philosophy at Howard University: under threat & addition 2

This would be tragic, and a sad comment on what philosophy stands for among the administrators at universities.  Those guys (n.b.) go to conferences and discussion groups and come up with plans of action together.  Given recent events, it seems languages and philosophy are targeted.

Howard University–Philosophy Department risking elimination.  Request for letters to the university President.

Dr. Sidney Ribeau, president of Howard University, is recommending that Howard University’s Philosophy Department be eliminated.  Would you be kind enough to help support those of us who see this as a strategic mistake in the struggle for Black equality.  In showing support would you write a letter to Dr. Ribeau giving your opinions on the historic centrality of the Philosophy Department at Howard University and the reasons why you believe it should be continued.  This will we a tough fight and Dr. Ribeau will make this decision final December 1, 2010. Please write to:

                               Dr. Sidney Ribeau, President
                               Howard University
                               2400 6th Street NW
                               Washington, DC 20059

In solidarity,

Richard A. Jones
Howard University
Department of Philosophy

thanks to swip-l


2.  Check out this special site:
1.  Wondering how likely it is that many people would snail mail a letter to Howard, I went to their site and found a whole bouquet of telephone numbers and email addresses; see below.  And since so many of us have educational addresses, email can add to the credibility.  I think the next step is for us to compose some letters, so people can just copy a letter and email it.  How about seeing some letters showing up in the comments? 

University Officers

**President Sidney A. Ribeau, Ph.D.

**Provost and Chief Academic Officer James H. Wyche, Ph.D.

Executive Vice President and
Chief Operating Officer
Troy A. Stovall

Senior Vice President
Strategic Planning, Operations & External Affairs & Chief Technology Officer
Hassan Minor, Ph.D.

**Senior Vice President &
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
Artis Hampshire-Cowan, J.D.
More Contacts…

Senior Vice President and
Chief Financial Officer – Treasurer
Robert Tarola
More Contacts…

Senior Vice President and
Executive Dean for Health Sciences
Eve J. Higginbotham, M.D.

General Counsel Norma Leftwich, J.D.

Interim Vice President for
Development and Alumni Relations
Nesta Bernard
More Contacts…

Vice President of Research & ComplianceFlorence Bonner, Ph.D.

<!–Vice President for
Human Capital Management
Elizabeth Stroud
More Contacts…

–>**Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara L.J. Griffin, Ph.D.
Johnson Administration Building, Suite 201

18 thoughts on “philosophy at Howard University: under threat & addition 2

  1. Alain Locke was the first black philosopher I ever read. I’m astounded that his department would die just fifty years after he did.

    It seems we’re the first blog to pick this up. I hope the other philosophy blogs do shortly. What sad news.

  2. Apologies for not having a clue, but… what does Howard University’s philosophy department have to do with black equality?

    Also, have any reasons been given for the department’s d00m?

  3. Michel, IIRC Howard was the first university in the US established for African-Americans. Anecdotally, it’s also the most prestigious.

  4. Yes, Howard is one of the “Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” often abbreviated HBCU online, if you ever see that acronym. Howard has always accepted students of any race, but of course, this was meaningful at a time when nonwhites couldn’t gain access to other schools. Justice Thurgood Marshall, for example, went to Howard Law after he couldn’t gain acceptance at UMD.

    It’s also a tragic mistake in the struggle for Black equality to those of us who fight the perception that the liberal arts are a distraction from the economic liberation of minorities through majors that lead to financial success. As Alain Locke himself argued more than once, philosophy is liberatory and a powerful source of excellent thinking about identity, culture, ethics and one’s place in the universe. Indeed, Alain Locke specifically addressed the possibility that both his own African-American fellows and those in the white majority would accuse him of snobbery and elitism, but he persisted in arguing for the value of intellectual life and culture. To this day he is considered the father of the Harlem Renaissance for his commitments to multiculturalism and the intrinsic value of the arts and humanities.

    Phew. Hm, maybe I should just obey jj’s request and post a letter here in the Comments, to work off some of my energy.

