Hélène Cixous’s Open Letter re UAlbany LLC

November 29, 2010
Open Letter to :
George Philip, President
University at Albany-SUNY

Dear President Philip,

In April 2007 I visited the University at Albany, extremely happy to have been invited by Professor David Wills to participate in a conference organized around my work. I had the distinct impression that the university was an institution focused on intelligence and culture, a place open toward the future, thriving on new initiatives. I encountered very high quality faculty and graduate students and found the sciences of thinking represented there to be strong and alive. I had the feeling of excitement experienced by every scholar or student of knowledge who is able to work with an engaged and motivated group of like minds.

One can judge the future of a country by the space that it provides for the Humanities. The warm welcome I received from the New York State Writers Institute, added to the intellectual atmosphere of the programs in French, Italian and Theatre, made me think that SUNY-Albany was a privileged place for emerging research, and that it possessed, in particular, the good political sense to watch over its interests. You cannot imagine how stupefied and indignant I was to learn that that institution was about to mutilate itself.

I don’t wish simply to be scandalized. I don’t want to believe that you are going, of your own account, to destroy your own riches. I’ll allow myself only to ask you to stop the ill advised process that will surely and irremediably weaken you. It is as if one were to cut out one’s own tongue. Don’t do that.

In 1968 I founded the Université de Paris 8, which still remains an experimental jewel within the French university system. I know full well that one has to struggle in order to allow the proper values for insuring the worthy and dignified development of students to flourish. They are your children, whom you must provide with the best opportunity for succeeding in the world. And, as Aeschylus said, “blood once shed cannot return to the veins”. Beware of doing something that is irreversible.

I would be very sad to know that the University at Albany had stifled its own breath. I want to believe, dear President Philip, that you won’t make the wrong choice.

Hélène Cixous
Professor Emerita Paris 8 University
A.D. White Professor at large Cornell University
House playwright Théâtre du Soleil Paris
Writer, author of 70 volumes of fiction and theory
cc. Susan Phillips, Provost
Edelgard Wulfert, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
David Wills, Professor, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

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2 Responses

  1. Helene Cixous deserves some special attention, having led the way with Jacques Derrida for decades, and I look forward to the results of this conference.

  2. Marilyn Hacker says:

    Readers of Hélène Cixous’ letter ought to know what she’s commenting on: SUNY Albany’s plan to cut out French, Italian, Russian and classics departments, both as graduate and undergraduate majors: see below.

    Disappearing Languages at Albany
    October 4, 2010

    The State University of New York at Albany’s motto is “the world within reach.” But language faculty members are questioning the university’s commitment to such a vision after being told Friday that the university was ending all admissions to programs in French, Italian, Russian and classics, leaving only Spanish left in the language department once current students graduate. The theater department is also being eliminated.

    While the last two years have seen many language departments threatened or eliminated, faculty members at Albany said they were stunned that so many languages were being eliminated at the same time and that this was happening at a doctoral university that has prided itself on an international vision. The French program extends to the doctoral level while all the other programs have undergraduate majors as well as many students who take language courses as part of general education but who do not major.

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