Future of philosophy department uncertain

Loss of faculty means department can’t offer enough courses to graduate

  • With no department chair to lobby for them, Marc Kruse and rest of the Philosophy Students’ Association are meeting frequently and have expressed their concerns to the administration. – Mark Reimer

Dean of Arts David Fitzpatrick says the proposed amalgamation of the classics, philosophy and religious studies departments at the University of Winnipeg is off the table. But this news does little to lift the department of philosophy’s suffering.

Since 2008, the department of philosophy has lost half of its faculty. It has no departmental chair and has not seen a tenure track hire since 2003. The department currently has only six professors, including four tenured faculty and two sessional instructors.

According to Jane Forsey, professor of philosophy at the U of W, the number of faculty will likely be reduced further to four next year. She said administration told the two sessional instructors they will not likely be rehired for the next academic year due to financial pressures. Forsey is concerned that given the lack of professors, the department will only be able to offer seven-and-a-half courses next year.

“We just don’t have the staff right now to offer a degree program,” she said. “We are afraid that the administration is effectively shutting us down.”

But Fitzpatrick said this is not the case.

“No departments are being eliminated,” he said. “That is not a question.”

Fitzpatrick said decisions regarding the hiring of sessional instructors have not yet been made for any department, as the administration is still working through the budget for next year.

In the meantime, philosophy students are concerned they won’t be able to get the courses they need to complete their studies.

Marc Kruse, co-ordinator of the Philosophy Students’ Association, said he feels the administration is leaving students in the dark.

“We need a plan,” he said. “We need to understand how the university is going to help students reach the requirements for their degree.”

We are afraid that the administration is effectively shutting us down.

Jane Forsey, philosophy professor

Kruse said some students are considering going to other institutions in order to ensure they get the courses they need to graduate and to obtain a well-rounded philosophy degree.

While limited course offerings will affect philosophy students most directly, students from other departments may suffer as well. Certain academic programs on campus, such as environmental ethics and pre-law, have philosophy requirements.

Fitzpatrick said students need not worry that their degrees are at risk.

“We will find a way to deliver the courses so that [students] get their degrees,” he said.

Kruse explained that the Philosophy Students’ Association has had to take matters into their own hands as there is no departmental chair to lobby for them. They are holding frequent meetings to decide how to move forward and have already expressed their concerns to administration.

Fitzpatrick said the budget must be in place before anything can be resolved.

In an e-mail sent to students on Friday, Nov. 27, Associate Dean of Arts Elizabeth Dawes wrote that Colin Russell, registrar, has agreed to provide advising to all philosophy majors and honours students on an individual basis in order to assist students in planning their degree program. Philosophy students should contact him directly at c.russell@uwinnipeg.ca or 786-9337 in order to set up an appointment.

“The philosophy courses to be offered in 2010-11 have been carefully selected in order to meet the needs of the greatest number of students,” she added.

Kruse said that as a result of the e-mail, some of the anger students were feeling has dissipated. They’re still unsure of the situation, though.

“We’re still a little skeptical and afraid of what it means for our degrees – if we’re going to get a degree that’s meaningful [or] something that’s been hammered through [by administration],” he said.

Published in Volume 64, Number 14 of The Uniter (December 3, 2009)

We love comments and appreciate the time that our readers take to share ideas and give feedback. The Uniter reserves the right to remove any comments from the site. Please leave comments that are repectful and useful.

You Might Also Want To Read