Richter letter

Dear Middlesex University Board of Governors:

As the Director of the Graduate Program in Critical Theory at the University of California, Davis, I write to express my dismay at your decision to suspend our distinguished Middlesex colleagues, Professor Peter Hallward and Professor Peter Osborne, as well as several of the students involved in the heroic effort to save the discipline of philosophy at your university. Based on reports from London, it is my understanding that, as of yesterday (Friday, May 22nd, 2010), Professors Hallward and Osborne, along with the students, have been barred from entering any of the university’s premises and no longer even are allowed to make contact with other faculty, staff, and students at their university without prior approval by Dean Esche or the central executive branch of the institution. This is a deplorable state of affairs. I rise in strong opposition to this obvious disregard for free speech and academic freedom, a disregard that is all the more chilling because it has occurred in the context of a university.

Your fateful and misguided decision a few weeks ago to close the top-rated and internationally respected philosophy programs at Middlesex, a decision that has been met with outrage and disbelief around the globe, was sad enough. It is horrifying to learn that you are now intimidating and punishing those who are courageous enough to attempt to reverse your short-sighted decision — a corporate-style decision that is based on narrowly-defined business interests instead of a commitment to maintaining the intellectual integrity of your institution.

As the director of an interdisciplinary program comprised of some 50 professors from throughout the humanities and social sciences along with several dozen graduate students who work in the tradition of critical theory and European philosophy here at Davis, I strongly urge you to reverse your decision to suspend our respected Middlesex colleagues and their students. I also implore you in the strongest possible terms to keep your highly-ranked philosophy programs alive, rather than dismantle the national and international reputation of the very institution whose welfare you have been entrusted to protect.

The very idea of a university (and certainly of your university) is at stake.

Gerhard Richter
Professor of German &
Director, Graduate Program in Critical Theory
University of California
Davis, CA 95616

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