May 23, 2018

CGU Board Votes to Close Philosophy Department; Current Students Will Receive Full Support to Complete Their Degrees

View of the clock tower on the CGU campus.
View of the clock tower on the CGU campus.

The Board of Trustees of Claremont Graduate University has decided to close the university’s Department of Philosophy as a result of a “combination of market, enrollment, and limited faculty resources,” according to a statement released late last week by Interim President Jacob Adams.

The board, which voted for the closure during its meetings held earlier this month, considered a range of factors, including “the dwindling market for philosophy programs at small privates in our selectivity range,” Adams explained in his message, which was sent out to the university’s staff and faculty.

As a follow-up to Adams’s message, Patrick Mason, who is the dean of the School of Arts & Humanities (SAH), wrote to the various constituencies of SAH: current philosophy students, philosophy alumni, philosophy faculty of The Claremont Colleges, and SAH faculty, alumni, and current students.

Mason assured the 10 students now enrolled in the university’s philosophy program that they would receive the full support of the university to complete their degree programs.

“We are deeply committed to you and your academic success,” Mason told them. “Interim President Adams made explicit in his message that we will stand by you.”

Adams and Mason both described a “path to completion” for these students and that implementation plans are now under way that Adams said will be in place by June 30. These plans may include the possibility that CGU’s current philosophy students will be able to continue working with the university’s existing philosophy faculty.

In his message to the university’s philosophy alumni, Mason stressed that their graduate degrees still carry “the same significance and import” that they always have, and that the board’s decision “does not represent a weakening of the university’s commitment to the humanities.”


While Adams addressed the process and reasoning behind the trustee decision, Mason also emphasized—in particular to the SAH faculty and alumni and the philosophy faculty of The Claremont Colleges—that the university is continuing to build SAH with the hiring of tenure-track and tenured faculty members as well as “investing in new initiatives in multiple departments” that are part of a larger effort to strategically position the university as its centennial approaches in seven years.

“This is not the kind of message that I or any administrator wants to send,” Mason wrote. “Nevertheless it is important for you to know that the process that led to the board’s ultimate decision was extensive and broadly consultative. The decision was not made impulsively or without long consideration and thorough deliberation.”

Department and program closures at universities across the nation are more common today than a decade ago. Earlier this year The Missourian reported that the University of Missouri will close 12 graduate programs as a result of its own academic review. Other recent program closures include the University of Oklahoma’s decision to close its Counseling and Psychology Clinic program and the University of Iowa’s decision to close its 70-year-old flagship Institute of Public Affairs.

Mason acknowledged such changes across the higher education landscape, adding that “the fact that they have now become commonplace does not mean they are easy to understand or accept.”