PPE departure raises questions

The faculty of arts at Wilfrid Laurier University is losing a unique program over the coming years due to a redistribution of funds. The program is pol itics, philosophy and economics or PPE.

The removal of the program is due in part to funding changes. According to program co-ordinator James Wong, low enrolment is also a contributing factor. He added, “given the fixed budget for the entire faculty of arts, that needs to be redistributed so that other programs can benefit from the redirecting of teaching resources.”

Part of the problem also comes from combining three disciplines into a single major. “For example,” he continued, “PPE … involves three units, the funds that are available to PPE are now redistributed to the three programs so they can better serve those. It is not [exactly being] cut, I think the better word is redistribution of funds.”

Students currently enrolled in the program are still able to complete their degrees. Ian Witchlow, a third-year PPE student confirmed this. “They’re grandfathering us out. Next year I’ll have PPE-specific courses and I’ll be able to graduate with it on my degree,” he said.

However, students who were interested in enrolling in the program may be able to take a derivative of it in the future.

Witchlow speculated on what was next for the program. “There is a whole bunch of rumours, but the reason I heard most and I believe the professors said was that Laurier had been donated a bunch of money so that … the Balsillie School [of International Affairs] (BSIA) could run a program very similar, but not fully similar. Ethics, political science and economics instead of philosophy,” he said.

That rumour may hold some truth. The minutes of a senate meeting held on May 26, 2010 state that “no new students are being accepted to the program, pending its redesign and transfer to the Balsillie School of International Affairs.”
Terry Levesque, acting director of the masters in international public policy and associate dean of BSIA would respond only via email regarding the transfer. He said that there are aspects of the PPE program that the BSIA will borrow but any new program will be quite different from the current undergraduate program. It is also not on the current BSIA council agenda but interest has been expressed informally in adding a similar undergraduate program. BSIA currently only offers graduate and post-graduate programs.

As for reactions to the removal of the program, Wong expressed positive feelings about the program’s time at Laurier. “I think those of us who participated and are still participating in the program are proud of the students and what their accomplishments are” he said.

Witchlow believes that “it’s unfortunate because the reason I came to Laurier was this program. None of the other universities offered anything like it that’s why I came here.”

“I just wish there were more people who could experience that interdisciplinary [culture], but also the tight-knit group that came with it,” he added.