Philosophy Threatened at the University of Tulsa (updated)


A plan to reorganize the University of Tulsa will eliminate its Department of Philosophy and Religion, and with it, the possibility of students majoring in philosophy.

The plan, announced yesterday, proposes “a shift from disciplinary departments to interdisciplinary divisions” and the creation of a “consolidated ‘professional super college'”. Despite a $1.1 billion endowment, Provost Janet Levit called the proposed changes a “lifeline” for the university.

 

The Department of Philosophy and Religion, along with a number of other departments, will be folded into a new “Division of Humanities.”

Up to now, the Department had offered completely separate major programs in philosophy and in religion, as well as separate minors. Under the new proposal, these majors and minors will be eliminated. The only remaining related course of study for students will be a minor in “philosophy and religion.” Texts and charts here describe the changes.

Regarding whether the proposed changes would affect faculty employment, the Provost has stated that “we are not eliminating tenured or tenure-track faculty positions, and we stand by our current contractual obligations to our resident contract faculty.”

The changes are part of a plan to convert the University of Tulsa into a “STEM-heavy” institution “with a professional, practical focus.”

Said Provost Levit, “This is who we are.”

UPDATE (4/14/19): Jonathan Weisberg, in the comments, draws our attention to this helpful Twitter thread from Matthew Dean Hindman, a professor of political science at the University of Tulsa (click on the tweet below to see the whole thread):


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Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
2 years ago

Meh.

Read the expansive literature on transfer of learning, read the expansive literature on how much students learn “soft skills” in college, and then read the expansive literature on how little impact most research has. As philosophers, we have a vested interest in money going to philosophy programs, but once we take a broader view than our narrow selfish interests, it’s hard to justify it. We don’t deliver students the goods we promise.

I’m sure if you made me dictator of U Tulsa, I could find hundreds of useless admins to cut before I get to cutting academics, but the unhappy truth is that at many universities, humanities departments serve as little more than jobs programs and nice little rents for faculty. Students wouldn’t take those classes unless forced to, and the classes don’t deliver the goods the faculty promise they will.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

Are there studies specifically about philosophy? A typical philosophy student these days will learn logic, ethical reasoning, and probabilistic reasoning, and will apply all three skills to a wide range of issues. I am confident that studying philosophy has helped me develop my reasoning and argumentative ability, and I am confident that the same is true of many of my students. Don’t you think you’re better at making arguments than you were before going into philosophy? I would agree that a single philosophy class won’t have much effect and that only a minority of students who are naturally talented and hard-working (say 10-30%) benefit in the long-term, but I think that’s true more generally (exercise and diet programs are also only effective for a minority).Report

Skef
Skef
Reply to  Ben
2 years ago

These are better reasons for a minor than majoring in philosophy.Report

Empedocles
Empedocles
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

If we begin with the assumption that departments are justified by the number of people who download or cite research published by members, we’ll end up with the conclusion that philosophy departments have relatively little value; but these and others are crude and inappropriate standards. What, then, is the value of philosophy departments to students, cultures, and societies? A first approximation: departments are coordinated organizational entities that support disciplines and are not, as such, at odds with interdisciplinary endeavors of all kinds. Indeed, interdisciplinarity may require disciplinarity. What, then, is the value of philosophy as a discipline? Here, world history provides some ok clues. And while it may be true that philosophy courses and curricula can be improved, this is far from an argument for targeting the discipline for dissolution.Report

Craig
Craig
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

This is an overly confident view of the probative nature of that literature, a toadying view of the virtues of other disciplines, and a woefully narrow view of the value of the study of philosophy. With friends like these…Report

Robert A Gressis
Robert A Gressis
Reply to  Craig
2 years ago

How is it a toadying view of the virtues of other disciplines? I didn’t see what disciplines Jason praised in his comment. Do you think he’s praising educational psychology? I doubt he’d claim that educational psychology can teach in such a way that students can retain and transfer skills any better than any other discipline.

As for being an overly confident view of the probative value of educational psychology, ok. How much confidence should that literature give us?

