Philosophy department irked by move to Vern

The GW Department of Philosophy will move to the Mount Vernon Campus by January 2012, an announcement that prompted outcry from faculty members who said the decision was made without their input.

Philosophy department chair Gail Weiss said she was informed about the move last week in a meeting with Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peg Barratt, and said she was irked by the “non-negotiable” terms of the move.

She said Barratt did not consult the department before making the decision, a fact faculty members say is concerning and problematic.

Barratt did not return requests for comment.

With the move, all faculty and departmental operations will move to the Mount Vernon Campus. Many classes will also move, although Weiss said she hopes to keep at least a few introductory sections on the Foggy Bottom Campus.

Provost Steven Lerman said the move was ordered to open up office and classroom space in the Academic Center and fill newly created space in Ames Hall on the Vern. Barratt made the decision, Lerman said, although he ultimately authorized it.

“It’s one of those situations where somebody’s got to move in order to free up space for other activities and the philosophy department turned out to be the right size and [Barratt] thought it would actually make intellectual sense to be located there,” Lerman said.

Weiss rejected that explanation, calling it “a major concern” if her department was moved because it is the right size.

“We’re concerned about the message that sends – that the academic mission is subservient to business decisions based on quantitative factors,” Weiss said.

Philosophy professor Paul Churchill said the department’s move to the Vern would cripple day-to-day interaction between faculty and students and stifle enrollment in the major.

“We’re all alarmed by it. We think it will have a deep effect on the kind of mentoring relationship that the philosophy department should have with its students,” Churchill said.

Weiss created an online petition to protest the move. So far, she has garnered more than 50 signatures from professors in departments across the University.

Online comments from professors who signed the petition said the move highlights the need for administrative openness about future plans for utilizing the Mount Vernon Campus.

“If you’re a chair, you’re constantly running into these problems about space. It’s a problem, and it has to be solved,” John Conway, math department chair, said. “[But the Vern] is a damn inconvenience.”

Some students said the move would prevent them from taking philosophy classes.

“For a student like me who wanted to take a philosophy class or two, I would have opted not to take those because the commute is not something I wanted in my daily schedule,” Alek Hannessian, a sophomore double majoring in philosophy and communications, said.

The Mount Vernon Campus is currently home to the Interior Design Program, the forensic sciences department and the Women’s Leadership Program.

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