Patrice Riemens on Tue, 4 May 2010 17:12:22 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Luke Hawksbee: Middlesex Kant Cut Philosophy! (The Tab, Cambridge UK)

original to:

Middlesex University are in the process of committing an act of
intellectual treason on a par with mass book-burning.

On 26th April, philosophy staff at Middlesex University were informed that
all philosophy programmes were to be closed to new students immediately,
as the first step in phasing out the entire department. Oh well, just
another unavoidable consequence of the recession and the ensuing education
funding cuts, right? Well, yes and no; the closure was justified on
?simply financial? grounds by the Dean of the School of Arts and
Humanities, despite the department being (pardon my French) fucking good.

No subject at Middlesex received a higher research rating, and no
philosophy MA programme in the UK is larger. Perhaps even more
importantly, the department is one of the few in the country that throws
itself into the world of ?continental? philosophy (as opposed to the
?Anglo-American? side common across the country). In the Dean?s eyes,
though, these are not ?measurable? benefits. Yes, that?s right: the
university doesn?t measurably benefit from good research or distinctive
programmes, apparently. You can be less cynical if you want, but I?m going
to guess that when the old boy says ?measurable?, he means ?profitable?.

Dr Nina Powers, who received her PhD from Middlesex and is now a Senior
Lecturer at Roehampton, is spearheading the media side of a campaign in
defence of the department, having written a comment piece for The
Guardian?s website; she describes the move as ?a step back to when
philosophy meant white men discussing formal logic over sherry?.
Exaggeration perhaps? I may be a white man, and I?ve done my share of
formal logic, but I?ve definitely never drunk sherry. But Dr Power has a
point ? Middlesex is an ex-poly and has a large proportion of mature or
low-income students. The department specifically and critically addresses
questions such as why philosophy is still so dominated by white males; not
only this, but its courses touch on critical theory, radical philosophy,
and links with other sensitive areas outside the domain of the traditional
?what is knowledge?? ivory-tower. It is unique and well-respected. Is it
possible that the department is seen as ?difficult? or ?embarrassing? at
times, and this is a factor in closing it? If so, surely this is a
disastrous blow to academic freedom?

This is what happens when universities are run like businesses. The
?market logic? is becoming deeper and deeper engrained in our higher
education system ? fees, loans, sponsorship, etc. The whole education
system is becoming uncomfortably strained as it tries to fulfil our
intellectual desires without departing from the uber-pragmatic approach
necessary to compete in a dog-eat-dog economy. On the one hand, we are
pulled towards pure academia: knowledge for its own sake, the human
yearning for discovery and invention. On the other hand we are chained
against our will to profit, short-term financial viability, and the
managerial yearning for obscene wages and job perks. But the simple fact
is the market cannot predict what may be of value to us in the future, or
how people?s lives may be enriched by abstract cultural factors.

Much like Sussex students (who have waged a high-profile and successful
struggle against the cuts), it seems the continental philosophers won?t go
down without a fight. At the time of writing, 4 days after the decision
was announced, the ?Save Middlesex philosophy? Facebook group has nearly
6,000 members and statements of support have been made by various
academics from around the world. University and Colleges Union (UCU)
members around the country are either set to walk out or itching for the
opportunity; I?d put good money on Middlesex UCU joining them. And with
students campaigning against cuts at other universities in the London area
(including UCL, Kings College, Westminster, etc) it surely can?t be long
before Middlesex students follow their example too. Here?s to a united
stand against the ?shameful? closure of an outstanding department.

Until then, anyone want a sherry?

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