FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – With a multi-million dollar deficit, Fresno Pacific University (FPU) has announced cuts that included six faculty positions which included tenured professors and leading programs with deep roots and history at the school.
One of the previously announced layoffs is of the tenured professor Dr. Nathan Carson, head of the Philosophy Department (who also runs the Summer Sierra Program). Protestors say his layoff will bring about the elimination of the Philosophy Department – as well as the Sierra Program.
Many students and alumni of the two programs gathered on Wednesday outside the offices of the president in McDonald Hall and staged a “Tents and Togas” sit-in protest. Participants wore togas to display the importance of philosophy – and stayed in tents to visibly support the Sierra Program.
“I was very angry. I obviously have a bias as a philosopher, but for Fresno Pacific University, philosophy is considered the handmaiden of theology because this is a Christian university, so to remove philosophy is to deprive theology of her handmaiden,” said Nicolas Portwood, a senior at Fresno Pacific University.
The decision to remove these programs and Dr. Carson has been appealed – and the decision on the appeal is said to come back this week. The sit-in was designed to show university administrators that demonstrators expect them to reverse the decision.
Dr. Carson understands the financial burden that the university is facing, but believes that philosophy is fundamental to FPU, especially for the diverse students at the school that may not have a faith-based background.
“They are entering this place that cares about questions regarding faith and philosophy helps them to navigate. Questions about what’s meaningful or valuable, how I live my life, and sort of intersecting questions about religious commitment, faith, and community with these really fundamental questions about reality, knowledge, and truth, what it is to live well as a human being,” said Dr. Carson.
While Dr. Carson said he was in shock and disbelief about FPU’s decision, he wants to do his part in fixing the problem and holds FPU’s president in high regard.
“I want to do my part to help solve the financial crisis, I get that it’s a real issue and I believe in the president we have, president Andre Stephens is amazing, trustworthy, careful, and has an amazing track record,” said Dr. Carson.
Portwood also had kind words about Stephens saying that he has had conversations with the concerned staff and students about the decision.
“President Stephens to his credit has come out here, he has talked to us, he has heard our concerns and he does seem sympathetic so hopefully that means that he will do the right thing and reverse the decision to eliminate philosophy and the summer in the sierras program,” said Portwood.