As for it being an overly narrow view of the value of the study of philosophy: OK, what value does the study of philosophy have that Jason has missed? I would bet that he would admit that very sharp students (at places like Georgetown) learn, retain, and can transfer a fair bit of what they learn. But they’re the top 10%. 90% of the student population is not in the top 10%. What does that 90% get? Or, better: what does the bottom 50% get from the study of philosophy?Report

James Bailey
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

Philosophy seems uniquely transferrable.
I certainly found the philosophy classes I took at TU to be some of the most useful and memorable classes I ever took, despite being in another field (economics). Perhaps we academics are unusual in this regard but I think my wife, a physician who also minored in philosophy, would agree.Report

Carnap
Carnap
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

I take it this is your view of yourself? (W extra rents at Georgetown w joint apt in business).Report

Carnap
Carnap
Reply to  Carnap
2 years ago

Directed at Jason BrennanReport

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
Reply to  Carnap
2 years ago

Absolutely. Georgetown B school has a high ROI, which is most due to selection and signaling effects. I took a B-school job over the many prestigious non-B school options I had in order to grab a much higher salary (my starting salary was 2x what any of the phil or poli sci departments offered).

As for my sources, I have a book coming out next month called *Cracks in the Ivory Tower*, with OUP, where we discuss the literature on how little students learn, and in particular, how ineffective gen ed classes are.Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

Why does someone in this situation continue to apply for jobs in philosophy departments?Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

I would very much like to see some actual proof for the sorts of claims Brennan and Gressis are making besides gestures at a supposedly expansive literature. I for one won’t pretend to be an expert, but I deeply doubt that there’s anything like the sort of consensus that is implied by these statements. I know for a fact that Arum and Roksa’s “Academically Adrift”, which is one of the main works cited by those who argue students learn little in college, explicitly claims that by the standards it uses humanities majors not only show statistically significant learning (unlike most other practical disciplines like business, which I can’t help but note does particularly poorly) but do better than even most of the other fields that do show statistically significant learning.
Also, the claim that we are woefully short on STEM graduates has been debunked over and over (see here: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2015/07/09/frenzy-about-high-tech-talent/), but I suppose like any lie that’s ideologically convenient enough for certain interests it’s going to be impossible to kill. Granted according to Arum and Roksa at least most STEM majors do learn something in college, which is more than we can say for most of the practical fields like that are lauded above the humanities.Report

Robert A Gressis
Robert A Gressis
Reply to  Sam Duncan
2 years ago

I would bet that the main source Jason is relying on is not _Academically Adrift_ but Bryan Caplan’s _The Case Against Education_. The evidence he offers is in chapter 2.

I don’t recall making any claims about what I think. I think I just tried to explicate what Jason thinks.

I read _The Case Against Education_, and found it very troubling. While I have seen good rebuttals to parts of Caplan’s argument, I haven’t seen anyone say that he misrepresented the literature on educational psychology, but it’s certainly possible that there’s a review here or there that says that and provides evidence for it.

From what I can tell, there seems to have been some advances in our understanding of how to teach people in a way that helps them learn information in the first place, and retain it for longer than standard lecture/test practices. See, for example, _Make It Stick_. I have hopes that if these practices become more widespread, then people will learn more in college.

But, so far as I know, there hasn’t been any advance in figuring out to facilitate transfer. There has been some suggestive stuff that Daniel Willingham has pointed to (see here: http://www.danielwillingham.com/daniel-willingham-science-and-education-blog/a-new-idea-to-promote-transfer), but so far as I know, there have been no big breakthroughs.Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
Reply to  Robert A Gressis
2 years ago

Yep, even if you think that Caplan is wrong about the extent of signaling in explaining the wage premium, it’s nevertheless the case that extent literature A) shows that most people do not transfer learning and B) students remember only about 20% of what they learn in school.Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

Oops, second “extent” should be an “extant”.Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

Well Arum and Roksa show just the opposite at least when it comes to the humanities so again it’s simply not true to claim “the literature” shows what you say it does. One transparently ideologically motivated book claims x does not equal the extant and extensive literature agrees on x. And that 20% figure is practically a textbook example of the sort of false precision every decent critical thinking class teaches students to spot as nonsense. (How in the world do you even quantify that given how wildly different what students learn in college is?)Report

M
M
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

Dude, if students remember 20% of what they learn in my intro ethics course, that is a LOT. I am feeling like a pretty good bargain if that’s the amount of philosophy they’re carrying away.Report

