Philosophy Major at Utica Targeted for Elimination

The president of Utica University, Laura Casamento, at the prompting of Utica’s Board of Trustees, has recommended that the university no longer offer students the opportunity to major in philosophy. A petition has been launched to protest the proposed elimination of the philosophy major.

Image from AAUP-Utica

Utica Philosophy Professor Douglas Edwards writes in with the following information:

On Wednesday January 18th, 2023, the President of Utica University, Laura Casamento, and the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Robert Brvenik recommended the elimination of 15 majors, including Philosophy, and also demanded that 8 other programs needed to make significant changes or face elimination.

The process for cutting programs began back in September 2022 when the Board of Trustees of the University charged the University with conducting an Academic Portfolio Review, due to what they called “an unsustainable faculty-to-student ratio”, which asked for recommendations for program deletion. Whilst this was claimed to be for the purpose of cutting costs, no information has been given on how any of the proposed cuts will save the University any money.

The position of the Utica University faculty union, AAUP-Utica, is that the Academic Portfolio Review violates the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the University and AAUP-Utica. AAUP-Utica filed a formal grievance in regard to this on January 10th, which is ongoing. Despite the ongoing grievance, the University went ahead with its announcement of the proposed cuts, with the Board of Trustees due to take action on the recommendations on February 17th.

Utica University (which was ‘Utica College’ until 2022) is a small private institution in upstate New York. It serves a primarily local population, many of whom are first-generation college students. Utica substantially lowered its tuition fees in 2016 in an effort to make a small college higher education experience more accessible. We believe that the proposed cuts violate the mission of the University, by removing key aspects of a higher education experience from students who deserve better.

Our philosophy department is myself (Douglas Edwards), Christopher RiddleLeonore Fleming, and John Lawless. We are sensitive to the needs of our students, and have developed dynamic courses and programs which demonstrate the advantages that a philosophical education can have, particularly to those who have not encountered it before. We are dedicated and award-winning teachers and researchers who also do significant service work for the institution. Far from a shrinking department, over the course of the last 11 years our program has developed from 3 students to an average of 50-70 minors and majors, and from 1 to 4 tenured or tenure-track faculty, largely due to the tireless work of our Chair, Chris Riddle, who began the revitalization of the philosophy program when he arrived in Utica in 2012.

The University set up a two-week ‘commenting period’ on the proposed cuts, but the commenting system will only accept comments from people with a email address. If people in the philosophical community would like to offer their support, please sign our petition before January 31st. I will then download the petition and add it to the formal commenting system using my Utica login. 

If you have any other comments you would like to make outside of the petition, please feel free to email them to me at [email protected], and I can upload those too. 

The full list of proposed majors to be cut is: Criminal Justice (online), Chemistry, Fraud and Financial Crime (on campus), Geoscience, Healthcare Management, International Studies, Nutrition, Philosophy, Physics (BA), Public Relations and Marketing, Sociology and Anthropology, Spanish, Therapeutic Recreation. We anticipate there being further petitions against the cuts in general, and I will post details in the comments as and when they are available.

You can read and sign the petition here.

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Christopher Riddle
1 year ago

Thank you for your support.

1 year ago

sign of the times here in Iowa the MAGA legislature is looking into changing funding for higher ed to be better aligned with training workers for their donors’ businesses:
more and more faculty will find out if it’s true that a philo degree is good training for jobs outside of the academy…

1 year ago

The “university” president (EdD) seems to have plenty of money to spend on everything but academics: “Under her leadership, the University has invested $21 million in capital improvements without incurring institutional debt. These expansion projects have included a new Construction Management building, a $4 million renovation to the Dining Commons, a new Intercultural and Student Organization Center, Outdoor Track and Field Complex, Career Readiness Center, Student Residential Village, Science Center, and the eSports Arena, to name but a few.” A Science Center at a university without chemistry or physics major. 😥

Reply to  jship
1 year ago

Since she assumed the presidency, the University has developed and adopted a new 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, has achieved cash operating surpluses in excess of $5 million and increased total fundraising to more than $6 million.” Yeah I call bullshit on these cuts.

Douglas Edwards
1 year ago

Further comments on the general situation can be found in my Twitter thread here: