Monthly Archives: November 2010

Foreign Language Cuts At Swansea University, Wales

Aside from students and faculty who oppose the foreign language cuts at the university, now a famous spy thriller writer has criticized the move.  Is it only when famous people weigh in on an issue that something gets done?

BBC NewsSouthWales, November 1, 2010:

Best selling author John le Carré has joined a campaign opposing cuts to Swansea University’s modern languages department.

Managers are consulting on plans to reduce posts from 22 to 10.

Le Carré, whose spy books including Smiley’s People and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, said the changes were “contrary to all good sense.”

The university said talks were ongoing in light of “acute financial and other challenges” facing the department.

Campaigners said the 22 academic staff teaching modern languages received a letter informing them their jobs were “at risk” and that they would have to reapply for a reduced number of posts.

We have only to travel abroad to be shamed by the linguistic versatility of our European neighbours”

John le Carré Author

It is proposed to reduce the number of French posts from six to four, in the German department from seven to three and a half, also halve the number of Spanish posts from five and lose Italian posts altogether.

Two new Welsh-medium posts would be created.

Le Carré has joined other best selling authors, politicians and Nobel Prize winners in condemning the changes.

In a letter sent to university vice-chancellor Richard B Davies, he wrote he was “greatly distressed” to learn of the plan.

“We have only to travel abroad to be shamed by the linguistic versatility of our European neighbours, as compared with our own ignorance of their culture and language,” he said.

Genuine consultation”As the so-called special relationship with the United States loses all practical meaning, and our membership of the European family becomes increasingly important to our nation’s future, it must surely be contrary to all good sense to reduce the modern languages resources of your distinguished University.”

Other prominent names campaigners said were backing them included crime writers Val McDermid and Andrew Taylor, Baroness Coussins, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on modern languages and Herta Müller and Elfriede Jelinek, authors and Nobel Prize winners.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “We are delighted that John le Carré has joined the many other people who have spoken out against these damaging cuts.

“Languages have been designated a ‘national strategic priority’ by the Welsh Assembly Government, and the recent Browne review once again underlined their importance.

“Yet the Swansea proposals single out languages for the biggest cuts of any department in the university.

“These proposals are bad for students, bad for the university, and bad for Wales.”

A Swansea University spokesperson said: “In light of acute financial and other challenges facing modern languages, the department’s academic staff and trade union representatives are participating in a genuine and ongoing consultation with the university.”

They said the aim was to agree “a revised academic strategy and institutional structure that addresses the current and future needs of this area of the higher education sector.”

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More Foreign Language Programs Threatened

Now a high school in Wisconsin may be forced (owing to budget cuts) to eliminate its German and French programs!  If you feel strongly about maintaining the programs, you need to use the University of Albany’s example of fighting back.  Good luck!

Story from, November 21, 2010:

Potential Cuts to Foreign Language Classes at Homestead High School Has Parents and Students Up In Arms

The Mequon-Thiensville School Board recently decided that because of budget cuts, Homestead High School may have to cancel French and German programs or freeze teachers’ salaries for the next two years.  Says Mrs. Ann Braaten, a Homestead High School student’s parent, “Over the next three years, on a minimum we’re going to be $3 million short… We have to figure out how to make up that $3 million over the three years.”

Even though the school board is more inclined to freeze teachers’ salaries over the next two years, they are not ruling out the possibility of cutting French and German classes from Homestead’s curriculum.  Students and parents at Homestead spoke out against this option at a meeting earlier this month.  “(If the programs had to be cut,) parents and students would be very disappointed,” explains Braaten, who herself has attended one of the many recent budget meetings.

In the midst of the budget crisis at Homestead, Mequon-Thiensville is spending $5 million on road reconstruction in Thiensville.  “This makes me ask,” states Braaten, “‘What’s more important: our children’s education or having a nice look to our town?’  To me, the education comes first.”

School funding is not a new issue at Homestead High School.  They have known about it for ten years but tried to delay the inevitable.  In 2009, Governor Jim Doyle announced that public schools would be cut 2.5%, due to a $1.6 billion drop in tax collections.  Since then, public school budgets across the state have decreased dramatically.  Many have had to give up home economics, choirs, sports teams, and numerous art programs.

Not only would potential cuts to the school’s French and German classes affect students and teachers, but everyone living in the Mequon-Thiensville area.  Braaten sums it up when she states, “If we don’t keep our schools strong, everybody in Mequon, 100% of the people will lose on property values… So, in a round-about way, this situation affects everybody.”

