Cornell Romance Languages and Literatures letter

May Day, 2010

Dear Professors Driscoll, Ahmad, House and Esche,

We, the undersigned faculty members, graduate students and Chair of the Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University, have learned with great dismay that the central administration at Middlesex University has decided in one fell swoop to close (or “phase out” in business speak) all its programs, undergraduate and graduate, in Philosophy.

While we would not dream of meddling with other universities’ decisions, whether they are academic, economical, ideological or otherwise, we do want to point out the disastrous effects your decision will have, and already has had, for the name and status of Middlesex University as well as for the future of the Humanities in general, in the UK and beyond. We urge you seriously to reconsider your decision.

The dismal message you are sending to the world shows a completely anti-intellectual disregard even for the standards set by your very own country in measuring research excellence (RAE). Not only is Philosophy the highest ranked program in your University; but both nationally and internationally, the Center for Research in Modern European Philosophy is recognized as one of the few truly stellar programs of its kind, whose faculty members all enjoy the reputation as being among the brightest and sharpest minds in the world. In fact, we have on several occasions made attempts to steal away your faculty! We simply cannot imagine on what grounds any university would want to cancel such an outstanding program, one that moreover financially seems very close to matching your own expectations in terms of money contributed back to the central administration.

We have read the statement from your offices that Philosophy made “no measurable” contribution to Middlesex University. The truth of the matter is that many of us had never heard of your university until the Center for Research in Modern European Philosophy hired superlative researchers and scholars such as Professors Eric Alliez and Peter Hallward. The Center, through these and other faculty members including Professors Peter Osborne and Stella Stanford, is also widely considered to be the driving force behind the journal Radical Philosophy, which is one of the most commonly read and one of the most prestigious journals in European or so-called “Continental” (and now increasingly international) philosophy in the English language.

At Cornell University, too, the economic crisis has had very dire and negative consequences and numerous task force groups and ad hoc committees were formed, with significant faculty membership, to address the budget decisions that were tied to the crisis. However, we cannot imagine how any administrator would even dare suggest phasing out its highest ranked program if on the other hand it seems to be in relatively good financial health. So while we are not so naïve as to expect no cuts at all, we simply cannot remain quiet in the face of precisely such a decision, even when coming from the central administration of a foreign university.

We are convinced that in decisions such as these, the future not just of Philosophy as an academic discipline, but of all intellectual work and critical thinking in general is at stake.

An institution capable of putting whatever economical or ideological motives it may have before all academic and intellectual considerations simply is not worthy of the name “University.”

For all these reasons, we urge you to reverse the decision that you have sent down from your central administration.

Changing your decision will be far less embarrassing than ignoring the international groundswell pleading in favor of maintaining Philosophy at Middlesex.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Culler
Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Chair, Department of Romance Studies

Gerard Aching
Professor of Romance Studies

Ti Akire
Senior Lecturer of French

Rafael Acosta
PhD Student in Spanish

Fernando Aguirre Pérez
PhD Student in Spanish

Ioanna Barolomei
PhD Student in French

Karen Benezra
PhD Student in Spanish

Bruno Bosteels
Associate Professor of Spanish

Cory Browning
PhD Student in French

Tim Campbell
Associate Professor of Italian

Juan Manuel Espinosa
PhD Student in Spanish

Federico Fridman
PhD Student in Spanish

Gustavo Furtado
PhD Student in Spanish

María Antonia Garcés
Associate Professor of Spanish

Pablo García Pinar
PhD Student in Spanish

Zac Gooch
PhD Student in French

Mitchell Greenberg
Goldwin Smith Professor of Romance Studies

Richard Klein
Professor of French

Kathleen Long
Professor of French

Nilsa Maldonado-Méndez
Senior Lecturer of Spanish

Tracy McNulty
Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature

Fernanda Negrete
PhD Student in French

Edmundo Paz Soldán
Professor of Spanish

Pablo Pérez Wilson
PhD Student in Spanish

Simone Pinet
Associate Professor of Spanish and Medieval Studies

Jeannine Routier-Pucci
Senior Lecturer in Spanish

Karolina Serafín
PhD Student in Spanish

Marie-Claire Valois
Associate Professor of French

Yael Wender
PhD Student

Zac Zimmer
PhD Student in Spanish

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