Monday, February 1, 2010

Copy of Letter to the Principal of KCL,

Dear Professor Rick Trainor, Principal of King's,
Dear Professor Jan Palmowski, Head of School for Arts and Humanities,
Dear Professor Keith Hoggart, Vice Principal of Arts and Sciences,

I am writing to express my concern about your decision to dismiss Dr. Ginzburg, Prof Lappin, Dr. Meyer-Viol, and Prof Travis. In particular, I understand that your decision was made without consultation of the department, the wider university community, nor the particular people affected. This lack of professional collegiality and lack of respect for academic self-governance is shocking. Moreover, from reports available online it seems you are not honoring the university's word when it recruited professor Travis. These actions are hurting KCL's reputation and it will damage its future efforts to recruit and retain senior faculty. Moreover, because of KCL's prestige inside and outside of academia you are setting dangerous precedents that may tempt other, lesser universities.

Writing you as a professional philosopher I am aghast to learn that you are seriously damaging one of the very best and most admired departments in the world. It is especially noteworthy because it is one of the most intellectually diverse and balanced departments within philosophy. Cutting Dr. Ginzburg, Prof Lappin, Dr. Meyer-Viol, and Prof Travis will seriously diminish the reach and breadth of the department and lower its standing.

Of course, I understand that you need to make often painful budgetary choices. I also realize that if you were to reconsider this decision other valued members of your community may come under fire. But from published reports, including The Times Online, it appears your decisions are driven entirely by financial considerations. This goes against the very idea of a university; if cost benefit analysis is the only metric that informs funding priorities then academic leadership has become meaningless.

For all these reasons I urge you to reconsider your current approach.

Eric Schliesser
BOF Research Professor (2010-2015), Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Blandijnberg 2, Ghent, B-9000, Belgium. Phone: (31)-(0)6-15005958

[Not in original letter:] PS I should mention that Jonathan Ginzburg is technically in the Computer Science Department, but it is still a loss to philosophy at KCL.


  1. Is it really true that they have decided to fire Travis? I haven't heard that confirmed.

  2. When I circulated my letter to folks at KCL they did not correct that bit of information--no guarantee then it's true, of course.