Keep PHILOSOPHY at UNC Asheville

Dear Community Stakeholders & Supporters,

The Philosophy Department at UNC Asheville is facing the high probability of being eliminated as the result of a recent Academic Portfolio Review process, which began February 2024 after what was initially announced as a $6 million budget shortfall.

<Please consider sending a letter by Monday, June 24th to Chancellor van Noort and UNC System President Hans asking them to reconsider their proposal to eliminate the Philosophy Department at UNC Asheville.>

Philosophy is a keystone subject in a liberal arts education. As the oldest of academic disciplines, philosophy has existed and evolved for millennia. It is the disciplinary home of critical thinking, ethics, and logic and our courses provide skills that students need more than ever to meet today’s challenges: civil discourse, reasoning, and the ability to manage complex issues.

The UNC Asheville Philosophy Department has a tradition of excellence and has served as a bulwark of quality for the University’s entire history. Our impact is campus-wide, essential, and woven into the fabric of the institution.


Prof. Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics) has sent a letter to Chancellor van Noort and President Hans. You may read it here. She published "The Joy of Mental Freedom" in Chronicle of Higher Education in January 2024. She references this in her letter.

The American Philosophical Association (APA) has sent a letter in support of Philosophy at UNC Asheville to Chancellor van Noort, President Hans, and Interim Provost Holt. You may read it here.


Our department, like our discipline, is enduring and resilient. We anticipate a promising future in which we help students to thrive and achieve their goals of both becoming well-rounded, informed citizens and having successful careers in many fields.  

New curricular developments are underway – we have and are developing courses in democratic citizenship and civil discourse ethics. We host the legal studies minor and house UNCA’s pre-law program. The Department has been pushing for a renewed emphasis upon rigorous critical thought and logic. We are developing new internships in applied ethics for non-profits, public agencies, private business, legal offices, and mediation training.

Our students are and will ever be our top priority. UNC Asheville Philosophy has a commitment to and a well-earned reputation for a student-centered department culture. In keeping with our mission and values, faculty engage our majors, minors, and an expanding group of philosophically interested students outside the classroom. Our student engagement activities build student community. They encourage and support student-led civil discourse about universal questions and current societal issues. Planned initiatives will join with PHIL Alumni to offer mentoring relationships and professional networks. Existing and planned opportunities for student engagement include:

Some notable events in the Department are, a new UNCA National Collegiate Ethics Bowl Team already generously supported by donor funding 2024-25, a Federal Work Study funded student opportunity: “Dialogue Leaders” PHIL 103 “How Should I Live?” Philosophy and the Good Life. We continue to have a very active Philosophy Club. The 2023-24 membership was more than 30 and increased 50% last year. A recently created Pre-Law Club has flourished. And there is “Got Women,” which the Department hosts six times per year. This is a faculty-led community-building for women-identified majors/ interested students. And there are faculty-led reading groups in Theology and Continental Philosophy for students.

It must be emphasized that UNCA Philosophy is a mainstay of the entire university curriculum. Our department’s longstanding tradition of campus citizenship means all PHIL faculty contribute extensively outside our home department. The 2024 APR Study does not adequately represent, indeed blatantly misrepresents, the contributions our department makes to the institution; it has not merely discounted but has rendered invisible more than half of our work. This illogical and fallacious approach eclipses the true measure of our impact and effectively treats our purposeful and far-ranging contributions as demerits. Those accepting the study need more critical thought training. Has there even been a clearer justification for the necessity of philosophy in the university curriculum?

The following points help to correct the misleading picture of our value that is presented by the selective measures of the 2024 APR Study:

-UNCA PHIL majors dipped during COVID and have been trending back up steadily since Spring 2023. We have returned this semester to 2020 numbers.

-Nationwide, enrollment in the Philosophy major 2001-2024 has remained stable. Philosophy’s perennial relevance to all other specialties and majors means demand for the major does not change dramatically. Not all who love Philosophy choose to major; Philosophy’s appeal is broad, and courses are accessible to (and benefit) any student who is genuinely interested. Nationwide Philosophy normally has comparatively smaller numbers of majors, but this is only one measure of the value of the department and its contributions.

-The percentage of UNCA PHIL Majors is nearly double that of the national average. National Average .03% of all majors; UNCA .08% of all majors.

-PHIL programs nationwide have a high percentage of minors and double majors. The total count of majors nationwide typically includes a significant number of double majors from other humanities disciplines. UNCA traditionally has a healthy number of minors and double majors—including other humanities and also STEM and SS majors.

-Philosophy: a “core liberal arts discipline”

The essential importance of Philosophy in the academy and at UNCA is independent of demand for the major. Philosophy’s versatility and broad relevance positions us to provide consistent value through societal shifts. Our relatively small department size allows us to stay attuned and responsive to shifting student needs. As a foundational subject, Philosophy upholds the value of academic rigor while serving society’s urgent and growing need for the core intellectual and critical skills we teach.

-Nationwide data lists a Philosophy degree as a high return on investment.

Philosophy majors are at the top end of achievement for higher education success metrics. Philosophy students consistently rank highest for standardized tests scores for graduate school, career readiness skills and post-graduate earnings. Graduate performance ranks at the top of other humanities disciplines and in the highest fifth of all other fields.

-Philosophy graduates tend to pursue higher-earning professional roles such as law and management. Our UNC Asheville alumni data follow trends of success in professional pursuits and marked growth in mid-career earnings. This result echoes surveys of business leaders and hiring managers that report that the most sought-after skills in business directly correspond to those at the center of our subject.

-Finally, the philosophy major fortifies central goals in our campus curriculum and mission. These include skills of citizenship, the centrality of ethics and value inquiry across every discipline. Philosophical teaching is and should continue to be infused throughout general education. The specialization afforded by having a Philosophy major also cultivates and supports crucial expertise on campus. Having faculty experts in the field assures opportunities for our students to acquire the foundational skills sought-after in professional roles and necessary for a thriving society.

Please consider sending a letter by Monday, June 24th to Chancellor van Noort and President Hans asking them to reconsider their decision to eliminate the Philosophy Department at UNC Asheville.


UNC Asheville Philosophy Department

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