There is a fascinating article in today’s Chronicle regarding various universities’ decisions to cut faculty in order to stay on budget. The reality of university budgets is that they are predominately spent on salaries, so when cuts need to be made they naturally have to dip into those positions.
Like most universities, ECU is facing a financial crisis as well. A few months ago I attended a meeting in downtown Greenville held by professors in various humanities departments. Four professors gave papers on why the humanities are vital in the university. Dr. Peter Green gave an opening address which was really an apologia for the humanities (and, unfortunately, one of the strongest arguments put forth all night). When I showed up to the meeting I figured it would be a nice time to hang out with some professors and chat a bit, but I quickly realized this was more than chatting – these people weren’t simply fighting for some esoteric idea, they were fighting for their jobs. The dean of the college was in attendance and it was basically him who needed to be convinced of the humanities’ importance. Dean White is, by training, a Botanist – so he’s not exactly the “choir” to whom humanities professors want to preach.
I am involved in two programs at ECU (Classics and Religion), neither of which graduate large amounts of people. An example: my girlfriend recently graduated with her B.S. in Biology – her graduation ceremony was held in the auditorium and they gave out somewhere along the lines of 150 undergraduate degrees. When I went to the Classics graduation (which is combined with the Foreign Languages and Literatures) to receive an award, it was held in a classroom. Every language major coupled with the Classics majors added up to be a whopping 14 people. I believe 1 of those 14 was a Classical Civilizations major. This is a scary time for professors at universities where “vertical cuts” are considered an option.
The article also mentions a university that is cutting its Philosophy program in its entirety. This is unimaginable to me. How can a university exist without a Philosophy program? Socrates is undoubtedly rolling over in his grave.