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UNC Asheville Chancellor Kimberly van Noort has proposed eliminating the Department of Philosophy and the philosophy major program at the school.

Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Drama, Religious Studies, and the French and German concentrations in Languages and Literatures are also among the programs the chancellor is suggesting be cut.

The cuts are intended to help alleviate a “structural deficit forecast at approximately $6 million” owed to several factors, including “an enrollment decline of about 25 percent,” van Noort said in a statement announcing the proposed cuts. In addition to the academic cuts, van Noort proposed eliminating two administrative positions and consolidating two others.

Van Noort’s statement provides no details as to how much closing the academic programs will save the University, though the cuts will involve terminating many faculty positions. The Department of Philosophy has six faculty, all but one of whom appears to be tenured.

The statement does not say whether any philosophy courses would be offered at UNC Asheville if the cuts are enacted.

The idea that if you’re going to get a liberal arts degree that you’re now going to do it without encountering philosophy, the classics, religious studies — just seems absolutely unconscionable to me. That’s the core of who we are as a liberal arts institution. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to claim that title anymore.

According to the Citizen Times, the proposal will go before the UNC System Board of Governors at its July 25th meeting.

UPDATE (6/18/24): A letter-writing campaign in support of saving the Department of Philosophy and the philosophy major at UNC Asheville has been launched. Details about the campaign and various talking points are here. The organizers note that time is of the essence, and ask that letters be sent to Chancellor van Noort and President Hans by Monday, June 24th.

Our department’s longstanding tradition of campus citizenship means all PHIL faculty contribute extensively outside our home department. The 2024 APR Study [on which the Chancellor based her recommendations] does not adequately represent, indeed blatantly misrepresents, the contributions our department makes to the institution; it has not merely discounted but has rendered invisible more than half of our work. This illogical and fallacious approach eclipses the true measure of our impact and effectively treats our purposeful and far-ranging contributions as demerits.

“But again, there’s the uncomfortable matter of the $6 million deficit and programs being cut. As a UNCA professor told Asheville Watchdog in a recent story about Chancellor Kimberly van Noort’s $300,000 salary and a compensation package that includes country club memberships and a $900 monthly car allowance, some of those perks seem excessive, “especially when every other non-mission critical spending has been frozen.”

How many administrative positions have to be brought back to a normal salary to eliminate the deficit?

Strange that cutting admin is seen as a non-option, at an institution whose existence is owed to academics.

Considering leaving grad school to become a consultant.
My fee is one million dollars per second, and my advice is: “don’t pay consultants, admin and coaches millions of dollars.”
Anyone want to partner up with me?

Agreed that administrative bloat is a problem that faculty need to be more proactively addressing. But declining student enrollments is an underlying problem as well, and I don’t think it’s getting the attention it deserves. Higher ed in North America is facing a “demographic cliff” on account of the drop in birthrate that followed the recession of 2008 — undergrad enrollments are expected to peak in 2025 and then decline sharply for the foreseeable future. Together with the fact that higher education is apparently not perceived as a path for future well being and life prospects as it has been for previous generations, it looks like things are only going to get worse.

Consider the situation at Asheville. From

UNCA’s sharp decline in enrollment — down 22.2 percent from 2018 to 2023, the steepest decline of any of the 16 schools in the UNC system — is the leading cause of the financial crisis, the school’s chancellor, Kimberly van Noort, told faculty and staff last month. Total enrollment in the UNC system grew by 2.3 percent during the same period.

So let’s run some numbers. There’s a claimed $6 million dollar deficit. Going by the numbers from the graph on student enrollment at that link, the university went from a high of 3845 students enrolled in 2014 to 2925 in 2024. That’s a loss of 920 students from 2016 to 2024. According to the university’s website, full-time in-state tuition is $7501. That doesn’t include residence hall and food costs, however. According to the university, that number comes to $21,493 (for out-of-state students, those numbers are roughly $25K and $39K). Using the most conservative number, 920 x $7501 is $6,900,920. That more than makes up for the deficit.

The situation was basically the same for SUNY Potsdam when it was discussed in April, and I made a similar comment at Leiter’s blog at the time. We can argue over where cuts shopuld be made, and again I think faculty should be doing more to cut administrative bloat. Furthermore, based on Justin’s update to the OP it sounds like the administration is not accurately reporting the role of philosophers at Asheville. But in a situation where enrollment has declined precipitously over the last decade, and is projected to decline even further in the coming years, I don’t see how we can avoid contracting the academic staff as well.

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