is going to happen. I saw this first-hand as a member of the 2015-16 Tenure Task Force, formed in response to the legislature’s revocation of strong tenure from state statute after no hearings, no consultation with UW System, no input from UW governance structure. I now call it the “Task Farce” because that was what it was, significantly diluting tenure through the governor’s appointed Regents and administrators’ final control of the entire process. Perhaps Madison thought it could escape its recommendations or outcomes–they were proved wrong, and now only elude its reach because they have those big bucks to forestall the economic consequences of weakened tenure. UWSP doesn’t, and many other institutions in UW don’t either. I could go on and on about this in much greater detail, about the deliberate under-funding of UW, enabling the lower-cost Techs with taxing authority to offer UW-transferable credits taught by inadequately credentialed instructors, by fiat encumbering UWSP with two additional struggling 2-year UW campuses to add to its economic woes, and so on, but I hope you get the idea.
I just heard it again tonight–Nunes saying the liberal left controls the media, Hollywood–and the universities. That’s what this is about. We need jobs–but not too many high-paying jobs to decrease corporate profits–but we certainly don’t need highfalutin’ humanities to get there in any case.Report
We ain’t got no humanities.
We don’t need no steenkin’ humanities!Report
Looks like it’s turning into a trade school.
Smarter move would probably have been to keep a few of them and cut the rest, to see if those students would move into other majors. You could stick to the more traditional ones, say,
Philosophy, English, History, and Political Science: You’d still have humanities, albeit limited ones. Maybe the enrollment didn’t support it, but this seems like an overly large step.Report
It’s my understanding–and those better informed are urged to weigh in–that UWSP actually has plenty of philosophy majors.Report
I’ll be curious to see how the “review by a campus governance committee” goes, in light of the changes to — that is to say, the elimination of — shared governance that accompanied the changes to tenure. Faculty went from “be[ing] vested with responsibility for the immediate governance of such institution and … shall have the primary responsibility for academic and educational activities and faculty personnel matters” to “hav[ing] the primary responsibility for advising the chancellor regarding academic and educational activities and faculty personnel matters.” (UWS 36).
Since what’s left is not “governance” in any meaningful sense, it seems that each campus’ chancellor can now pretty much do whatever s/he wants. And if that’s to do what’s being proposed at Point, there’ll be no blowback from the UW System or the Regents, both if which are seated comfortably on the Walker Express.
PS Adding insult to injury, statutory language was added requiring that “the faculty of each institution shall ensure that faculty in academic disciplines related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are adequately represented in the faculty organizational structure” — as if STEM fields are somehow in need of special help lest they be swallowed up by the power-weilding humanities. I guess it’s just another in a long series of “fuck you”s from our friends in the legislature.Report
Dare I say it,
What is so bad, in general, about eliminating liberal arts majors at some public schools? Or is this just a knee-jerk reaction, as I suspect? I wonder how many of us here know anything about UW? The politics aside, I’d like to see a reasoned argument on this point for once in my life that doesn’t repeat the valid points about the value of the liberal arts, but discusses whether all or many public universities should have liberal arts majors?Report
Fair question, Jason, but there’s a simple response. The primary reason these regional universities exist is to serve their local communities. I taught there for many years. Most of the students come from the county. They live at home. It is the one school they can afford to attend because they can live with their parents. So it’s easy enough to say, “Just go to another one of the other state campuses,” but for many of them, that’s not an option. So by eliminating the liberal arts (and all of them were eliminated as majors), the university has effectively prevented all these students from getting a real liberal arts education. That’s why this matters.Report
Thank you, that is a fair response.
Although, your response presumes a great value to offering those programs.
