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Testimony to Mills College Board of Trustees: Professor of Philosophy Marc Joseph

I am Marc Joseph, Professor of Philosophy at Mills College. I have been a teacher at Mills for 18 years, and I will continue as a teacher unless you choose, on Monday, to violate the promise of tenure you made in 2005.

I have 180 seconds to explain the value I bring to Mills College – that’s ten seconds per year of service. We’re brought to this absurdity by a process that reduces my deep commitment and knowledge of Mills to three minutes, and I’m angry that I have been disrespected and treated in a manner that has been arbitrary, unethical, and imprudent.

It is arbitrary because the administration has contradicted itself. The Addendum to the Draft FSP (dated June 15, 2017) states that students who need a philosophy class will have to “pursue courses via cross registration,” but at a meeting with students on Monday, June 19, the Provost admitted that Mills itself will have to offer some philosophy courses. First, because 26 students are enrolled in Intro to Philosophy in fall 2017 – contradicting President Hillman’s oft-repeated claim that philosophy does not appeal to our current demographic – and second because, for example, the State of California mandates that our pre-nursing students take either Intro to Philosophy or Ethics. And the Provost keeps mentioning that the global humanities major incorporates philosophy courses.

Who will teach these classes?

Our provost has said that “lots of people can teach philosophy.” I can teach philosophy because I’ve been a scholar in the field for 35 years, and I have a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University; I read Plato in Greek and Kant in German. Would you send your daughter to a college where the philosophy professor doesn’t have these credentials? Mills needs philosophy classes, and Mills philosophy classes need to be taught by Mills philosophy professors.

The process has been unethical because tenure is a right. As an academic BOT, you promised to protect the integrity of the curriculum and the faculty’s academic freedom, and the integrity of the curriculum and the faculty’s academic freedom are founded upon the expectations built into tenure.

The FEC has given you an alternative path to address the College’s financial challenges; you are ethically obligated to choose that path over this crazy and shameful path of firing tenured professors.

Finally, it is imprudent because the FSP harms the interests of the College. First, if you terminate me and my colleagues, Mills will be formally censured by the American Association of University Professors, and Mills will drop off the list of the 100 best colleges or the 50 best values – because an AAUP censured institution is not a best college or a good value. Professors and administrators in the Peralta system, and professors and administrators at Cal, will not collaborate with Mills, because if Mills breaks tenure, Mills will be a pariah.

Moreover, Cal grad students will not staff our Philosophy courses as adjuncts because teaching at a censured institution will damage their careers; I know this, because the Director of Graduate Studies at the Cal Department of Philosophy has told me that he will direct his students, not staff our courses as scabs. And no other philosopher with standing in the community of scholars will agree to staff our courses as scabs.

Second, it is imprudent because the deliberative process by which faculty and departments were chosen is empirically invalid: dollar values and values to the curriculum were calculated in ways that violate basic principles of statistical reasoning. Do not believe that you are making the brave choice by breaking tenure and terminating me: it is the weak and foolish choice. ”

Marc Joseph, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy