Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee recommends philosophy retention

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

The Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee recommended there be no elimination, reorganization or reduction of the philosophy program or major in a final report submitted to the provost Monday during Spring Break.

The committee convened after Workgroup No.7, which looked at academic programs during the vitalization project, recommended several programs, including philosophy, for elimination or consolidation.

According to the EIU-UPI contract, the committee is required to make recommendations to the provost concerning academic programs being considered for elimination or reorganization if it could result in the layoff of Unit A faculty.

In the committee’s final report, it cited that the philosophy department has netted a profit over the past five academic years.

Though philosophy saw a drop in enrollment during the university’s 2011-2012 academic year, the committee wrote in the report that total enrollment in the major, its general education and service courses is relatively steady.

“Philosophy, as a program and discipline, is an integral part of a broad education and an essential part of developing critical thinkers and responsible citizens – all of which are embedded in EIU’s Mission and Undergraduate Learning Goals,” the committee wrote.

During the committee’s meetings, it found that the program is included in the curricula for nine minors and seven majors. These minors include neuroscience, pre-law studies, medieval studies, asian studies, religious studies, anthropology, women’s studies, criminology as well as the philosophy minor itself.

To make its report, committee members reviewed information including data on majors, credit hours and full time equivalent, program profit and loss statements, major assessment profiles, affected course offerings, dean and program comments to Workgroup No.7’s recommendations and their worksheets and annotations.

Provost Blair Lord declined to comment on specific questions regarding the report and vitalization project as he said it is still ongoing and primarily a presidential initiative.

“Each of the degree programs included on the list of programs for possible elimination is being carefully considered by the president’s council and the president,” Lord said in an email. “…The contractual elimination committee had a hard deadline which has been met.  The other governance groups are expected to weigh in shortly. Until then, the president’s council and President Glassman are withholding judgment on a final decision.”

Lord said the information provided would ultimately inform a final decision from the president’s council and the president.

Eastern President David Glassman said he would read the report, which was forwarded to him by Lord, when returning from Spring Break.

When creating its report the committee spoke with EIU-UPI leadership and faculty members from the philosophy program. In addition, they used updated profit and loss statements given to them by the administration.

Jonelle DePetro, chair of the philosophy department, said they were delighted to see the recommendation against elimination.

“(The committee) acknowledged the depth of our program in the mission of the university, how integrated we are in the mission of the university and that doesn’t happen by accident,” she said. “We’ve been working all these years, integrated into these minors, programs. We work hard to provide students the best education we can offer.”

Jon Blitz, president of the EIU-UPI, who spoke to the committee about contract language and outlining the report, was also happy with the final document. “It was very professionally done, well laid out and well thought through,” he said.

Members of the philosophy department had been meeting with and providing information to the committee, including new initiatives the philosophy program wants to implement.

According to the Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee’s report, faculty in philosophy have developed curricular proposals that will “strengthen and sustain philosophy and the numerous programs served by the department.”

These include a proposed online ethics certificate and an integrative philosophy major to provide professional undergraduate training in law and medicine.

Some things the department did on its own, such as expanding its offering online, while other initiatives are more interdisciplinary.

“We have been doing a lot, and there’s more we can do to vitalize our program,” DePetro said. “…We’re not sitting back and doing nothing; there are ideas we have, ideas we think are good ideas and will enhance our program.”

However, DePetro said the philosophy department has not been able to move too far forward with some initiatives as it is not sure whether or the program is going to be eliminated, revised or retained.

“We’re in this sort of limbo where we’re not exactly sure what will happen we’re trying to see what our next step will be,” she said. “…We can’t really move forward until we know what our department will look like.”

The Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee chose to look solely at philosophy, as it is the only department whose elimination could lead to a loss in Unit A faculty.

The department already has two people who have said they will retire, DePetro said, and there are also concerns as there is the potential to lose faculty because of the state’s instability.

“I’m not sure it’s a problem anybody could solve, but eliminating programs could have negative effects,” she said. “It could have negative consequences for students considering Eastern because they’re afraid of a domino effect, if you’re eliminating one program maybe theirs will be next. I think it could have a negative consequence for faculty who are considering coming.”

The faculty in the philosophy department have specializations in certain areas. Without these faculty members, some topics cannot be offered.

“We created this program to be a certain way and if people leave, that’s significant, that’s going to be a real loss to our program,” DePetro said.

Blitz said without the philosophy program, the university would have a harder time recruiting faculty.

“You’re not going to get anybody who wants to teach an upper-division course because there’s no incentive; you significantly weaken the faculty in the department by doing that,” Blitz said. “You also significantly weaken the faculty if you put what’s left in a different department, like consolidating, because then they don’t have a voice, or have much less of a voice in governance of that particular department.”

Blitz said he could see nothing but negatives from eliminating the major. “Of course we don’t want to make every decision based on dollars and sense; however, if the department is not being a financial drag on the institution, it’s hard to come up with a logical argument for eliminating that major,” Blitz said.

Reorganization or reduction of the minor could also have negative effects on the university, according to the report, including curricular disarray, a loss of qualified faculty and an impact on student recruitment.

Given the quality of the Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee’s report, Blitz said he thinks it should have some weight.

“If they want to eliminate philosophy degree, if they ultimately come down on that side of the issue, this just makes it harder,” Blitz said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]