The Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics at Trent University

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The future of Trent: More than half our credits online?

I sat down to my breakfast and opened my paper to this:
Ontario universities need to cut undergraduate degrees from four to three years, offer classes year-round and allow students to earn more than half their credits online, says a government paper obtained by the Star.
The report is written by staff in the office of Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray, who is quoted as saying work on the report continues before its planned release for public discussion in March.  But I cannot wait until March to say that I think it a disservice to Trent students to move to earning more than half of a B.A. online.

I am not averse to change.  (Okay, sometimes I am, but it's not always rational.)  I am receptive to the possibility that even changes which sound bad will turn out to be good, or at least the norm.  Intuitions can be wrong, misleading, and reflective of mere fear of uncertainty.  So I will likely discuss with my department the positive aspects of offering one or two philosophy courses online, especially practice-based courses like Critical Thinking.  But the statement that it is important we respond to technological advance in order that our degrees "hold their value" is undermined by doing something the very best universities do not seem at all inclined to do.  Are Oxford and Harvard hastening to see that their students earn more than half their degree credits online?  Trent's not Oxford or Harvard, but what becomes of my students when they graduate from here with a largely online degree, and compete for jobs, internships, or placement in graduate and professional school alongside students from excellent institutions?  In the past, my students couldn't claim to be alums of a school with a halo of prestige, but they could demonstrate that their skills and experiences were not vastly different from those of graduates from elite universities.  Will they still be able to do so when earning over half of their degrees online, while prestigious institutions meet in person, and interactively develop all the skills of their students?

And what happens to Trent if the professors who value interpersonal development look elsewhere, or don't apply here because they hope for better?  It seems like a recipe for the opposite of recruitment of the best scholars and professors.  It's so, so far from the Trent I heard about, the one with tutorials, intensive discussion, unforgettable seminars by the river.  Where are we going?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Canadian philosopher interviewed at NewAPPS

Laurentian University's Alexis Shotwell is the featured philosopher interviewed at the NewAPPS blog.  Blog interviews can be dull affairs, but this one is really interesting!   

Friday, February 10, 2012

Reputation via student success

My inspiration for the day, and a reason for persistence:
We have stated a model that supports the view that academic institutions seeking excellence must recognize that their mission is to maximize the aggregate achievement of their current students. Attempts to prematurely raise academic standards before a pool of high quality students is attracted to the institution are likely to be futile. Reputation-building efforts to attract good students, other than optimizing current student achievement, are of secondary importance. As an institution succeeds in increasing its student’s achievement, it will be rewarded with an increased reputation that will in turn attract better students.  (487)
- D. Mayer-Foulkes / Economics of Education Review 21 (2002)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Trent Student Symposium: March 24, 2012

*CALL FOR PAPERS* deadline February 18, 2012.

The Philosophy Society is proud to present a Symposium on March 24, 2012.  The Symposium is a longstanding tradition of the Philosophy Department.  It is a one-day event hosted by the Philosophy Society and focusing on the presentation of students’ original work.

This is a call for papers to be considered for presentation at this year’s Symposium.  With this call, we ask that you submit a paper that you would like to present to an audience of your peers.   Typically, students participating in this event present versions of term papers or research projects.  However, submissions need not have been previously submitted for credit—works in progress will be considered too.  We welcome submissions that present ideas you find interesting and are likely to raise questions and spark conversation.

Papers are to be submitted to Professor Byron Stoyles (Lady Eaton College, N114).  This can be done by leaving your paper with Kathy Fife in the Departmental office (Lady Eaton College, S.118).  Submissions can also be emailed directly to Professor Stoyles (byronstoyles [at] trentu [dot] ca).  All submissions must be received no later than February 18, 2012.

Submissions should be suitable for presentation.  To allow time for questions and comments, each presentation will be 20 minutes in length or less.  This means that papers submitted for consideration should be limited to approximately 8-pages of double-spaced, 12-point font.  They can be shorter.  Please include a separate title page with your paper.  The title page should make clear that the submission is to be considered for presentation at the Student Symposium.  The title page should also indicate the title of the paper, your name and your contact information (especially your email address).  Submissions will be reviewed by members of the Department of Philosophy.  Authors will be notified by email of whether their papers have been accepted for presentation.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Moira Howes, Feb.16: Reasons Women Should Study Philosophy

Prof. Moira Howes
The Trent Philosophical Society presents
Important Reasons Why Women Should Study Philosophy
Thursday, February 16, 2012
3:00pm until 6:00pm

Come to PLANET NORTH CAFE in the front of Trent's Athletic Centre to join the discussing with faculty and students lead by Professor Moira Howes. The discussion will loosely include topics from women in graduate school, tips for applying, gender discrimination in the work place and academia, reading more women philosophers' writings... and more.