Colin Heydt
Colin Heydt
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

I found Caplan’s arguments interesting and challenging, but his claims about lack of learning in university don’t seem well-supported. For instance, there are pretty dramatic literacy differences between high school dropouts, high school graduates, and college dropouts. The strongest correlates, by far, of literacy (in terms of reading comprehension levels, not mere capacity to decode text) are background knowledge and vocabulary. None of the evidence he cites indicates that college students don’t learn significant amounts of general information and build their vocabularies. If someone could show me, for instance, that college graduates don’t dramatically improve their vocabularies over their time in college, I’d be more likely to be convinced that students don’t learn very much of consequence.Report

Robert A Gressis
Robert A Gressis
Reply to  Sam Duncan
2 years ago

There are three distinctions I think are important to make:
1. Learning–how much do students learn in college?
2. Retention–how much of what students learn in college do they retain later?
3. Transfer–of the things students learn and retain in college, how much of it transfers?

From what I remember of Arum and Roksa, they gave 1,500 freshman at a variety of different higher educational institutions a critical thinking test upon entry, and then gave those same 1,500 freshman (or as many as they could get from that original pool) a similar test four years later.

From what I recall, the gains weren’t impressive–36% of students had no gains at all, but that means that 64% did have gains.

So it looks like there are gains for most students who stay in college for four years in learning and retention–not just learning and retention, but learning and retention of critical thinking, the paradigmatic “I’ll teach you how to think” test.

But there are a few questions I have about this.

First, what’s the profile of the students who learned the most in college? Again, just working from memory here, but from what I recall, the students who learned the most took classes where they had to do at least 40 pages per week of reading and worked alone. Students who successfully do that for four years may, on average, be sharper than the ones who don’t. I’m happy to be corrected on this, though.

Second,what kind of environment are those students in for four years? The students who make gains in critical thinking (and the 36% who don’t!) are immersed in an academic environment for four years. That’s an unusual environment, unlike most the students will end up in when they get a job. That’s relevant, though, because it may mean that students’ gains in critical thinking will fade away once they get out of college. In other words, they retain a fair bit of information for as long as they’re in college, but once they’re out of college, it quickly disappears, including the critical thinking gains.

Third, how well do students’ critical thinking gains transfer to non-college environments? Arum and Joksa didn’t study this in _Academically Adrift_. I know they had a follow-up book, _Aspiring Adults Adrift_, but from what I know about that book, they didn’t focus on retention or transfer. Regardless, recall the unique environment that college amounts to: it’s significantly more intellectual than most non-college environments, and it’s unique in various other ways, too. Even if students make critical thinking gains that they retain in college, it doesn’t follow that those gains will transfer to non-college environments.Report

Robert A Gressis
Robert A Gressis
Reply to  Sam Duncan
2 years ago

Re: the expansive literature, here’s what Caplan cites (all page references are to _The Case Against Education_; all typos are my own):

“Teachers often lament ‘summer learning loss’: students know less at the end of summer than they did at the beginning.” (39)
Citation:
Cooper, Harris, Barbara Nye, Kelly Charlton, James Lindsay, and Scott Greathouse. 1996. “The Effects of Summer Vacation on Achievement Test Scores: A Narrative and Meta-Analytic Review.” _Review of Educational Research_ 66 (3): 227-68.

“But summer learning loss is only a special case of the problem of _fadeout_: human beings poorly retain knowledge they rarely use.” (39)
Citations:
Jacob, Brian, Lars Lefgren, and David Sims. 2010. “The Persistence of Teacher-Induced Learning.” _Journal of Human Resources_ 45 (4): 915-43.
Cascio, Elizabeth, and Douglas Staiger. 2012. “KNowledge, Tests, and Fadeout in Educational Interventions.” NBER Working Paper No. 18038. http://www.nber.org/papers/w18038.

“One major study tested roughly a thousand people’s knowledge of algebra and geometry. Some participants were still in high school; the rest were adults between 19 and 84 years old. The researchers had data on subjects’ full mathematical education. Main finding: Most people who take high school algebra and geometry forget about half of what they learn within five years and forget almost everything within twenty-five years. Only people who continue on to calculus retain most of their algebra and geometry.” (40)
Citation: Bahrick, Harry, and Lynda Hall. 1991. “Lifetime Maintenance of High School Mathematics Content.” _Journal of Experimental Psychology: General_ 120 (1): 20-33.

