MOVING TO FRONT--ORIGINALLY POSTED MAY 27
See page 45 of the just-released agenda items. A report prepared by a university committee for the Provost had not recommended closure, but had recommended other measures to reduce costs (see the report to the Provost here: Download APER Committee Report). My frequent guest-blogger Professor Christopher Pynes, who is a Professor of Philosophy at Western Illinois, tells me via e-mail that he is on the road at the moment, but I hope he will be able to post about these developments before long and advise about ways in which readers might help avert this catastrophe.
UPDATE: Roger Clawson is the Chair of the Board of Trustees--his e-mail contact information is here. Remember that they face a difficult budgetary situation; what they need to hear about is the value of philosophy. It would be particularly nice for professionals outside academia, who studied philosophy as an undergraduate, were to contact Mr. Clawson about the value of their undergraduate course of study. I will be writing to Mr. Clawson as well, since was fortunate to be a Mary Olive Woods Lecturer there a few years ago, and was very impressed by the faculty and the students I met. (There are some more details about enrollments here from the Philosophy Department Chair.)
ANOTHER: A wonderful letter from Prof. David Ozonoff, a cancer epidemiologist at Boston University, which he kindly gave me permission to share:
Dear Trustee Clawson
I am sure you will hear from many professional philosophers about the value of their discipline and asking you to reconsider any decision to discontinue it at WIU. I am not a philosopher, but a physician-epidemiologist. Epidemiology, as I am sure you know, is the study of the distribution and determinants of diseases in population, and throughout my rather long career I have concentrated on cancer epidemiology, especially the detection and analysis of cancer clusters. My current research is quite theoretical but aimed at finding efficient methods to mine large datasets for clues to the causes of cancer.
This may not sound very close to philosophy but for the last six months I have been deeply immersed in the philosophy of language and philosophical logic because they hold the keys to some of the most intractable puzzles in cancer epidemiology. In particular, untangling the interaction of the criteria for when something “causes” something else is at the heart of current practice (so-called causal inference). I use the work of academic philosophers on a daily basis. Indeed, I have read little else in the last 6 months but books and papers on philosophical logic, much of it quite technical. Because I am not a philosopher, I depend heavily on the expositions and research of today’s academic philosophers for my work. This is a connection I suspect would not have occurred to you, but it is the cutting edge of today’s epidemiological analysis. The first book has now appeared on the Philosophy of Epidemiology by Alex Broadbent (who has also written a well-regarded text on Philosophy for Graduate Students). This is an exciting career future for today’s philosophy student.
I was a Department Chair for 26 years at a School of Public Health at a major research university and am well aware of the budgetary pressures, required work-arounds and compromises needed to keep the lights on and the roof from leaking. I am hoping that in this case, one of those compromises won’t result in the loss of an excellent and well-regarded Department that is at the core of a liberal arts university and a discipline of emerging importance in the field of public health.
With best wishes and respect for the difficult job you do,
David Ozonoff, MD, MPH
Professor of Environmental Health
Boston University School of Public Health