Claremont Graduate University Closes Philosophy Department


Claremont Graduate University has closed its philosophy department and fired its two tenured philosophy professors, according to a report at Inside Higher Ed.

The university’s administration and Board of Trustees made the decision in May, with the school’s president citing a “combination of market, enrollment, and limited faculty resources,” according to a news item at the Claremont website. It was not clear that the philosophy faculty was consulted at all in the decision.

The philosophy department had already planned, in Spring of 2017, to phase out its PhD program and move to offering only a terminal MA, but that plan will not go forward. It is not clear what will happen with the current students.

IHE reports:

Professors learned of the university’s plan to eliminate philosophy in its entirety in late April. The university’s Board of Trustees voted for closure in mid-May. And both faculty members were terminated on June 30 with what amounted to one day’s notice, said Charles Young, a longtime professor of philosophy at Claremont and one of those now out of a job.

“We were each given the day before an offer to continue as contract employees,” he said. “The offers were unacceptable in form and content, and presented as take-it-or-be-fired. We ignored them and got fired the next day.”

Young also said Monday that he believed his health insurance had been canceled on June 30, and that no one from the university had informed him of that change…

Masahiro Yamada, department chair, is currently in Japan but confirmed that he was terminated June 30… 

Patrick Mason, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities… wrote to philosophy students, alumni and faculty of the university and the affiliated Claremont Colleges… He assured the 10 students now enrolled in the Ph.D. program that they had the full support of the university to complete their degree programs.

Claremont said a “path to completion” would soon be in place, including the possibility of working with the university’s “existing philosophy faculty.” But as of today, that appears to be no one. The department’s third professor, Patricia Easton, is currently serving as provost full-time. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Much more here.

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Pendaran
Pendaran
3 years ago

The quotes around ‘University’ in the photo seem appropriate now that they’ve hollowed out the humanities!Report

Pendaran
Pendaran
Reply to  Pendaran
3 years ago

Were the quotes really there or were they added in photoshop. From zooming in they look added. Justin? One might think obviously they’re added. However, a huge percentage of people don’t know how to use quotation marks, so it’s entirely possible those who made the sign didn’t either.Report

Pendaran
Pendaran
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 years ago

Haha! Awesome!Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

I think that few members of the public understand what we do any why it matters. I also think we tend to go to little trouble to convey what we do and why it matters. I also think we tend to write for one another, with little thought as to why other people should pay us to do so. I also think that if we don’t change that, we can expect philosophy departments to mostly vanish.Report

pendaran
pendaran
3 years ago

Philosophers are also very negative about their own field, with Wittgenstein being the famous example. We can’t even decide whether Metaphysics is a real field of enquiry or just a confusion. Of course, deciding that is itself philosophy, but my point is that we don’t have cohesion. It seems half of physicists think philosophy is a waste of time and probably at least a quarter of philosophers think this too (I’m just pulling these numbers out of my butt of course but they can’t be too far off). However, I think a lot of our problems arise at a more fundamental level. What new and important discoveries have we really made as a discipline? It strikes me that much of philosophy is the same tired reductive metaphysics on one hand and various forms of nonsensical quietism on the other. In addition, we don’t question other fields nearly enough or really challenge their theories. I’m just generalizing and there are many exceptions, but as a rule I think much of philosophy today is too submissive and reactive. How we define philosophy is an open question, but the methods that philosophers use, the abstract thinking abilities we have, are insanely important to human knowledge, whether it be in physics or psychology. We could make our field stand out if we wanted to. We need the public to see that we’re engaging with relevant problems. We need for them to see how philosophy is important to human enquiry and discovery. It is. But I suspect many philosophers don’t even believe it is. Philosophy needs unity first or more unity at least. Second, philosophy needs courage, the courage to challenge and question and create. We need more public intellectuals. I think we’d find that philosophers actually agree on a lot and disagree with a lot of what other fields claim about a lot things, if we could just find our voice and get it out there. Or we can go quietly into the abyss, which is certainly where we’re headed!Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  pendaran
3 years ago

I agree that we need more public intellectuals. However, I don’t think that cohesion is a good goal. Once we can agree on something, it generally passes out of philosophy and into other fields. Philosophy seems to be for those problems that can’t be conclusively resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Other fields can give people answers. We can only help them to think through issues for themselves.Report

Kurt Smith
Kurt Smith
3 years ago

My concern is that this decision was made and then presented to the board of trustees between presidents. I suspect that the previous president didn’t want this as his legacy, and so didn’t support the plan to terminate the program, a plan that appears to have been concocted by two administrators, Mason (Dean) and Easton (Provost). Once the president left, and an interim was in place, the two administrators proposed the plan to the board. This resulted in student and faculty outrage. As it turned out, the proposal made by the two administrators ran against contractual agreements, the two administrators having no authority to make such a proposal. So, that put the board’s decision on hold for a bit. The interim president, who seems to have been sympathetic to Mason and Easton’s plan, if I’ve got this right (and please correct me if I don’t), returned to the board and supported the proposal. It’s my impression that the big decision to terminate the program was made before the incoming president had a chance to really weigh in. And, as new presidents are, upon just arriving, he wasn’t looking to jump into the middle of such a mess. (It could be that he had given the board his okay to terminate even prior to taking office, I’m not sure.) The irony, and I’m not sure how much to read into this, is that when Easton arrived as a newly hired professor (about 20 years ago), the then acting provost, Murray Schwartz, had proposed to the board a plan to terminate the philosophy and math programs. That, too, was a proposal made as the then president was leaving. The philosophy program never really recovered from that assault. As one might expect, there’s more to this story. Perhaps Mr. Weinberg will continue with a follow up? (I earned the PhD at what was then The Claremont Graduate School [cooler title than what we have today — and, I might add, the change was proposed by Schwartz!], in 1998. So, I know a dinky bit about this mess.)Report

Darrel Moellendorf
Darrel Moellendorf
3 years ago

My alma mater. I’m dismayed at how poorly the faculty and students were treated.Report