Do Something!

Protect Philosophy Jobs

The campaign against the King’s Philosophy cuts is has a campaign website:

We, the students and friends of the Philosophy Department at King’s College London, present this letter in response to the events initiated by the Management in recent days.

On 28th January 2010, the student body of the School of Arts and Humanities received an email from Doctor Sonia Massai, (Deputy Head of School). This email informed us that “…the School of Arts and Humanities is putting forward a set of proposals aimed at reshaping the structure of the School and reducing staffing costs.”

In this letter we particularly want to object to two strands of this “restructuring”. Firstly, the implementation of the proposals will result in job losses for three valued and widely respected academics in the faculty; Professor Shalom Lappin, Doctor Wilfried Meyer-Viol, and Professor Charles Travis. Secondly, and more broadly, the restructuring requires all faculty members in the School to reapply for their own positions in competition with each other and within a short timescale, with a view to making further redundancies.


We fully understand the broader context within which this course of action is being proposed. It is clear that the severe financial pressures caused by recently announced Governmental budget cuts demand a considered and intelligent response. Although the email of 28th January kindly invited the students to “make recommendations or raise questions”, we have yet to be presented with the proposals themselves, despite having requested access to the consultation document.

Our official opportunities to raise objections are: (1) through our Head of Department; (2) through Student Representatives; or (3) by attending a public meeting, the date of which has not yet been communicated to us. As currently devised, all three avenues are inadequate.

(1) During the ongoing consultation period, our Head of Department will himself be in the process of re-applying for his own position in accordance with the proposals. On top of this, his day-to-day administrative, teaching and pastoral duties will of course not lessen to any extent. Given this occupational situation, and given his responsibility to manage and support the other academic staff who will also being going through the reapplication process, we do not feel it fair for us to further burden him with this responsibility given the unenviable situation in which he now finds himself.

(2) Although our Graduate Research Student Representative has proved himself to be a highly capable individual he, along with the rest of us, has not had access to the consultation document despite having formally requested it. As a consequence, he is not in a position to convey an informed and considered response to the proposals on our behalf. As it stands, the avenue he has been offered through which to represent the student body (at present a discussion of a proposal with undisclosed details at a meeting with an undisclosed date) is as opaque as the making of the proposals to be discussed. Furthermore, we have no assurances and (at present) no reason to believe that our views will be listened to; that they will impact upon the machinations of the decision makers.

(3) Nor is the “open forum”, we believe, a structure through which a detailed and reasoned discussion of the “reshaping” proposals will be possible, even though of course it is a necessary part of any public process of consultation. The degree to which this event would truly be open is called into question by the lack of official public information pertaining to the proposals being developed by the Management. Such a meeting is likely to “bottleneck” student feeling, rather than to provide an opportunity for contributions that could be taken seriously.
We are forced to conclude that “consultation” is a cosmetic addition to this proposal. Were we merely to rely upon the procedures offered to us by the College we would be unable to make any form of sustained, reasoned, and responsible contribution to the future of the School of Arts and Humanities. As a result we advance our reasoned objections in this letter. We offer it in the true spirit of consultation and as a part of our contribution to the proper open forum this university requires if it is to maintain the respect of its own students and academic staff, and of the academic community at large.

Read on.

Sign here.