On pages 40-50, Caplan summarizes the results of a variety of tests done on adult Americans. The point of these exercises is to show how much adults forget from their high school or college educations. I.e., it’s to show that retention is surprisingly low.

For literacy and numeracy, he relies on the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), which was a survey of 18,000 randomly selected Americans. The results aren’t pretty, but they’re hard to summarize here. See pp. 40-43.
Citation:
Kutner, Mark, Elizabeth Greenberg, Ying Jin, Bridget Boyle, Yung-chen Hsu, and Eric Dunleavy. 2007. “Literacy in Everyday Life: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy.” Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/2007480.pdf.

For knowledge of history and civics, he relied on The American Revolution Center’s test of 1,001 adult Americans’ knowledge of the American Revolution (83% earned a failing grade), the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s test of over 2,500 adult Americans’ knowledge of American government and American history (71% earned a failing grade), _Newsweek_ magazine’s giving of 1,000 Americans the U.S. Citizenship test (38% couldn’t pass it), and the 2000 American National Election Study’s test, where “the typical person got 48% of the factual questions right; you would expect 28% by guessing.” (44) He also cites “a vast academic literature on Americans’ lack of political knowledge.” (44)
Citations:
Berry, Mindy, ZeeAnn Mason, Scott Stephenson, and Annie Hsiao. 2009. _The American Revolution: Who Cares?_ Philadelphia: American Revolution Center.
Caplan, Bryan. 2007. _The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies._ Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Cribb, Kenneth. 2008. _Our Fading Heritage: Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and Institutions._ Wilmington: Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
Delli Carpini, Michael, and Scott Keeter. 1996. _What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters._ New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Romano, Andrew. 2011. “How Dumb Are We?” _Newsweek_. March 28/April 4. http://www.nscsd.org/webpages/jleach/files/how%20dumb.pdf.
Somin, Ilya. 2013. _Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter_. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

For adults’ knowledge about science, he relied on The General Social Survey. “…this survey has tested the public’s knowledge of twelve elementary scientific facts … Adults correctly answer 60% While this may seem low, it is a gross overstatement. These are true/false questions, so people should get 50% only guessing!” (47) Correcting for guessing, “Barely half of American adults know the Earth goes around the sun. Only 32% know that atoms are bigger than electrons. Just 14% know that antibiotics don’t kill viruses.” (48)
Citation:
National Science Board. 2012. “Science and Engineering Indicators 2012.” http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/pdf/seind12.pdf.

If I have time, and if anyone is interested, I’ll present Caplan’s evidence that transfer of retained knowledge to different contexts is very low.Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
Reply to  Robert A Gressis
2 years ago

The issue I have here is that both you and Brennan, though especially Brennan, pretend to some sort of first-hand knowledge of the literature that as far as I can tell you simply don’t have. You’re not supporting your claims with any references to any extensive, expansive or whatever literature but instead by pointing towards a slice of that literature that Caplan selected to support an ideologically convenient thesis. If I watch Fox news all morning and they bring in two or three diplomats who all laud Trump as a negotiating genius, I couldn’t very well infer that the entire diplomatic community thinks that Trump is skilled at diplomacy. I’ve a relative or two who think otherwise, but they dropped out of high school so I’ll cut them a little slack on this.
The big issue here is that making these sorts of claims with this level of confidence on such shaky evidence isn’t just sloppy, but has a real potential to do harm. Take an analogy. I’ve read a few books and articles that claim that anti-depressants have no real effect beyond the placebo effect. They seem convincing to me and raise some real doubts. It’s enough that I would think twice before I went on anti-depressants. But I would never claim that I know that they have no effect. For one thing I know that authors of the stuff I’ve read are not neutral, they have a thesis and even if they try to be fair the research will be filtered through the lens of that thesis. I also know that there are studies that suggest otherwise and then there’s the consensus of the entire medical community and all the individuals who claim that anti-depressants helped them. That’s not decisive but it means something. It is some evidence. (And in the same way research that suggests that good education has big effects and the consensus of pretty much everyone who doesn’t subscribe to Reason has a bit of weight when it comes to the value of education is also some evidence.) Even if had more certainty than I do, I would certainly never tell a friend or relative on anti-depressants that they should stop their medicine cold turkey on my authority. That’s not just careless but has the potential to do great harm if I’m wrong, which I may well be. Worse it’s not me running the risk if I’m wrong but another person. I would need quite a bit of certainty to give advice that has any such potential for harm for someone else. But you libertarians are doing that, or actually something much worse when it comes to education. It’s not just as though I’m trying to get friends and relatives to stop their anti-depressants what you’re doing is like trying to get insurance companies to refuse to cover anti-depressants for anyone and pretending that the only reason anyone might oppose this is that psychiatrists have selfish interests in maintaining their own livelihood. What really enrages me, and yes I mean that and am not exaggerating, is that to use a phrase you guys love in other contexts, you have no skin in the game. Or rather Brennan doesn’t and you have little. If people follow your advice and you turn out to be wrong about the benefits of an education or the value of the humanities it’s not you that will be harmed. If the state cut all money to education tomorrow Georgetown would still be there and faculty at private colleges could likely afford private college for their children. In fact it would benefit Georgetown since many students who currently opt for good state schools would be forced to try to get in the remaining private colleges. Now of course that’s not going to happen thankfully. What is likely to happen is that some politicians will use this sort of thing as ideological cover for their decisions to make cuts to higher education and to try to gut the humanities but it’s not likely to be in California or Virginia so you or I and our relatives and friends won’t be the ones affected. And even if our states did we’ve enough job security it wouldn’t affect us. Who it will affect are less well off students who rely on public education will be.Report

