Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Your chance to hate

In a rare moment of non-fabricated seriousness, I would like to direct the attention of the readers of this blog (all ten of you) to the events surrounding the announced closure of all philosophy programs at Middlesex University including its internationally renown graduate program, the Middlesex University Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy.

Why does this matter? Because Middlesex's philosophy programs are basically some of the finest in the English-speaking world. Middlesex places a special emphasis on European philosophy from Kant to the present, something that is severely undertaught in English-language academia (in which generally only a few non-Anglo-American philosophers of the past 200 years are cherry picked to be taught in any depth). This is not some jerk-off cultural studies or lit crit program, like I and most American students interested in learning about "Continental" philosophy went through in our various communications, media, and comp lit departments, those places where you might write your thesis on Foucault while never having had to read Marx, Hegel, or Kant. This is real goddam philosophy, offering courses titled with big proper names--"Kant," "Hegel," "Nietzsche & Heidegger," "Sartre & Badiou," etc.--the kind of place where the usual hip names appropriated in American lit-cult departments--Derrida, Foucualt, Zizek, et al--are taught as secondary reading and contextualized in the philosophical lineage that they're actually writing about.

The closure of Middlesex philosophy was ostensibly made for economic reasons--the philosophy program fell a mere 2% short of their required income contribution to the School of Arts and Education. The real reason is this, however: the philosophy program is scheduled to receive a sizable sum of money (c.£170,000/yr) from UK government education funding agencies until at least 2015 (making a total of £850,000 or c.$1,223,000.00 USD) as a reward for its excellent performance in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (in which 65% of Middlesex philosophy faculty research was judged to be of "internationally leading" caliber). Middlesex University can close the Philosophy programs, but still receive the $1million+ in grants that the philosophy department earned. The Middlesex philosophy faculty won the university a huge sum (this 6 person faculty accounts for 5% of all RAE-awarded income in the university; their RAE-awarded grants are, per capita, 6 times larger than the Middlesex University average) and now they are all being fired and their money re-appropriated for other purposes. If Middlsex Philosophy isn't safe, no philosophy program is safe.

The announcement of the closure has caused huge uproar in academic philosophy circles around the globe. The Middlesex students, true to the spirit of Middlesex's founding as a polytechnic institution, took a practical approach: they occupied a building at the school and converted it into a democratic teaching space until the University prematurely terminated negotiations and got a court order to have the students removed. The most informative and critical independent article about the scandal I've read is this piece in Times Higher Education. Visit the website of the campaign to Save Middlesex Philosophy for yet more info.

There are two things you can do to help.

First, sign the online petition denouncing the closure, which has over 14,000 signatures at the time of this writing.

Second, and most hateful, write an email to the executive and governors' boards of Middlesex. Feel free to copy information from the petition text. Here are their emails:

michael@partridges.org.uk; A.Gajownik@mdx.ac.uk; A.Durant@mdx.ac.uk; thelindens@googlemail.com; andrew.parsons@rlb-law.com; avrobinson1@tiscali.co.uk; l_spence1@sky.com; Bridget.Rulski@guardian.co.uk; colin.hughes@guardian.co.uk; T.Cockerton@mdx.ac.uk; P.A.Johnson@mdx.ac.uk; jritterman@blueyonder.co.uk; dinagray@btinternet.com; j.alleyne@mdx.ac.uk; geoff.lambert2@ntlworld.com; W.Ahmad@mdx.ac.uk; J.Compton-Bishop@mdx.ac.uk; j.mulroy1@btinternet.com; K.A.Bell@mdx.ac.uk; lorna.cocking@btinternet.com; M.House@mdx.ac.uk; M.Keen@mdx.ac.uk; m.driscoll@mdx.ac.uk; PeterCheeseman1@aol.com; Peter.Thomas2@justice.gsi.gov.uk; RS1000@live.mdx.ac.uk; stephen.hand@lr.org; s.knight@mdx.ac.uk; T.Kelly@mdx.ac.uk; T.Butland@mdx.ac.uk; e.esche@mdx.ac.uk

Happy hatings,


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