Cuts to Oregon’s oldest public university pit financial problems vs. institution’s ‘soul’

April 07, 2021 / PSU-AAUP

OPB News

by Meerah Powell

April 7, 2021


Western Oregon University has notified some longstanding faculty members they’re losing their jobs as part of a cost-cutting effort at the 165-year-old institution.

Oregon’s oldest public university, Western Oregon, in the small Willamette Valley city of Monmouth, will be cutting multiple programs and the equivalent of more than a dozen full-time faculty, hoping to get ahead of falling enrollment that’s only been worsened during the pandemic.

Administrators say it’s a necessary move to protect the financial health of the university, and a way to keep the 165-year-old institution affordable for prospective students. But employees, current students and alumni say they’re worried about a change in campus culture and community — especially with eliminations of programs like philosophy, which teach broadly beneficial skills, such as critical thinking, analysis and writing.

“To cut philosophy is to cut out the soul of the university,” WOU philosophy department chair Mark Perlman said. “And I’m really sad that certain people just don’t understand that. All they do is they live by spreadsheets, and, that’s not how you’re supposed to run things.”

Perlman has been teaching at Western Oregon University for 23 years, and is among the four tenured professors being laid off.

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