November is usually a time to reflect on what you’re thankful for – the opportunity to have a quality education, for one, combined with two of the top universities in the state.
However, for some students at IPFW that was taken from them, by defunding liberal arts and humanities courses.
On Nov. 2 and 3 of 2016, students and faculty gathered in protest of the USAP recommendations, following the announcement of a split between Indiana and Purdue. Certain programs, such as women’s studies and philosophy, would be cut.
These reforms are in correlation with those across the nation. Universities in New York andIllinois have made cuts to humanities courses in recent years, while Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky was quoted by Inside Higher Education in September saying, “Public universities should consider cutting programs that don’t graduate students who are able to fill high-paying and in-demand jobs.”
According to some professors on campus, that is exactly what the university did following the USAP report.
“The focus here is on employability directly after graduation,” said Charlene Elsby, director of the philosophy program. “There is a long standing history of which kind of knowledge is more valuable and the professional degrees versus the liberal arts degrees.”
Elsby came to IPFW after finishing her Ph.D. in Canada back in 2014. She was on the tenure track here before the academic cuts took place. She was told tenured and tenure-track professors would not be affected.
“If I can determine excellence in teaching, research and service then I should be able to get tenure,” Elsby said. “However, I have received some communications to the effect that I should not expect for that to happen.”
Sophia Ulmer, professor of English and women’s studies, has only been at IPFW since the spring semester of 2017. She immediately saw the impacts of realignment.
“Of course I teach in women’s studies, so obviously people were very unhappy,” Ulmer said.
Ulmer said she feels extremely proud to work alongside Dr. Badia, who took a pay cut in order to keep the department running. But she’s less proud of working at IPFW, saying that after the decisions made last fall she is not impressed by the university.
“The first women’s study programs were in the early ‘70s and IPFW followed shortly after that,” Ulmer said. “It was special, it was cool, and I just wish that it was in a culture that valued women and the study of us.”
While women’s studies was able to resurrect itself with the sacrifices made by Professor Badia, the philosophy department was not so lucky.
Elsby said the faculty got a notice that some programs were on the chopping block in May of 2016. When the USAP report came out, there was a list of programs up for restructure.
“Last year was a shit show,” Elsby said.
Both professors Elsby and Ulmer are concerned about more cuts being made. Elsby pointed out the university can justify cuts when they see it appropriate and hopes they learned their lesson the last time.
“Hopefully, they will not only realize that these cuts were not well thought out,” Elsby said, “but that if they continue on this path it will continue not to be well received by our students and the general public.”
Women’s studies professor Ulmer said, that if the cuts keep happening it will begin to tarnish the reputation the school has built by offering Indiana University and Purdue University degrees.
Another thing that has Ulmer agitated is the $80,000 spent on the company Simpson Scarborough, who works with higher education institutions from its base in Alexandria, Virginia, that the university had brought in to help with the rebranding process.
Ulmer said she is grateful for the knowledge the liberal arts and humanities courses provided her with when she was earning her degree. Yet, she understands the other side of the topic.
A change to the campus that might affect the future of the philosophy department lies in the hands of the new Chancellor, as Elsby has high hopes for reinstating the philosophy program.
“What is a university without a philosophy program, like literally everyone who works here has a Ph. D. which stands for doctor in philosophy,” Elsby said. “It seems kind of contradictory to say that we do not teach philosophy here.”