I think it’s also fair to question that value. They’re so valuable that students should not be forced to attend a more distant college? Just to be clear, I also wonder about the programs that were selected to “replace”
those being cut–the new offerings seem unusual. A final thought. I’ve always told my students to *dual major *in those fields, and almost never solo major in them. Cutting them, obviously, eliminates that possibility.Report
Jason, I teach in the UW system and can tell you a little something about the way in which the state of Wisconsin provides higher education for its citizens. There are technical colleges, which have their own taxing authority and are not in any financial trouble and are vocational in nature. Then there are four-year, largely but not entirely undergraduate institutions, called “comprehensives” and the students who attend them in the past have the same sort of education provided for them that they could find at many liberal arts colleges. Finally, there are two doctoral institutions, Madison and Milwaukee. The last two categories, the UW campuses, have been significantly defunded by the state in recent years, and are now largely supported by student tuition, although less so in the case of Madison. So my question is, why should students paying for their education through their tuition at Stevens Point, be afforded only highly reduced educational opportunities, in which majors like English and History are being replaced by Captive Wildlife and Aquaponics?Report
Ah, so you’re saying that these majors are becoming rare offerings in the *public *system in the state of Wisconsin? And thus cutting them forces students to compete for more selection spots in UW Madison, and thus is likely to force decisions and have the state manipulate student decisions? That would be quite a big deal, of course, but is not obvious in the extant information.
Hence, your rhetorical question’s force suggests that the decision is political, not academic or economic, as the replacement majors may not have been selected for academic or economic viability.
As a philosophy professor, I am of course trying to clarify the inferences and reveal premises less obvious to those of us a few states over…
FYI, my wife attended UW Madison and is a Wisconsin native, but is not versed in in this kind of politics.Report
Also relevant here are the 13 campus 2-year UW Colleges, where I spent my 36 + year career. These campuses were partners with counties all over the state each of which provided facilities that were staffed by (mostly PhD-holding) UW faculty. The Colleges were an important part of the Wisconsin Idea, extending the reach of the university in providing top-quality liberal arts education throughout the state and acting primarily as a transfer institution to the other campuses as well as offering associate degrees. We allowed lots of place-bound undergrads and adult students to at least start their UW education locally and at the lowest tuition in UW System. Our collective freshman-sophomore enrollment once was second only to Madison. Recent years saw fairly drastic enrollment losses due to various factors political and demographic, and that’s resulted in the termination of the Colleges as a separate institution effective July 1, imposed by the President and the Regents absent any input from any UW institution. Now those 13 campuses will be extensions of certain 4-years. UW–Milwaukee (Margaret’s institution) will, for example, receive two campuses, and my campus (UW–Manitowoc) will be one of 3 attached to UW–Green Bay. The fate of our campuses will entirely depend upon the good-will and stability of the receiving campuses–mine will likely be ok, but 2 affiliated with Stevens Point are not in such a good place.Report
Alan, I know my account of the UW system omitted the colleges, because it wasn’t entirely relevant to to the point I was trying to make. You are exactly right that another problem with the Stevens Point proposal is that it severely disadvantaged the graduates of the 2 year colleges associated with it who want to major in one of the closed majors.Report
Thank you Margaret, I just wished to advocate (too late for its survival) for an institution that has had a substantial but underappreciated role in UW for nearly 50 years. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a UW Madison faculty member who was surprised to find out that a number of my former students had taken his classes, and that they had graduated a number of students majoring in philosophy who started at the Colleges. (One such student handled my divorce many years ago!) Though the Colleges are no more, the campuses and many excellent faculty live on as companions to some of the 4-years. I just wanted to show that they have had a quiet but quite measurable impact on higher ed in Wisconsin generally, and even in philosophy. And from multiple publications in Mind to Analysis (e.g.) we produced in a scholarly way too–many years out-publishing many 4-year departments. I just want the receiving 4-years that have new 2-year extension campuses to appreciate what they have inherited. UW-Milwaukee has 2 relatively strong campuses with excellent faculty–especially the philosophers. They are very fortunate to be affiliated with a strong and prestigious department such as yours Margaret. I wish you both the best.Report
I have for many years enjoyed teaching students who came to UWM from one of the local Colleges. The real tragedy is that this merger was laid down from above, by UW System administration who didn’t have a clue what would be involved in merging two systems each of which had their own operating procedures. Just do it, they said. The ignorance and arrogance is bresthtakingReport
Amen and amen Margaret!Report
Well I don’t think that was what I was saying. I was saying that WI already has a tax supported vocational education system, and, since the comprehensives are tuition supported, not state supported, channeling their education in the way the state wants rather than the way students might want seems dubious.There has been a lot of discussion that is more strictly focussed on the value of the liberal arts, one thing I saw recently points out that, in addition to the broad values we all know about, majoring in some of the liberal arts disciplines, among them philosophy, is the best preparation for scoring well on the kinds of tests that admit you to high paying professions, like law. So students who aspire to that kind of profession as opposed to Captive Wildlife who live in Central Wisconsin are out of luck.Report
So the argument is that politicians are trying to second-guess and even thwart students and the academy in general.
