Sunday, April 3, 2011

To Nevada Governor Sandoval

Subject: Your proposal to eliminate the UNLV Department of Philosophy
From: Robert Gladd
Date: April 3, 2011 3:11:32 PM PDT
Cc:, Jon Ralston ,,,

Good day,

I first learned of the Nevada budget reduction proposal advocating the elimination of the UNLV Philosophy Department in the Las Vegas Sun on March 29th in an article by J. Patrick Coolican. I was aghast. I ask that you reconsider, and take this proposition off the table. It could not be more antithetical to the very purpose of an institution otherwise positioning itself as an "Up and Coming Urban Research University" with a goal of attracting excellent faculty and students via whom to help make this state and our world a better place. You have other viable alternatives at your disposal.

Let me first cite a salient excerpt from the March 23rd, 2011 letter from David E. Schrader, Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association:
"The AAC&U has done substantial work surveying the needs of America's businesses. AAC&U data indicate that 81% of employers want universities to place greater emphasis on Critical Thinking and Analytical Reasoning skills. 75% want universities to place greater emphasis on Ethical Decision Making. These are precisely the areas in which philosophy plays the most significant role."
Indeed, and the irony here could not be more acute. That we are now find ourselves in this painful circumstance of acute economic travail, both nationally and in nearly every state, is in large measure the direct result of a political, legal, and economic culture run amuck in Gresham's Law fashion, where -- absent effective and rational regulation driven by ethical acuity -- the Bad inexorably drives out the Good. The examples are by now legion (and dispositive, in my view). I need not cite them, but I do need to emphatically add my voice here for the ongoing -- no, heightened -- importance of critical thinking and ethics coursework offerings at the university level. We have no shortage of trade schools and otherwise career-dollar focused curricula. This is absolutely not the time for retrenchment in the reasoning and ethical arts and sciences.

I am a quantitative analyst and writer of long, broad, and deep experience spanning multiple domains (see I am also a mid-career 1998 graduate of the now-moribund UNLV Institute for Ethics & Policy Studies (comprised of faculty drawn mostly from Philosophy). I count the upshot of my experience there as an invaluable, cherished asset, and simply the best academic dollar value I ever received. It served to appreciably leaven my otherwise native polemical, iconoclastic tendencies with an indelible sensitivity to the continuing challenges posed by the inseparable attributes of both objective analytical reasoning and moral/ethical inquiry. I now try daily to bring these skills to my work in health care information technology as part of the national effort to improve our health care system. I blog about these topics here: (see health care post links in the upper right links column)

I am also a Senior Member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), a 22 year veteran of that organization, and a person long committed to the ideals, strategies, and tactics of continuous improvement. The organizational literature is by now fairly replete with solid evidence of the significant cost-saving opportunities available to organizations of every stripe, public and private. Systematic, carefully implemented process improvements have repeatedly been shown to result in operational cost savings of as much as 30% or more (and I would speculate that academic institutions in general are in the upper range of quantifiable process improvement opportunity). This is wherein lies your opportunity for sustainable improvement and subsequent institutional budgetary viability (and not just at UNLV).

Let me be clear: I am by no means a reflexive apologist for the administrative or curricular status quo at the UNLV Department of Philosophy nor its parent institution. Nonetheless, what you are proposing will achieve little if anything of long-term benefit while introducing much of real short- and long-term harm. Please reconsider, and strike this proposal.

Thank you for your time.


Robert E. (Bobby) Gladd, MA/EPS