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Philosophy Department on Chopping Block at Mills

June 12, 2017
 
 

Mills College faculty members are speaking out against cuts after learning last week that plans call for laying off tenured professors and eliminating departments at the women’s liberal arts college -- departments including philosophy.

The Board of Trustees of the college in Oakland, Calif., is expected to vote this month on cuts in order to close a $9.1 million deficit. Mills is operating under a state of financial emergency as leaders attempt to end a series of deficits within three years through cuts, curricular changes and new partnerships.

Faculty members were already uneasy about the coming changes. Then they learned this week that at least eight tenured professors are in line to be laid off and that cuts are set to take place in the English, music, history, ethnic studies, physics, government and philosophy departments. Some questioned cutting the philosophy department in particular, as philosophy is traditionally considered a core part of the liberal arts.

“How does one have a liberal arts program without a philosophy program?” said Marc Joseph, a tenured professor of philosophy, according to The Mercury News. Joseph learned on Tuesday his position is to be cut.

The college’s provost told The Mercury News that Mills must take into account the majors students are choosing. Philosophy is not a popular choice, but Mills has a new global humanities and critical thought major that was created last year and is popular. That major combines philosophy, history, religion and art.

Faculty members have proposed an alternate plan that includes pay cuts to address the college’s budget issues. Some have also questioned the process administrators are following.

“The decision-making process was riddled with irregularities that I believe can be challenged successfully in court,” wrote David Keeports, a professor of chemistry and physics, in a letter circulated to other faculty members, administrators and the college’s Board of Trustees. Keeports is the only tenured physics professor at Mills. He has held his position for 35 years.

Keeports went on to write that the pending layoffs do not match processes spelled out in several parts of the college’s faculty handbook and that “a reasonable jury will conclude that age and gender influenced the decision-making process.”

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