Fresno Pacific University (FPU) has just laid off Nathan Carson, director of the university’s philosophy program and its only full-time (and tenured) philosophy professor, and plans to eliminate the school’s philosophy major and minor programs. An appeal of the decision has been made and is currently being considered by the administration.
The decision on the appeal is expected on January 13th.
Dr. Carson is asking members of the philosophy profession to support the appeal of the decision to remove Philosophy at Fresno Pacific University. Messages of support can be directed to FPU President André Stephens, FPU by email to [email protected].
The Philosophy Program at Fresno Pacific has been in place for 47 years, according to Dr. Carson.
The cuts, which eliminated not just the sole full-time philosophy professor, but 4% of the university’s total faculty, were intended to help the university administration cope with a multi-million-dollar budget deficit it created.
Regarding the cuts, Dr. Carson says:
While economic criteria for the faculty position cuts were given, including criteria stating that programs lacking in ‘vitality’ would be a focus, the Philosophy Major currently is holding a record in its numbers of majors at 12, the highest in its 47 year history, and outperforming dozens of other multi-faculty departments across the University. Per capita, this quadruples the .4% national average (1.6%). The Program has also demonstrated longitudinal stability in its majors and minors, and is trending upward in its students, while most post-covid departments are in steady decline, University wide. The Philosophy Department is also poised for the first time in its history, to receive a dedicated General Education course requirement for all students, in Critical Thinking, beginning in Fall 2023, which would substantially increase its University service, its size and stability, and course enrollment numbers in the Program.
Overall, the elimination of Philosophy does not meet the removal crisis criteria given by the University, nor does its removal assist in the economic crisis. It is a thriving Program, and poised for paradigm-shifting growth with the new General Education responsibilities.
Dr. Carson also notes that the cuts are in violation of the University’s own policies regarding tenured staff:
Elimination of the Philosophy Program Director, as a tenured professor, violates the Faculty Handbook of the University, where a preference for tenured faculty is clearly stated, in situations of economic crisis (and otherwise). Three of the six layoffs were tenured professors, and this is a point of great concern and discussion currently amongst all of the faculty at the University.
Dr. Carson also serves as the Director of Fresno Pacific’s Wilderness Programs, which runs a special program that would also be eliminated with his departure. He explains:
These Programs include a much-beloved, month-long Summer Sierra Program, in which students enroll in a variety of courses—philosophy, english, ecology, liberal studies, and more—and share a retreat-style community experience with faculty in Yosemite National Park, while also embarking on extended High Sierra hiking communities with their professors, learning and living together on the trail. This Sierra Program subsidizes the cost of the Philosophy faculty position significantly, has enrollment pathway partnerships with a local community college, and consistently produces summer enrollment and positive revenue for the University. The Sierra Program also comes with a multi-million dollar legacy property in Yosemite, offered free of cost to the University and its students, by a private ownership group formed and led by [me] for this specific purpose. The choice to remove Philosophy at this University, also means eliminating this Summer Sierra Program, which is not only highly transformative for many faculty and under-represented and diverse students; it is also making a positive contribution to the economic challenge our University faces.
According to Dr. Carson, the appeal has received sustained support from students, alumni, and faculty members from many disciplines and schools across the University.
To support the appeal, contact FPU President André Stephens.