  5. My first attempt:

    I am writing in regard to the possible reduction or elimination of the Philosophy Department at Howard University. Howard is known for its top-notch education of America’s political and financial leaders. Your students deserve to be richly versed in ethics, political theory, logic and critical thinking. Could you do less than prepare them to be, not just leaders, but great leaders? Philosophers are dedicated to educating students in moral, social and logical reasoning. I urge you to continue providing such education to all your students.

    As a faculty member in higher education, I understand that economic constraints force us to make difficult choices. So did Alain Locke, the famous African American philosopher still associated with Howard today, known for being the father of the Harlem Renaissance and for his proud and persistent arguments that Black Americans should not have to choose between economic success and a distinctive intellectual and cultural life. To see philosophy as a luxury is to miss the lessons that Howard University’s own philosophers have taught us all for decades.

    I hope that you reconsider the elimination of Philosophy as a department. Thank you for your consideration.


  6. Have you philosophers thought of going bigger with this campaign? I mean sending it to the masses, via petitions and the rest, rather than just appealing to the gatekeepers at the university itself? I’m sure there are disadvantaged teens out there right now who are dreaming of a career in law, or some other field where philosophy isn’t a “luxury”. You might be able to get more of a push from the community if you find a way to get the message out to Howard’s students as well.

    Remember what our Ottawa students accomplished when confronted with Ann Coulter’s Islamophobic hate speech back in March of this year?

    I mean, there are schools, and then there are Historical Sites. Training Ground of the Father of the Harlem Renaissance sounds like a cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement to me. I think, if you get that idea out to Howard students, and high school students in nearby communities, they may make enough noise that the administrators AND whoever provides the funding for Howard might just have to listen.

    Just a suggestion. Esteemed letter writers get attention too. Your letter sure got my attention, profbigk :-)

  7. Profbigk, I read Dr. Ribeau’s bio, and he does a lot of community work. I’d have to leave the specifics up to you or somebody with more expertise bc the point is not to offend or undermine. The impression that I get of Dr. Ribeau’s approach as an educator suggests that he really is caught between a rock and a hard place here. Maybe by appealing to some of the organizations that he works with for a push from their members, as well as appealing to some of their funding sources, organizations who offer scholarships, etc., there may be a way to work with the folks at Howard to alleviate some of the hardship that they claim is causing this need to cut programs.

    They’re also in DC. I’m not sure how the funding formulas work on your side of the border, but universities get at least some gvt funding, don’t they? If the problem is money, wouldn’t there be at least a few decision makers in office who would be interested in preserving a piece of American cultural heritage? Or at least in stalling Howard’s final decision on the matter until February, Black History Month, when the matter could become a topic for national debate?

  8. Agreed, Xena, and I don’t want to offend or undermine! I really hope that as specifics become available, there will be a discussion about the rocks and hard places, which I am currently assuming are economic.

    Funding for Howard appears tricky, because on the one hand, it’s a private institution, and on the other hand, it does get at least wee government funding through some channels. Of course, at this time private funding sources are really dry to the extent they rely on the markets, and public sources are severely strained, holy cow.

    I remain hopeful. Maybe this will all get nipped in the bud?

  9. I hope so, profbigk. Judging from the # of pingbacks turning up, it looks like at least a few people are interested in the cause. There are a few American sites run by academics (non philosophers, but history people may be interested in Howard as well). I chat with them regularly. I’m going to see if I can get past some of the problems I’ve been having with accessing WordPress’ features via public technology and post a few links of my own.

  10. When I last looked, the post had 713 hits. That is not very high for a post here, but is isn’t low either.

    I feel bad about not producing a letter and I wish others had. I’m afraid my consciousness is pretty shattered by some recent events, not least Philippa’s death.

  11. If it makes you feel any better, jj, some have contacted me offline that they’re using modified versions of my letter draft. Efforts are multiple, you don’t have to do each aspect, cheer up, my feminist friend!

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