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Danish Universities Considering Dropping Some Foreign Languages

Looks like Britain and the U.S. aren’t the only ones making poor choices by eliminating some foreign language programs.  Now Denmark is trying to do the same in order to save some Krone.  Eliminating languages like Farsi, Russian, and Hebrew simply don’t make sense in today’s world!

Here is the article from by Jan Petter Myklebust, November 14, 2010:

Danish universities are considering merging more than 20 languages with other academic disciplines to cope with cuts in state funding, prompting a public outcry.

Charlotte Sahl-Madsen, Minister of Science, Technology and Development, said small languages with few students received approximately 400,000 krone (US$75,000) a year from the government. But from the next budget this would be changed so that support would be given only to languages that are taught at only one university in Denhark.

“Since there is less demand for many of the small languages, there is a need to take measures to create a critical mass,” she said.

At Copenhagen University alone more than 20 languages with few students, such as Greek, Latin, Russian, Finnish, Persian, Hebrew and Polish are under threat. Greek and Latin will merge with each other and offer both bachelor and masters degrees, and other Eastern European languages will be offered besides Russian.

At Aarhus University next year Greek and Latin will not any longer be individually taught subjects. At the Southern University of Denmark in Odense several Eastern European languages will be merged.

Discussions about the mergers have been going on since early summer, when the ministry announced that the universities budget for next year would be reduced because of the fall in gross national product.

There has been an outcry from professors, intellectuals, museum personnel and others, demanding government intervention.

“Denmark is heading for a cultural disaster, which will become more serious for Denmark than for a larger country,” the newspaper Politikenstated in an editorial. “The learned man has used Latin and Greek for more than a thousand years. That is our cultural heritage which we will have to pass on. We cannot lose this during one single narrow-minded generation,” the editorial said.

Others said it was short-term thinking not to strengthen languages such as Turkish, Farsi and Arabic, given immigration levels in Denmark.

Professor emeritus Robert Phillipson at Copenhagen Business School, who has previously asked if English is an “EU lingua franca or lingua frankensteinia“, told University World News: “It is lunatic for Denmark not to maintain strong research and teaching environments for a wide range of languages.

“This entire field has been lamentably ignored by governments for two decades (unlike in Norway and Finland, possibly also Sweden), so if the present crisis can lead to more informed long-term policies and their implementation, that is all for the good.”

But some regard the potential changes as an opportunity to create more relevant language teaching. A spokesman for the Danish Business Research Academy (DEA), an independent think-thank, said: “In the future Denmark needs engineers who speak German, social scientists who understand Arabic and journalists who master Russian. And [we need] fewer foreign language experts with detailed knowledge of etymology or irregular verbs.”

Bjarne Lundager Jensen, DEA’s Vice Director, said the proposed changes did not go far enough, and the humanities should be developed further in collaboration with the natural and social sciences.

The Ministry of Science, in a recent note, said there had to be a “national strategy for teaching of foreign languages that will secure a continuous education in languages from the crib [in kindergartens] to the PhD”.

But Sahl-Madsen said the ministry would not interfere with universities’ right to prioritise which subjects to teach.

Professor Kirsten Refsing, dean of the faculty of humanities at Copenhagen University, said:
“Some of the less sought-after languages will stop having independent degrees and instead become part of a degree-bearing area of studies in which a student will be able to choose from a number of languages in which to specialise. None of the disciplines that are considered for merger will be cut.

“The Danish environment for the teaching of foreign languages has many shortcomings, not only in universities, and I regard this as a threat to Denmark’s future.”


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Petition with 13,000 Signatures to save Albany Language Programs

Wow!  I guess some people really do care about foreign language study and aren’t afraid to take a stand!  Great news!  Here is more about the petition from Stephanie Lee, “UAlbany language cuts spark petition,”, November 17, 2010:

More than 13,000 people from around the world have signed an online petition in an effort to save the French, Russian and Italian foreign language programs targeted for closure at the University of Albany.

The petition, available at, will be submitted to UAlbany administrators by members of UAlbany and Union College communities, as well as the School of Russian and Asian Studies, which offers educational and cultural understanding programs in Russia and Eurasia.

In October, UAlbany president George Philipannounced that the campus is suspending admissions to five programs — French, Russian, Italian, classics and theater — in the wake of an unprecedented budget shortfall. A growing number of critics have condemned the move as an attack on the humanities.

