I had thought that we (the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne) were trying to keep our difficulties an internal affair, but apparently we’re not. Given that this is all public news, I suppose I could comment.
The take-home-message from this memo from the Dean: (1) The budget in the Arts Faculty is not yet in the black, though it’s getting better, and (2) The plan is for more voluntary ‘redundancies’ (this is now Round 3), this time with the shadow of involuntary redundancies is we don’t get enough voluntary ones to right the ship.
The discipline of Philosophy took an almighty hit at the end of Round 1. At the end of 2007 we had 5 departures out of a full-time teaching staff of 10.5. So we’ve done rather more than our part of the deal in righting the budgetary situation – except for the very real problem of ‘overcorrecting,’ making it rather more difficult to teach a coherent Philosophy major in the BA (with keen, bright students ready to learn), supervise our wonderful graduate students, and get research done. There are so few philosophers left, this round of redundancies is not directed at us, but we feel for our colleagues down the corridors, and across the campus.
The future for us is murky, but at least there’s very real prospect for rebuilding once the rest of the Faculty has sorted out its bottom line. In the near term we’re going to have to be very creative to get enough bodies on the ground to do our jobs well. We’re looking at other sources of funding, grants, bringing people on research fellowships, etc. That’s all good, but of course, what we most need is a stable core group of people to teach and research and run the place. In this environment, with the best will in the world from colleagues, it’s still touch and go as to how we get through it. The next few months are crucial.
This is one of the reasons I’ve been rather out-of-communication on the website for the last months. Both figuring out how to we philosophers at Melbourne work through this, and managing the stress it’s been causing has been a struggle. (Ask my long-suffering spouse and child–they’ll tell you.)