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Following the language faculty cuts at LSU

Written By: daveski on November 7, 2010 11 Comments

There’s a certain urgency to the question asked on the blog of The Foreign Language Fourteen, “When did you first realize that knowing a foreign language was cool?” The blog prompts its readers with questions like “Do you know that Spanish won’t get you anywhere in Brazil?” “Can you read Plato in ancient Greek?” “Can you read street signs in Russia?” “Do you get more out of the Lion King because you know Swahili?” and “Can you read the Old Testament in Hebrew?”. And, as of the writing of this post, there are moving comments from 9 past and present students (and some now teachers) of languages.

Of course, these are questions that anyone who’s studied or learned a new language might have thought about. But the urgency here is that all the languages mentioned or alluded to, and more–Russian, Greek, Swahili, Portuguese, Japanese, Hebrew, Italian, German–stand to be drastically reduced or outright eliminated from the offerings at Louisiana State University as of next year. LSU is reportedly undergoing $42 million in budget cuts in 2010-2011 alone, a fact which prompted the university administration to notify 240 faculty members that they would be out of a job as of January 2011. This termination date was later changed to August 2011, in response to faculty protest about the abruptness of the date. Changed, that is, for all but fourteen instructors: six Classics instructors, two German instructors, two Italian instructors, one Japanese instructor, one Portuguese instructor, one Russian instructor, and one Swahili instructor, who are still slated to lose their jobs in two months.

The Modern Language Association has been publicizing these happenings on Twitter, and they have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere; most recent is the news that the American Association of University Professors‘ associate secretary has sent a letter to LSU chancellor Michael V. Martin requesting that the language faculty be given the same amount of time as other faculty, and questioning whether the university had followed proper tenure and termination guidelines. Yet, regardless of the outcome of the AAUP’s advocacy efforts, and the organizing around the Foreign Language Fourteen, the elimination of these languages sometime in 2011 seems certain.

We at Berkeley may be counting ourselves lucky in the short-term that most of our languages seem to have been spared the kind of drastic cuts underway at LSU. Yet, with UC another $600 million short of its public funding needs for the current fiscal year, student fees likely on the rise again, and with languages regularly among the first on the chopping block on campuses around the country–and indeed, considering the need to advocate for the vitality of languages and language education anywhere–can we afford to remain quiet?


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11 Responses to “Following the language faculty cuts at LSU”

  1. Jonathan on: 8 November 2010 at 6:46 am

    I always wonder why astronomy and astrophysics don’t get cut first. I mean, it’s not like our students are ever going to go to these places!

  2. N. Fritz on: 8 November 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks for the shout out! FLXIV

  3. Angelika A. Roy on: 8 November 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Dear ‘Publisher’,
    I am one of the Foreign Language 14 at LSU. Thank you for publishing. Someone actually takes notice of what has happened at LSU and, most importantly, cares.
    Best regards,
    Angelika Roy

  4. daveski on: 8 November 2010 at 8:01 pm

    @Jonathan: Yeah that’s very true. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if someone argues on that account that we ought to do away with English too!

    @N. Fritz and Angelica A. Roy: THANK YOU both for your comments here. It’s great to see that we’re connected. I’m a PhD candidate in Education here at Berkeley, and do a lot of work with the Berkeley Language Center, where this blog is hosted. I shared the story about the Fourteen today at a meeting with several language lecturers at Berkeley and there was a lot of interest. I hope we can be in touch.

    What kind of efforts do you think interested language students and teachers in other states can make in order to save language education?

    Angelika A. Roy Reply:

    Dear wonderful UC Berkely graduate,(How would you like to be addressed?)
    You need to be alert at all times and keep informed. Form a student group like our ‘Proud Students’. You can follow them on their facebook. Speak up about cuts in foreign languages. It is not good for students, it is not good for a state and it is not good for our country.
    Keep in touch. The Foreign Language Fourteen also have a facebook page.
    Angelika Roy

  5. N. Fritz on: 9 November 2010 at 6:37 am

    Our biggest problem at LSU is getting colleagues and students to understand how this affects THEM. Right now, it affects 14 faculty members out of a 1300 faculty campus. I would venture to guess that you know more about what’s going on on the LSU campus than most of our colleagues in the Department of Foreign Languages. Going to link your blog post to our blog now!

  6. Angelika A. Roy on: 9 November 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Yes, and the elimination of the 14 positions affects hundreds of students.

  7. Angelika A. Roy on: 9 November 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Big day for LSU Proud Students tomorrow: March on Capitol Hill. I will keep you posted.

  8. daveski on: 10 November 2010 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for all the updates and ideas! We’ll be looking forward to hearing more.

  9. Angelika A. Roy on: 10 November 2010 at 4:47 pm

    The Rally was a success. Students representing a number of universities sent a clear message to the government! Check out the picture on the Foreign Language Fourteen facebook.
    What a great day!

  10. Angelika A. Roy on: 14 November 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Our administrators at LSU want to lower the languages requirements. I hope that we have enough support to prevent this!


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