Philosophy Targeted at Lebanon Valley College


Administrators at Lebanon Valley College, a liberal arts college in central Pennsylvania, are currently considering an “academic restructuring” plan that will eliminate its philosophy major.

According to an informational page, the plan

recommends discontinuing the following low-enrollment majors: French, German, philosophy, and religion. Courses will be taught in at least some of these disciplines, but the majors would no longer be available to incoming students starting with the Fall 2020 incoming class. 

There are no plans to terminate any tenured faculty, but no comment was made regarding tenure-track faculty, lecturers, and adjuncts.

Here is the criteria used in deciding which programs to propose discontinuing:

a) First-time, full-time enrollments in majors under 10
b) Three-year Enrollment Funnel Trends (2016-2018)
c) Full-time majors at census under 10
d) Retention in first major below 80%
e) Completions in majors below five (completions captured migrations from other majors)
f) Load hours per full-time faculty full-time equivalent at 450 or lower (average is 560)
g) Low enrollment in upper-level courses below seven
h) High school programs and levels of interest in areas of study
i) Reduction or re-assignment of full-time positions on faculty retirement
j) Other variables specific to the major

There are currently 2 philosophy majors in the school.

There’s more information here and a brief article about the cuts at Inside Higher Ed.

The Lebanon Valley College Mascot, the Dutchman, who is angered at the prospect of a liberal arts college lacking a philosophy major.

 

 

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Daniel Kaufman
2 years ago

I’m very sorry to hear this, though not surprised given the information provided. The criteria for cutting programs is substantially more detailed than those at our institution. For us, the dealbreaker is being a “low completer” program, meaning graduating fewer than 10 people a year. As a result of this standard, we have been teetering on the edge now, for quite a long time, which has been an exhausting and nerve-wracking experience.

One way that we have protected ourselves is by making ourselves “essential” through linkages to other programs. I negotiated for my aesthetics course to count as elective credit towards the BFA and MFA, which means we draw a lot of students from Art and Design, which has a *lot* of majors, and several of our other courses are also a part of other degree programs: global ethics is part of the curriculum for the Global Studies major, and our Asian philosophy class is part of the curriculum for the Asian studies major. I’ve recently developed a philosophy of psychology course, in the hope of cultivating a similar relationship with the Psychology department.

We are going to keep seeing stories like these, alas, and I think that one of the best things we can do, as members of embattled departments, is share the different ways we’ve tried to make ourselves seem essential to our respective institutions. I know that it always helps us to hear what others are doing along these lines.Report

guy
guy
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
2 years ago

I was able to get the psych folks at my institution to put my logic class on their support-and-related classes for their degree sheet since I cover a fairly good amount of cognitive psychology stuff in that class. (It might also have helped that I told them I already intended to put their psych stats course on my supported and related options.) And my political phil class is already on the poli sci degree sheet. I’m aware of departments that teach business ethics courses for business departments.

I wonder how other departments have entrenched themselves in this way?Report

Chris Sistare
Chris Sistare
Reply to  guy
2 years ago

My [now, former] department created interconnections with other programs all the time. At this point, we have deep (as in required courses as well as electives) with Theater ( very big at my place), Political Science, all of the sub-varieties of Biology – especially Neuroscience- – Asian Studies, ,American Studies, Gender Studies, and more I cannot think of off the cuff. I don’t think we made these connections over the years simply to make our program more attractive to administrators; rather in our very first program review, we found we just had these relations.

We have become more ‘intentional’ in making links in light of the assault on Philosophy, but I still think there are such natural connections to other disciplines that we need not ‘fake’ anything.Report

Kenny Easwaran
2 years ago

One thing I haven’t understood about some of these issues is why universities would want to close programs if they’re not planning on changing any faculty or departments? In Texas, there is a “low performing program” review that occurs for any graduate degree that produces fewer than 15 masters students or 10 PhD students over the course of five years. The university says that these programs are expensive to maintain, but I don’t quite understand what the expense is supposed to be – I would have thought that for an existing department and set of faculty, the costs of a degree program would be directly proportional to the number of students enrolled, with no fixed costs. If that’s right, then there would be no financial gain to eliminating programs based on size.

Unless there are some fixed costs per degree program that I don’t understand? The only ones that come to mind are printed space in the course catalog, pages in advisors handbooks, and things like that. Everything else seems to me like it would be a per-student cost, so that programs with few students would be just as cost-effective as ones with many students, as long as the classes are being taught anyway.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
2 years ago

I’m not sure I understand what you’re confused about, but here’s the logic at my institution.

A full department, with a major, has a Dept. Head, a department office, and at least one departmental secretary. To the extent that any of these can be eliminated, the institution saves money.

We used to be such a department. But then, the slow erosion started. First we lost our department office and secretary; we now share these with political science.

In our leaner years, major-wise, we have been threatened with loss of our Dept. Head — i.e. we would be even more completely merged with political science, to the point that their Head would be our Head.

If things got even leaner, we’d be turned into what is called a “service dept.” The savings there are as follows: most of the revenue we generate is through Gen Ed. (Because we don’t have many Majors who make up the bulk of upper-level enrollments) So really, all we need is to keep around a few faculty — and instructor-level faculty will do, for this purpose — to teach Intro level courses.

And while this is the logic at my school, I suspect you’ll find its pretty common at schools of a similar profile — i.e. large, non-R1 state institutions.Report

-TM
-TM
2 years ago

Don’t graduate students cost the department money in tuition and salary?Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  -TM
2 years ago

What graduate students? We have none. It’s an undergraduate program.Report

TM
TM
2 years ago

Daniel I was talking to Kenny. He talks about graduate degrees.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
2 years ago

The general public has almost no idea what we do as professional philosophers, why what we do is important, and how what we do benefits them. If this persists, we can expect philosophy programs to be shut down. Why pay good money for something you can’t see the value of?Report