The trustees of Newman University, a Catholic university in Kansas, have approved a plan proposed by the administration that will revise its philosophy and theology programs so that they “align strategically” with its new School of Catholic Studies.
The administration also plans to eliminate four major programs, but it is unclear at this point whether philosophy would be among them.
Also unclear is what it means for the philosophy program to “align strategically” with the School of Catholic Studies. It could primarily be an administrative and staff consolidation with only indirect effects on how philosophy is taught at the school. Or it could be an attempt to explicitly influence the content and teaching of philosophy courses in a way that furthers the aim of the School of Catholic Studies, which is to reinforce “core values” such as “Catholic Identity” and provide “students authentic and transformational opportunities to grow in their faith during their collegiate journey.” (Inquiries about this to Newman University administration have yet to be answered.)
Newman philosophy professor Christopher Fox was interviewed for a story on these changes by the school paper, The Vantage, about which he expressed concerns regarding “Newman’s ability to stay a place where knowledge is produced, and the diversity of views is supported.”
The Vantage reports: “Fox said with the realignment of his department with the school of Catholic Studies, and the university’s broader aim of reducing faculty positions, he expects that he will lose his job—in part, he said, because he has been prohibited from teaching philosophy to the seminarians. ‘They said it’s because I used bad words in class,’ he said.”
Perhaps relatedly, Newman University has faced a number of wrongful termination lawsuits over the past couple of years.