Fired Foreign Language Teachers at LSU confront Chancellor

Story by Catherine Threlkeld from Lsureveille, October 1, 2010:

Members of the “foreign language 14” grilled Chancellor Michael Martin on Thursday about the process leading to the elimination of four foreign languages.

The foreign language 14 is the self-dubbed name of the University instructors who will no longer have jobs as of Jan. 21, 2011.

The 14 have appealed to College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean Gaines Foster, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Jane Cassidy and now Martin. They have now formed a resolution challenging the University’s authority to change curricula and are looking for Faculty Senate support.

The resolution says the Board of Supervisors delegates its authority to “establish curricula” exclusively to the Faculty Senate and not to any campus administrator or any committee appointed by campus administrators. However, Martin said he doesn’t think it changes curriculum because the University still offers other foreign languages.

After securing a meeting with Martin, the 14 have barked up the highest academic tree possible.

Eight of the 14 attended the Thursday meeting and questioned how the decision to fire the 14 mid-school year was made.

After what Greek, Latin, German and classical studies instructor Johanna Sandrock called “finger-pointing” between Foster and Martin, she said she was disappointed in the message the University is sending the world that “foreign languages are expendable.”

Martin said a group pulled together by the provost made the cut recommendation to him, which he approved.

“The recommendation came to me, and I’m responsible for it,” Martin said. “So it’s a group of one recommended by a very serious and a very thoughtful and a very sensitive group.”

Foster said eliminating the 14 was his decision. After he was handed a reduction of $700,000 to trim within his college, he eliminated programs with the fewest numbers of students.

Russian instructor Jean Rutherford said the cuts should have been made on a student per instructor basis, not students per program. Rutherford is the only Russian teacher, so her firing results in the termination of an entire language.

German instructor Angelika Roy questioned why foreign languages were cut as opposed to other academic areas.

“If we eliminate engineering, we’re no longer land grant,” Martin said. “If we eliminate coastal sciences, we’re no longer sea grant.”

Martin said virtually all cuts have been exhausted from areas other than the University core. He said while several foreign languages were the first to go, they won’t be the last academic programs cut.

“Depending on the circumstances, the deans have made hard choices. I stand by those choices,” Martin said. “We can’t invent solutions that don’t exist.”

Sandrock said after the meeting she still was not satisfied.

“To me there really is no responsibility,” Sandrock said. “We really need to know who is making this decision.”

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