This is a repeat of the second half of this post and is for commenting...
The Rise of the Non-Academic Administrator
One reason to clearly articulate the benefits of philosophy through assessment is so philosophers can show it to administrators who aren’t academic and don’t know the value of philosophy. There are two kinds of non-academic administrators. No, not competent and incompetent, but those who work in academic affairs and those who do not. The number of administrators has increased significantly in areas like student services, admissions, development, and athletics over the years, and it is one of the main causes for increased costs in higher education. Administrators who do not work in academic affairs are competing for scarce, university resources with the academic side of the university. But, the academic side of the university has to do its job keeping the university focused on the academic mission while supporting other non-academic priorities of the modern university.
There is, however, a second kind of non-academic administrator: the one who works in academic affairs. This non-academic administrator is more of a concern for philosophy and other humanities disciplines. Many of these non-academic administrators, who have never held faculty positions, tend not to understand the full academic mission of a university, much less philosophy because they went through Ed.D. programs in educational leadership or something similar. More importantly, these non-academic administrators are making decisions about how universities are run, how scarce resources are being allocated, and the value of academic programs. As good as the APA Statement on the Major is, there are non-academic administrators who just do not understand the value of philosophy, both instrumentally and intrinsically, to the mission of a university. This means philosophers must do a better job of explaining the instrumental and intrinsic value of philosophy (through assessment?) at some point or philosophy is going to continue to lose ground to other more “career ready” majors.
Let me be clear, I am not opposed to running a college or university with some business principles, but I don’t think colleges and universities are businesses and as such they shouldn’t be run merely as businesses. Administrators who only look at credit hour production, number of majors graduated, and say, things like “students can take a history class rather than a philosophy class” really do their students, their institution, and society a disservice. Since academic affairs usually has the biggest budget, when budge cuts are called for, that’s where the cuts most often occur. So when these non-academic administrators need to cut, we have to make it clear that philosophy is not the place to balance the book.
Finally, I want to suggest to all my philosopher colleagues a book titled Provost, by Larry Nielsen. He was a long time faculty member before he was an administrator and eventual provost. I read his book last summer because I was to be the chair of our university provost search (it’s been delayed a year). Seeing how academic administrators conceive and articulate problems in the university will change your outlook on the running of a college or university. It is my sincerest hope that support for philosophy grows on college campuses nation wide. But we can’t expect it to happen ex nihilo. We have to do the hard work of showing our value and promoting philosophy’s virtues.