The petition reads: “Not only are we concerned for our colleagues at SUNY Albany, whom we know to be dedicated professionals and committed to their students, but we are also gravely disturbed by the irrevocable damage this would do to SUNY Albany’s reputation and the students at SUNY Albany, to their opportunities, and to their ability to succeed in our global environment.”

The petition cites the 500 million French speakers across the globe, Russian’s classification as a “critical need” language by the U.S. government and New York’s large Italian-American population.

The petition focuses less on theater and the classics, with Josh Wilson, assistant director of the School of Russian and Asian Studies, saying it was drafted “before the authors knew of additional cuts planned to” those programs.

The document has garnered signatures and comments from 37 foreign countries, particularly in Europe, Asia and the Pacific, as well as 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

UAlbany’s languages, literatures and cultures department has also received more than 500 letters from supporters since the announcement, said Brett Bowles, a French professor at UAlbany, in an e-mail.



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Lincoln University Uses Fulbright Awardees from Abroad to Teach Foreign Language Classes

Paige Chapman, “Small University Uses Fulbright Program to Bolster Foreign-Language Teaching,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 24, 2010:

Lincoln University, in southeastern Pennsylvania, has long had a global outlook. The historically black institution notes, for example, that its graduates include the first presidents of Nigeria and Ghana.

But in recent years, international interest among its students has flagged. Lincoln has been forced to drop two-thirds of its language offerings over the past seven years; only about 40 of its 2,000 undergraduates studied abroad last year.

Now Lincoln is hoping that four participants in the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program on the campus this year can help jump-start its ambitious plan to restore students’ global perspective. Among the university’s new priorities are increasing foreign-language enrollments and more than doubling its study-abroad numbers.

“We’ve always had a strong international connection,” says Constance Lundy, the study-abroad director. The teaching assistants “just heighten cultural awareness and sensitivity at the institution.”

The Fulbright program, known as FLTA, has brought 422 teaching assistants from 49 other countries to American colleges this academic year. It focuses on small, rural, or minority-serving institutions like Lincoln, for which the additional teaching support—along with the international exposure—can prove invaluable. In addition to their teaching duties, the assistants take courses and participate in campus activities.

Lincoln has long been active in the foreign-language-teaching-assistant program, tracing its on-and-off participation back for about 27 years. This year the four teaching assistants nearly doubled the number of faculty and staff in the department of foreign languages and literatures, to 10 full-timers.

“Without them, our department would be a different one,” says Abbes Maazaoui, an associate professor of French who is chairman of the department. Their expertise—in French, Japanese, Spanish, and Arabic, the four languages Lincoln offers—has allowed the university to offer more introductory language courses and individualized language labs. Between 200 and 300 students are taking language classes there this year.

The teaching assistants make an impact outside the classroom as well. Among other things, they run foreign-language clubs and help out at college-recruiting fairs.

Beyond that, having young academics from other countries on the campus (the maximum age for participants is 29) has exposed students to different cultures. “Their presence is absolutely helpful because of their age,” says Mr. Maazaoui. “They’re integrated in the department, but they also sit in the same classes as students. That experience is unique, and the students fare well to that.”

Over the years, one-third of study-abroad participants at Lincoln have been referred to the program by Fulbrighters, Ms. Lundy estimates.

Exposing students to other cultures has often been seen as a crucial part of generating interest in study abroad. That is particularly important among minority students, who participate in study-abroad programs at lower rates than white students do.

Exposing students to other cultures has often been seen as a crucial part of generating interest in study abroad. That is particularly important among minority students, who participate in study-abroad programs at lower rates than white students do.

Badreddine Ben Othman, an Arabic-language teaching assistant from Tunisia, says one of his goals this year is to combat stereotypes about Arab countries. He hosts a language club each week in which students discuss current events in the Arabic-speaking world.

“Some of the students taking history and cultural studies are definitely very aware of the issues, while others don’t even know where the Pyramids are,” Mr. Othman says. “It depends on the student, but I try to provide pictures or experiences to provide a clear view of the Arabic world and culture.”

Floriane Jagueneau, a French-language teaching assistant, says she had wanted to work beyond her home country, France. A course she is taking, “The History of Black People,” has been one of her favorite experiences at Lincoln.

“I’m learning to have a different point of view on what happened in history,” Ms. Jague neau says. “Students here are open to new ideas and know that the American way is not the only one. And I’m learning about ebonics and black culture, too.”

