Balibar et al: open letter to the Board of Governors (for NYRB)

The following letter has been sent to the New York Review of Books for publication:

June 4, 2010

Board of Governors
Middlesex University in London
The Burroughs
London NW4 4BT

An Open Letter to the Board of Governors

We, the undersigned, have been following with increasing consternation the events that have unfolded at Middlesex University since the announcement of the elimination of the philosophy program on April 26.   If this course of events, which is indicative of recent trends in academia, is not reversed, we fear that difficult times lie ahead for the university as a space of reasoned discussion and scholarly inquiry.

First, the decision to eliminate a program that was among the most highly ranked departments in the UK is extremely worrying.   In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), a periodic exercise conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which determines disbursement of government funds for research, Middlesex Philosophy had 65 percent of its research activity rated “world-leading” or “internationally renowned.”  The idea that such a well-respected philosophy program could be eliminated suggests that the managers of Middlesex do not value even the highest levels of philosophical research.  If this is the case, then what are we to imagine is the future of philosophy elsewhere in the UK?  What of philosophy outside the UK?

Second, the manner in which the elimination occurred reflects a corporatization of decision-making that is disturbing to all who value faculty input into university decision-making processes.  All efforts of the Middlesex faculty at finding an equitable solution to a small temporary shortfall in monies returned from the program to the central administration were rebuffed. What is most worrying is that the administration’s justification for the elimination of the program is not that it is losing money.  In fact, the program is making money.  Rather, the reason offered was that more money could be made by investing funds elsewhere.

Finally, the suspension of three professors and several students –prior to any investigation– for their role in protesting the program’s elimination is inimical to university life.  A university is not a corporation, to be run solely on principles of maximal efficiency and requiring strict obedience from its “employees” or “consumers.”  Reasoned argument and peaceable dissent are the very life blood of a university.  To resort to raw disciplinary power and suspend the affected  professors and students for challenging the managers’ decision is to exhibit an authoritarianism that has no place in higher education.

We therefore call upon the Board of Governors at Middlesex University to rescind the decision eliminating the program in philosophy and to reinstate the suspended professors and students.  The discipline of philosophy and the character of university life are too important to be treated as they have been over the last several weeks at Middlesex.


Étienne Balibar, Philosophy, Université de Paris X and University of California, Irvine
Nancy Bauer, Philosophy, Tufts University
Jay Bernstein, Philosophy, New School for Social Research
Richard Bett, Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University
Akeel Bilgrami, Philosophy, Columbia University
Lawrence Blum, Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Boston
Alain de Botton, London
Thom Brooks, Geography, Politics, and Sociology, Newcastle University
Judith Butler, Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley
Edward Casey, Philosophy, SUNY Stony Brook
William Connolly, Political Science, Johns Hopkins University
Simon Critchley, Philosophy, New School for Social Research
Arthur Danto, Philosophy, Columbia University
Maria DiBattista, English, Princeton
Julia Driver, Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis
Frances Ferguson, Humanities Center, Johns Hopkins University
John Fischer, Philosophy, University of California, Riverside
David Harvey, Anthropology, Graduate Center, CUNY
Richard Kraut, Philosophy, Northwestern University
Mark Lance, Philosophy, Georgetown University
Todd May, Philosophy, Clemson University
Colin McGinn, Philosophy, University of Miami
Jeff McMahan, Philosophy, Rutgers University
Richard Moran, Philosophy, Harvard University
Martha Nussbaum, Law and Philosophy, University of Chicago
Anthony Pagden,  Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles
Carole Pateman, Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles
John Protevi, French Studies, Louisiana State University
Paul Rabinow, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
Jesse Prinz, Philosophy, Graduate Center, CUNY
Jacques Rancière, Philosophy, Université de Paris VIII
C.D.C. Reeve, Philosophy, University of North Carolina
Peter Singer, Philosophy, Princeton University
Evan Thompson, Philosophy, University of Toronto
George Toles, English, Film, and Theatre, University of Manitoba
Bruce Wexler, Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine
Susan Wolf, Philosophy, University of North Carolina

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4 Responses to Balibar et al: open letter to the Board of Governors (for NYRB)

  1. Pingback: a letter with many signatories « Object-Oriented Philosophy

  2. Pingback: New York Review of Books letter | Progressive Geographies

  3. Pingback: Campaign update 4 June 2010 | Save Middlesex Philosophy

  4. Pingback: Open Plaques Blog – Philosophy then and now

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