As the semester begins, changes are occurring all around our campus. From Dean Huang’s event email to the upcoming destruction of Ducey Gym, CMC is shifting in many ways. Another form of this is the continuation of the planned expansion of the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major.
Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) is an intensive, interdisciplinary major that draws its roots from a similar program at Oxford University. Each year, the major is limited to 14 spots to an applicant pool that for the class of 2016, exceeded 40, the largest ever. With the growth of CMC’s recognition nationally, the PPE major is also garnering more attention. Even though other colleges in America have PPE programs—University of Pennsylvania, Yale, and Duke, to name a few—none come close to the intimate nature of CMC’s major.
Comprised of one three-hour seminar a week and then seven one-hour tutorials with two students and a professor, PPE requires a large commitment from both students and professors. Currently, the program is at capacity with 14 students starting this semester for the class of 2016 in the Philosophy section, taught by Professor Paul Hurley. In the spring of their junior year, PPE majors take a Politics seminar with Professor Ward Elliott, soon to be Professor George Thomas when Elliott retires after this academic year. Professor S. Brock Blomberg then teaches the Economics seminar and tutorial in the fall of the senior year of the program.
The increasing popularity of the major led to pressure to expand the program, and, more recently, a gift from a PPE-loving donor toward hiring a new Philosophy professor to staff the second track. The Philosophy department has begun their search for a professor to begin teaching, the soonest for the class of 2017 next spring. The Government and Economics departments are expected to find inside volunteers for the new PPE Politics and Economics slots, with no new outside hires expected.
Hurley was a former PPE professor at Pomona College, but moved across Sixth Street to CMC to lead our program’s Philosophy section. Hurley believes that “the only way to expand is to duplicate it.” Duplication would allow an identical second track with 14 students to take place, adding additional professors to teach this new track. However, the hiring of professors is only taking place currently in the Philosophy department, since the donor for the second track has not contributed the funds necessary to hire in either the Government or Economics departments, which would have to hire from within once a new Philosophy professor joins PPE.
This decision is met with mixed reactions from current PPE Professors. “No question that [PPE] has become popular enough to cause anguish for those who are not accepted,” Elliott said. With the growth of CMC’s applicant pool comes brighter and qualified students that aren’t accepted due to the limited resources of PPE. However, Elliott also argued that, “The second track would dilute the first track if both tracks had equal access to applicants, as they should.” Professor Thomas asserted the same point that the second track has the possibility of “diminishing the quality of PPE” in that currently the program is thought of as elite, and if others are let in, they, in theory, would not be of the same caliber of students that would be accepted if there was only one track.
Quality of students is not the only issue the expansion creates. “Expanding it might also take away from the Philosophy and Government departments. So those are things that should be carefully considered in crafting a second track,” Thomas said. If PPE expands, it may draw students away from other similar majors, such as Philosophy & Public Affairs (PPA) or Government.