I asked because I was sympathetic to the general idea, that solo-majoring in a liberal art is not generally a good career choice. But on the flip-side, as we academics know, few other majors deliver the host of skills that the liberal arts do. Yet the employment marketplace is driven more by fads, biases, reputation, etc., than sound thinking, such as just encouraging dual-majoring or encouraging career-focused minors.
So, it could be read as a poor solution to a real problem.
Thank you for the conversation.Report
How is solo majoring in a vocational field as a life choice?Report
Among the things we need to do is to raise public awareness of the importance of our work. I don’t think that most voters would have any idea of why they should pay for philosophy.Report
Personally, I think that’s because many who profess to be philosophers, or professors of philosophy, have a wrongheaded conception as to what philosophy is, and so no longer appeal to the profound human desire which calls out for philosophy in the first place.
That is, “philosophy” which seeks to “solve problems” makes itself into something other than philosophy; a superfluous practice which at best advances skills in critical thinking and analysis but which is a difficult, unwieldy tool which perhaps we can replace with other, easier technocratic means.Report
A lot of voters don’t really care, and probably still won’t even if they learned what philosophy does for them. They don’t want to pay you to enjoy yourself teaching while they’re working jobs they hate. They think that YOU think that you’re better than them, and they resent that. They think you’re indoctrinating college students with liberal ideology. They think that all the philosophy you need is in the Bible. Wisconsin is the state where a majority of voters turned against teachers because in many cases they resented that teachers made more and got better benefits from them. People tend to have a better idea of the value of K-12 teachers, but they still didn’t care because they often vote out of anger and spite.Report
It’s called the politics of resentment, as brilliantly outed in Katherine Cramer’s (UW–Madison) book and explains why Wisconsin is now more appropriately known as “Wississippi”:
The Fox network certainly gets this, and has leveraged this form of manipulation, along with the Russians’ help, to place the ultimate tool of plutocracy into the Oval Office (with an even more dangerous vice-presidential backup in case the chaos is too much).Report
From my colleague and friend Jon Loomis in today’s Inside Higher Ed http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/education-oronte-churm/guest-post-jon-loomis-changing-idea-wisconsin-higher-edReport
See also this essay by David Lay Williams, now at DePaul, but who began his teaching career at UW Stevens Point. An excerpt:
Like many students, I entered higher education with a vague sense that this was necessary to achieve some threshold level of material comfort.
What was it, then, that changed—how did I go from desiring mere physical comfort to the joyful life I now live? It was my encounter with philosophy and political theory as a college student. I initially took these classes for the simple reason that they satisfied degree requirements. But I quickly realized that this way of thinking—indulging in abstraction to process my own experiences and the communities I inhabited by carefully studying “the great books”—created an excitement not only about learning, but also about getting on with the business of a life dedicated to more of the same.
It was this encounter with the liberal arts that gave me a purpose. And once armed with a purpose, everything else fell into place. I went from aimless to purposeful; from socially awkward to finding a community of like-minded friends; from wasting countless hours on pointless pursuits to reading rich books, enjoying long conversations with friends, and proceeding with the mission of what Socrates would call “the examined life.”Report