Mr. Maazaoui says that his department will get student feedback at the end of this year to improve the program’s effectiveness, but that he feels very positive about the experience.

“In today’s world, we cannot measure the effect of interacting with people from other cultures,” he says. “It’s a must for our institution and should be a goal for everyone to increase their global perspective.”







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Foreign Language Teachers at LSU Fight Back

They’re not about to lose their jobs and the departments they represent without a fight.  The LSU Fourteen (fourteen foreign language teachers who had been told by the administration that they would lose their jobs at the university by January 2011) decided they were not going to sit around and be fired.  Support for them has continued to grow at the university as well as beyond.  On October 5, groups of LSU faculty and students showed up to protest the budget cuts in a New Orleans-styled jazz funeral with horns blasting and protestors marching slowly across the LSU Parade Ground.

It’s great to see that students and faculty can find a common cause!  Hope the protests work!!  Here’s a report about the November 5 rally:

Kelsey Scram reports for NBC33 tv on the issue:  the link to the actual tv report is (view the video via that site)

Fourteen LSU instructors are set to lose their jobs at the end of the semester. The university chalks it up to budget cuts, but one advocacy group says, not so fast.

Senior Hollis Carter devotes her free time to saving LSU’s foreign language department.She and the other members of the Proud Students organization try to find alternative solutions to getting rid of the Foreign Language 14.

“We’re making progress as a whole, as a student body and as a community,” says Carter.

Now, however, she has the backing of a national advocacy group. The American Association of University Professors sent a letter to Chancellor Michael Martin, asking him to reinstate the 14 instructors. This is the third such suggestion they’ve sent out to LSU this year.”I think it shows that this isn’t just a local small thing about students getting upset,” says Carter. “Its a big deal.”

The Letter continues to suggest that if the instructors have to be fired, they should at least get to finish out the academic year.

Angelika Roy is a German teacher. She’s one of the 14 teachers losing her job in January. “There are very little opportunities for us to find employment in the middle of the academic year,” she says.

The AAUP says the instructors deserved more notice that they would be getting laid off. Many have worked at LSU for more than seven years. That counts as a form of tenure, according to the advocacy group.

“I hope the chancellor says we will need to look at this whole scenario again and it was a bad decision,” says Roy.

Chancellor Martin also heard from the Faculty Senate this week. They recommended keeping the instructors around a little longer, too. Now, both students and their teachers wait to see what Martin will do next.

“I want him to come out and talk to us, tell us what’s going on in his head,” says Carter.

LSU Provost John Hamilton says he has not read the letter from AAUP yet, but he feels that the university is in the right. He says LSU gave the instructors a year’s notice of their termination. He says the school does not have the money to keep the instructors on for another semester.

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U Albany Professor Speaks Out Against Foreign Language Cuts

Article by Solomon Syed in, November 4, 2010:


UAlbany’s decision to cut several foreign language and other programs has gotten plenty of backlash. And now, one of the school’s professors is speaking out about it, calling on the school to level the playing field when it comes to funding athletics and academics. Our Solomon Syed has more.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Time to even the score: that’s the message UAlbany associate professor Brett Bowles sent school administrators in an op-ed to the Times Union, urging the school to downsize the athletic department to shoot more money into the classroom. 

“I think the current crisis begs the question, “What is the core mission of a university?” said Bowles.

Administrators plan to eliminate three foreign language degree programs, as well as studies in classics and theater, because of a $2.2 million deficit in the College of Arts and Sciences, all while the sports department receives more than $4 million in state aid.

“I don’t understand why athletics couldn’t be self supporting,” said Bowles, “and why they couldn’t give their state allocation back to academic units.”

Professor Bowles argues the school should be willing to divert funds to academics because UAlbany isn’t a college sports powerhouse, but the Great Danes success on the playing field has led to a rise in new applications in recent years.

UAlbany tells YNN in a statement:

“The school has experienced more than $33.5 million in cuts to our state tax dollar allocation over the past three years. The athletic department has been impacted as well, experiencing a 22% reduction in operating funds. Many people and many committees have been looking at our budget and President George Philip has already initiated a review of the athletics program.”

“I participated in an NCAA sport myself when I was in college as a freshman,” said Bowles. “It was a great experience, but the reason I was at the university was to gain an education.”

Some students also complain about a mandatory athletics fee they’re assessed each semester and if cuts do continue in sports or academics, ultimately students will pay the price.



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