IU Southeast Magazine - Summer 2014 - page 31

IU Southeast
Summer 2014 29
Many people think of “philosophy” as an
abstract, esoteric academic discipline
inhabited by ivory tower types who
spend their days contemplating golden
mountains and medieval rules of logic.
But James Barry Jr., a professor of
philosophy at IU Southeast since 1988,
says that’s a stereotype far removed
from the truth.
“Philosophy has always been concerned
with trying to make sense of how
humans experience the world,” says
Barry. “Philosophers from Plato to
the present have been concerned
about how we live and ought to live as
individuals and in community with one
another.”
Citing the twentieth century German-
American thinker Hannah Arendt
- author of seminal works in political
philosophy, with a particular emphasis
on the rise of totalitarianism in the
twentieth century - as one of his
major intellectual influences, Barry
says that he’s always been interested
in questions about how citizens
balance personal liberty with their
responsibilities as part of a shared
public community.
His emphasis, he says, is on a
philosophy of engagement. “These
are questions that we grapple with in
our daily lives. These are issues that
have a real, direct, daily impact on our
work lives, our economy, our sense of
justice and our natural environment,
for example, climate change. And in
my experience, our students really care
about these things. They’re interested
in discovering ways to work with one
another to shape a community that’s
sustainable and equitable.”
It was that interest in engagement, says
Barry, that led him to run for President
of the IU Southeast Faculty Senate (he
was elected for the 2013-2014 term,
and was recently reelected for a term
that runs through 2015). “We’re a
quite small faculty in a relative sense,”
said Barry. “Just 220 full-time faculty
on a campus with more than 6,000
students. And our responsibilities
extend beyond the classroom and our
research. The faculty is the engine
of curricular growth and academic
excellence. Ultimately it’s our
primary responsibility to find ways to
ensure student success – and faculty
governance is how we carry out that
responsibility.”
“My heart is in the classroom,” Barry
continued. “But I’d reached a point
where I felt a kind of obligation to get
directly involved in that part of the
organization’s life. My hope is that
I can make a positive contribution
during a time when the campus is
going through some major transitions
- not just the leadership changes at
IU Southeast, but changes that are
affecting the entire higher education
landscape. We absolutely have to
preserve the distinctive elements that
define IU Southeast as an excellent
institution while at the same time
finding new ways to cooperate with
other IU regional campuses. We have
to maintain our traditional strengths
in face-to-face teaching and learning,
while we explore new teaching
strategies like online and distance
education. We have to make sure our
existing programs stay strong, while we
develop new programs that students
want and need. And if we’re going to
grow in ways the community wants us
to grow, we’re also going to have to find
new financial resources. Realistically,
we should be thinking strategically
about how to transform this institution
in the way the community deserves –
and to do that, we probably need to add
another 50 or so faculty members over
the next few years.”
Barry said he’s valued his excellent
working relationships with Interim
Chancellor Barbara Bichelmeyer and
Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic
Affairs Uric Dufrene during the last
year. And based on his early meetings
with new Chancellor Ray Wallace,
Barry says, “I have high expectations
that we’re going to have an excellent,
close working relationship with him. I
think he understands – as do we – that
we have to be closely engaged partners
if we’re going to move forward. My
sense is that Ray really understands
that and is ready to work with us – and
we’re ready to work with him.”
Then Barry added, “Not long ago, at
an alumni luncheon, something very
moving happened, All of a sudden
alumni started talking, one after
another, unsolicited, about how IU
Southeast had changed their lives. And
every one of those stories was about
a one-to-one connection between
an individual faculty member and
an individual student. It’s that direct
connection between faculty and
students that makes IU Southeast a
special place for students. And we have
to find ways to not only maintain that
tradition, but to expand it.”
James Barry Jr., President of the
IU Southeast Faculty Senate
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