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With the future of Mills College’s philosophy department threatened, more than two dozen philosophers from other women’s colleges are asking Mills to abandon a plan to lay off two tenured professors and shutter the unit.

“Philosophy is the backbone of a liberal arts education, and the decision to eliminate your philosophy program is flatly inconsistent with your academic mission,” they wrote in an open letter to Elizabeth Hillman, Mills’s president. Philosophy departments play a “pivotal” role at women’s colleges, in particular, they said, since philosophy “remains a male-dominated field, and women’s colleges are uniquely positioned to bring new voices to the discipline.”

Moreover, today’s political climate is one in which “truth and reason are under assault, with particularly adverse consequences for women, people of color, and others who have been the subject of systematic injustice,” the letter says. Philosophy, meanwhile, “teaches students powerful skills that will enhance their ability to make a difference in the world, and women have an essential role to play in that mission. The dismissal of philosophy thus impoverishes both your students and our society.”

Mills says the cuts, among others, are necessary to eliminate a $9.1 million deficit and declared “financial emergency.” A formal vote on the issue is expected this month by the college's Board of Trustees.

The open letter includes signatures from professors at Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Wellesley Colleges, including department chairs from Barnard, Smith and Wellesley.