McNulty letter

3 May 2010

To the administration of Middlesex University:

I’m writing to join the chorus of voices protesting the closure of Middlesex Philosophy.

I write in my capacity as Director of Graduate Studies at Cornell University, one of the top research universities in the United States, where I have had ample opportunity in my work with graduate students across the humanities to appreciate firsthand the tremendous and growing impact of Middlesex Philosophy faculty on the most cutting edge current research in philosophy, critical theory, and political thought.  Under the extraordinary stewardship of Professor Peter Osborne, the Philosophy department has over the past ten years assembled a veritible “dream team” of scholars working in the most dynamic and vital areas of contemporary philosophy, whose work has achieved a degree of dissemination and international recognition that has not been seen since the heyday of French philosophy in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

The administration’s conclusion that the Philosophy department makes “no measurable contribution” to Middlesex University is patently ridiculous. The department received top scores in recent evaluations, with 65% of faculty research justifiably appraised as “world leading.”  It currently supports more than 60 graduate students in its wide range of MA and doctoral programs, a figure that few Philosophy departments anywhere in the world would be able to match.  By comparison, the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University, which is currently the top-ranked program in the United States, enrolls only 20 students at the graduate level and has no faculty members who have anything like the international reputation of the senior philosophy faculty at Middlesex.

The contribution of Middlesex Philosophy has been measured again and again, but is also in a strict sense immeasurable.  Numbers can’t quantify the impact of thought and teaching.  The thousands of letter writers and petition signatories whose names are now reaching your desks are proof of that impact, which extends from current and former Middlesex students to the international philosophy community to people everywhere in the world who are trying to make sense of problems that go well beyond the traditional scope of philosophy—notably in the political sphere—that your faculty are helping us to understand in works of startling originality and insight.

My university has long been interested in hiring senior faculty in your Philosophy department, and will no doubt be glad to have an opportunity to do so if you proceed with your wreckless decision to dismantle this department.  No philosophy program, however, could duplicate what you already have.  Middlesex Philosophy is much more than the sum of its very distinguished parts.  Its faculty and students are fiercely dedicated not only to one another and to the absolutely unique intellectual environment they have managed to create and foster, but to the communities in which they live.  The current reputation of London as an international intellectual center owes a great deal to Middlesex Philosophy, whose frequent colloquia and collaborative research projects and active public participation in the intellectual life of the city and the United Kingdom as a whole have created something truly unique.  Not the least of its contributions is having put on the map a former polytechnic whose non-traditional students were never expected to accomplish much of anything, and who in a very short time have completely transformed the face of contemporary philosophy.

Tracy McNulty
Director of Graduate Studies
Professor of Romance Studies and Comparative Literature
Cornell University

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