Adrian College’s Announcement on Philosophy, History Depts Is “Encouraging”

Adrian College President Jeffery Docking has reversed his earlier decision to eliminate the college’s philosophy, history, religion, theater, and leadership departments in 2021. The small liberal arts college in Adrian, Michigan announced the cuts last month in a letter to the Adrian College Association of Professors. This week’s reversal comes after “passionate feedback” from alumni, who felt the departments selected for elimination were essential for the college’s liberal arts mission.

Humanities departments are under incredible pressure at colleges and universities around the country. Even before COVID-19 added additional budget constraints, disciplines like philosophy and history were being scrutinized and compared unfavorably to STEM, business, and economics.

Shane Courtland is managing director of academic relations at the Institute for Humane Studies and holds a PhD in philosophy from Tulane University. In response to Adrian College’s surprise reversal of its humanities cuts, Dr. Courtland noted that philosophy and other humanities disciplines are becoming “increasingly endangered” at colleges facing budget constraints.

“But when you cut some of these departments, you cut away at the essence of a liberal education,” he said.

Philosophy gives students the tools to interrogate and reflect on the world around them; to think deeply about issues like equality, justice, and toleration; and to engage in critical thinking. That couldn’t be more crucial for civil society at this moment in time.
–Dr. Shane Courtland

Dr. Courtland said that Adrian College alumni’s reaction to the proposed cuts and the administration’s reversal “shows how much these humanities disciplines are valued in college communities.”

“In the near future, many schools will have to make important decisions that will strike at the very heart of their institutions’ mission,” he said. “It is encouraging that President Docking is taking his time in order to fully consult all of the relevant stakeholders. Hopefully, other schools will follow suit.”

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