DEATH OF PHILOSOPHY: Provost cuts philosophy and humanities program

Sam Allen / UAF Sun Star

On Friday, the UAF Provost and Liberal Arts Dean met with the Department of Philosophy and Humanities to terminate the program.

Last week, Provost Susan Henrichs held meetings with programs identified for restructure and cuts following special program reviews over the past several months. The meetings are intended to notify departments of changes that aim to save the university three million dollars, according to Chancellor Brian Rogers.

The provost’s office has met with departments of philosophy, music, journalism and theatre and film to name a few. More are scheduled throughout this week.

In a memo e-mailed to students on April 15, Henrichs said the cuts would affect 10 percent of the programs at UAF and about two percent of the student population.

In an e-mail sent to philosophy students, Eduardo Wilner, department chair of philosophy and humanities said the program “is terminated.” Wilner says there will be a “teach-out period, meaning that all majors will be given time to finish in a ‘timely-fashion.’” Wilner was told by the provost’s office this means “within four years from the original day of enrollment.”

The e-mail said that philosophy might “survive in some form or another.”

A suggested solution was consolidating it with another program. Administration would prefer to merge it with the UAA philosophy program, according to Wilner. However, he said these solutions are “hypothetical, at best.”

“It’s a done deal,” Mathew Harris, senior philosophy student said. “We can try and combat it, but it’s a small program that’s succumbing to statewide budget issues.”

As of fall 2014, philosophy had eight degree seeking students, according to university data. The average graduating philosophy class in the past decade: three.

The program has one associate professor, one term professor (teacher without tenure), one adjunct professor and one professor emeritus.

In a memo sent to UAF faculty earlier this week, Provost Henrichs said, “most faculty and staff associated with the programs will not have immediate changes to their employment.”

Jonathan Quiñones, philosophy student and former president of the UAF Socratic Society, says philosophy department chair Wilner and other teachers will attend their next meeting to explain details.

Last year, Quiñones helped establish the Joseph C. Thompson Memorial Lecture Series, in honor of the late philosophy professor. Thompson’s widow, Trina R. Mamoon, created a scholarship in his name specific to philosophy students. Last semester, student government made a $15,000 endowment to the scholarship. Quiñones says the lecture series will survive and he is waiting to hear how the scholarship will be repurposed.

Quiñones said the UAF Socratic Society will live on despite the uncertainty of the philosophy program.

“This is definitely not the end of philosophy at UAF. We’re going to keep asking the tough questions,” he said.

Journalism, theatre, and film to explore collaboration on possible media arts degree

On Friday April 18, Henrichs sat down with the theatre, film and journalism departments. She told them they need to figure out how to combine elements of their programs and submit a plan by December, according to sources inside the journalism department.

“We will be meeting with film and theater exploring possible enrollment gains for all three majors under a new Media Arts unit,” Brian Patrick O’Donoghue, journalism department chair, said.

O’Donoghue says they may offer, “targeted workforce-oriented technical degrees,” including AA degrees or a certificated program. The goal is that this leads directly to employment in “commercial photography or videography and editing.”

“It was a really productive meeting and we’re looking to continue our program in the strongest way that we can,” Carrie Baker, department chair of theatre and film, said.

Music and sociology programs face cuts

Earlier this week, the music department met with the provost’s office as well.

“They cut some of the programs,” Eduard Zilberkant, music department chair, said. The “bachelor’s of music in performance and bachelor’s in music ed is still in existence.” He declined to comment on specifics of the cuts saying that the provost’s would make an official announcement later.

Kate Dillard, sociology department chair, said they’re meeting with the Provost Thursday, April 23. “I think it’s safe to say that we do not expect to retain our Bachelor of Science degree.”

The process of program reviews and cuts began last year when UAF projected a $14 million dollar budget deficit for fiscal year 2016. This was before the Alaska State House trimmed $25 million from the UA system in March.


Correction: April 20, 2015

An earlier version of this article said Eduardo Wilner posted a message to the public Facebook group, the UAF Socratic Society. It has been updated to reflect that he e-mailed philosophy students who then shared the e-mail on the social media page.


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7 Responses

  1. Jim Bishop says:

    Recognising ‘O’Donoghue says they may offer, “targeted workforce-oriented technical degrees,” including AA degrees or a certificate program. The goal is that this leads directly to employment in “commercial photography or videography and editing.”’

    Change the name of the joint to ‘ T.S.F.’ Trade School of….’ Slogan = ‘Leave education to somebody with the skills to do it. Here, we got welding for you.’

  2. Cordero Reid says:

    This is a well written article on this unfortunate program cut. Hopefully philosophy will live on with the lecture series. As a correction, I wrote a majority and submitted the legislation for the lecture series/scholarship.

    Hopefully students who meet the requirements of the scholarship will benefit here. I like to see the scope widen to CLA students who’s actions mirrors the philosophy that Joseph and the entire Philosophy department embodies.

  3. Sean Bledsoe says:

    These cuts are a byproduct of the endemic nepotism and cronyism of the UA system. They’re saving $3 million by gutting valuable programs? It’s a drop in the bucket! What happened to the 20% recommended cuts to the administration? Cut UA Statewide and save $25 million!

  4. Bob Dunton says:

    It’s been 20 years since I attended UAF. Still, this is sad news. In a culture that is increasingly driven by market concerns, it seems a shame to eliminate programs that offer alternative ways of thinking about value. A shame.

  5. Brian Patrick O'Donoghue says:

    I embrace and value higher education leading to a B.A. pr B.S, founded on a set of core science and humanities courses, culminated in specialization through a major.
    Not every student arrives at our open-enrollment university with the drive, preparation or life circumstances that permit them to go the distance. When they fall short of attaining a degree, what should be a positive life-enhancing experience caries the shadow of defeat and debt.
    Others simply aspire for technical careers in, say, videography, digital editing or commercial photography. Journalism and Film already have the resources and courses in the catalog to serve both BA seekers and students who benefit from stepping-stone certificates, or AA degrees, opening doors to good careers.
    Rather than deride that as “workforce” pandering, I call it a student-friendly, no brainer adjustment in what we do, serving all five of the UAF mission core themes.

  6. Darthvadersmom says:

    Suggest that the English and history majors, etc. require a philosophy course. That’s how we had to save it at our school.

  1. April 21, 2015

    […] There will be no more philosophy program at the University of Alaska, according to an article in the UAF Sun Star. […]

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