Warren Wilson College in North Carolina tells visitors to its website, “We believe the world needs curiosity” and says that its mission is for students to “think deeply.” Yet its administration has decided to make it impossible for students to major in philosophy, arguably the discipline most associated with curiosity and deep thought.
The elimination of the philosophy major at Warren Wilson is one of several cuts being made under the banner of an “academic realignment” meant to make up for the administration’s management of the university and its budget, which has led to roughly $5 million operating deficit.
It is unclear how much money will be saved by eliminating the philosophy major. The Department of Philosophy currently has three faculty members. The cuts do not include laying off Philosophy faculty, but once current majors graduate, the administration may take such steps (as they reportedly previously did with other departments).
Why was philosophy targeted? The criteria used by the committee that recommended the cuts used the following criteria: class size, number of majors and expressed interest in the major, and institutional mission alignment. According to a faculty member at the College, it is unclear why the philosophy major did not survive: “the data they shared showed Philosophy has the 3rd largest class sizes, and though the number of majors are lower by comparison with the [some] majors (especially Environmental Studies), they were not among the lowest, and some of those programs were not cut.”
As for “mission alignment,” well, perhaps they will be revising the mission statement.
The decision was made by Provost Jay Roberts ([email protected]) and the Academic Planning Committee, without input from the Department of Philosophy, nor was any advance warning provided to the Department of Philosophy to let it know that its major was among those being considered for elimination.