Robert Gressis
Robert Gressis
Reply to  Sam Duncan
2 years ago

“The big issue here is that making these sorts of claims with this level of confidence on such shaky evidence isn’t just sloppy, but has a real potential to do harm.”

Can’t one also make the reverse claim? I.e., doesn’t confidently pronouncing that going to college makes a great, positive difference, also have a potential to do harm? If Caplan is right about what “the literature” says, then that’s really important for people to know!

If there’s lot of evidence that going to college makes a lasting, positive difference, I’d like to see it! I realize the phrase “I’d like to see it” usually sounds sarcastic, but in this case I don’t mean it to be. Reading Caplan’s book has made me a lot less confident that I’m doing much good by being a professor, so I’d love to get renewed confidence that education works like its boosters say.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Robert A Gressis
2 years ago

Robert Gressis, what does any of that have to do with the value (or not) of philosophy education? I presume you’re not implying that the point of teaching philosophy is for students to learn and retain facts about what particular philosophers said (or worse still, when they lived)?Report

Robert Gressis
Robert Gressis
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
2 years ago

Alastair Norcross, the point is that there seems to be (at least some!) evidence that we don’t retain a lot of the information we learned in college. So, even if students learn a lot about philosophy from majoring in philosophy, it doesn’t follow that it stays with them.

I once asked a student successfully got a major in philosophy, and got good grades while doing it, what he learned from his philosophy education (he had finished his degree about four years ago). He told me that he remembered a few names, like Plato and Descartes, but he admitted that he didn’t remember, at least not at that moment, any particular theses of theirs.

That said, he did say that there was one habit of mind that stuck with him; it was to ask, when presented with a claim, “what’s the evidence for that?”

I thought that was a great success. Just to have that habit is a big deal! That said, I don’t know (a) if he’ll retain that habit for much longer; (b) if he got that habit as a result of majoring in philosophy; or (c) whether there were cheaper or more effective ways of developing that habit.Report

Shaun Gallagher
2 years ago

Concerning the ongoing shift to STEM, read the 9/11 Commission (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 2004): “Millions [of people], pursuing secular as well as religious studies were products of educational systems that generally devoted little if any attention to the rest of the world’s thought, history and culture. The secular education reflected a strong cultural preference for technical fields over the humanities and social sciences. Many of these young men [and it is only men], even if able to study abroad, lacked the perspective and skills needed to understand a different culture” p. 73).
And read the piece by Dan Berrett in the Chronicle of Higher Education (March 23, 2016) which discusses research from Oxford on the educational background of those involved in terrorism worldwide — most of those with university educations were educated in engineering or other technical fields.
And for good measure, read the al-Qaeda training manual: “The confrontation that we are calling for … does not know Socratic dialogue, Platonic ideals, or Aristotelian diplomacy. But it does know the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine gun.”Report

Lewchuk
Lewchuk
2 years ago

Perhaps I am being cynical but suspect the humanities will also be STEM focused (eg philosophy becomes a business ethics course telling you not to lie, cheat, steal or kill too many people with your product. Will also need an english course in business communications.Report

Jon Light
Jon Light
2 years ago

There will be as many philosophy departments in 50 years as there are classics departments now (compared to 50 years ago). The party’s over. Philosophers will exist, in other departments (like Jason). We need to stop whining about it and wrap out heads around the future of the discipline.Report

ml
ml
2 years ago

It seems there was much more push-back when philosophy at SUNY Fredonia (one of the 3,152 SUNY campuses) was threatened. What’s changed?Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
2 years ago

The important question: is what I am doing in class very valuable to students? The answer: yes, I believe it is.

Then support the discipline which makes that possible. There are plenty of people around to advocate for (or apologize for) its destruction.Report

Jonathan Weisberg
Jonathan Weisberg
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
2 years ago

Lots of us think it’s valuable but aren’t sure it’s valuable enough to justify the societal cost.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Jonathan Weisberg
2 years ago

The societal costs of philosophy departments? If the concern is costs, philosophy departments wouldn’t be the most natural place to look. Even inside humanities, philosophy tends to be cheaper than other disciplines.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
2 years ago

The public has little understanding of why what we do matters and why they should pay for it. Many of those who think they have some idea of what we do have a very negative false impression of it. For as long as that is true, we can expect philosophy to lose support. I think we have to change public perceptions or largely go the way of the dodo.Report

Lewchuk
Lewchuk
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
2 years ago

The question of “how should we live” has been largely answered by capitalism for the general public; we should live as consumers. This is advanced through economic growth. Philosophy does little to advance economic growth and our purpose as consumers.
To be fair, philosophy is somewhat to blame. There are people doing great things with respect to philosophy, cognitive science and contemporary questions of AI, etc., but it seems like there are more navel gazing on Aristotle’s concept of virtue or Kant.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Lewchuk
2 years ago

I’ve never heard a philosopher insist that we shouldn’t bother trying to combat racism and sexism because the public has already decided. Before we decide that we can’t have a positive influence, we should try very hard. As for Aristotle and Kant, they sell rather well to the public when they are made accessible. Again, we should try really hard to see if we can interest people in them before we declare it impossible.Report

Jonathan Weisberg
Jonathan Weisberg
2 years ago

Here’s a thread by a political scientist at Tulsa with some relevant background about this particular case (can’t speak to its accuracy):

https://twitter.com/ProfHindman/status/1117447953533288449?s=20Report

Ryan Saylor
Ryan Saylor
Reply to  Jonathan Weisberg
2 years ago

The twitter thread is accurate. I am faculty at TU.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
2 years ago

Anyone who thinks that merging separate disciplines into one giant “Humanities” department has probably never worked in merged departments like this. I’ve been a part of three different universities in my life and at each of these there has been some version of a “Literature” or “Languages” or, in one especially weird case, an “English” department that merged a slew of disciplines (world literature, all language programs, and basically everything that might be written in any language – respectively)that were traditionally kept distinct. Perhaps those in ‘Philosophy and Religion’ departments might know where this is going.

In those departments, in my experience, the infighting can be fierce because merging departments doesn’t get rid of disciplinary priorities. Debates *within* a philosophy can be fierce when there’s a precious new tenure line: should the department hire an early modern scholar? a philosophy of race? someone who specializes in Buddhist philosophy? a philosopher of language? People can disagree about what priorities a department has.

Multiply that times an orange and an apple when you have an ethicist, a civil war historian, a Shakespeare scholar, and an Islamist trying to decide what to hire for. Trying to settle all but the most routine department issues becomes a battle. This is not the future I want (for philosophers or for anyone) and I see no good coming out of it for academics, for students, or for anyone else other than those who only care about the very short term bottom line.Report

Kat
Kat
2 years ago

Who designed the graphic used?Report

Kat
Kat
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

I wanted to let you know that I shared that graphic in Facebook and it has spread very quickly. A lot of people are using it as their profile picture to show support for those affected by TU’s cuts.Report

Nicole K. Braden-Johnson
Nicole K. Braden-Johnson
2 years ago

So many people commenting here that philosophy may not be worth the cost…. meanwhile the total cost of philosophy is but a fleck on the radar compared to what is spent on the military and bailing out the ultra-rich.

Philosophy has brought more good to students lives than any of THAT.Report