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Fate of philosophy program in question after recent teaching cuts

There is a battle being fought for Philosophy here at APSU. The major could be staying or going.

“People need to understand that we are not crying wolf or engaging in hyperbole. Philosophy and Religion will very likely not exist as a major at APSU within four years, five years at the outside, if the dean’s decision stands,” philosophy professor Mark Michael said.

Currently the major is not being lost, but the program is at risk by the decrease in funding. With pieces of the philosophy program dropping, such as religious courses, the major is looking at losing a number of students. This affects both students pursuing this major as well as any professor whose subject is no longer part of the university. There are potential job losses and major changes that come with the decision.

“I should be able to graduate with my philosophy degree either way since I am a senior, but I still think it is terrible,” senior philosophy and history major Lars Anderson said. He said philosophy is the foundation of most other subjects, and it “teaches the critical thinking skills that we desperately need, especially today.”

Every major has its own special characteristic that draws students or professors to the subject. Philosophy is described as having that kind of character from student and teachers arguing to keep the major a part of APSU’s curriculum.

“Philosophers ask whether there is such a thing as right and wrong, whether humans have free will, whether we have souls or are just material beings, and whether God exists,” Michael said. He said these questions are basic questions humans ask to understand themselves, and only philosophy bind them together.

He mentioned most people would say these questions and ideas are just opinions, but he said there is an importance behind that.

“As a result of taking philosophy courses, students are able to say not just what they believe about some philosophical problem, but why they believe in it. They gain the skills to justify and back up their beliefs,” Michael said.

College is all about learning new things and creating experiences, widening perspectives on the world. Philosophy is a subject covering that specific thing.

“Before I took Intro to Philosophy, I thought it was just ethics, but I discovered it was a lot more than that and that it covers pretty much everything that does not fit into any other subject and a lot of other things that I had already been thinking about. It is more exciting because it focuses on questions that are either unanswered or that have no consensus and it is about how everything else fits together,” Anderson said.

According to a letter to the editor from a couple of APSU professors, there has been growth in the department over the last two years. The letter says the dean of Arts and Letters denies those facts.

“I know the leaders of the protests and participated in the poster campaign, and I attended one of the meetings with Dixie Webb, the dean of Arts and Letters. My impression was the situation could have been avoided, and she simply does not care about the philosophy program at all,” Anderson said.

APSU is a diverse campus, and each department builds that foundation, including philosophy.

“The dean also says she embraces diversity. In our experience, one of the most important kinds of diversity for our students to learn about is religious diversity. But her decision makes it impossible to offer courses that would discuss this at any level other than the introductory one,” Michael said.

The major faces a battle on what will come of its future. There are currently many debates and meetings arguing over which way the major will fall.

About Ashley Thompson

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