The irony of what’s happening in the College of Arts and Sciences at SUNY Albany — the retrenchment of the Language, Literature and Culture Department — is obvious if you look at what it says on the University’s logo: “The World Within Reach.” Below, extracts from an article by Scott Jaschik published yesterday in Inside Higher Education. You can read the full article here. The official announcements at the University at Albany can be found here.
(…) Eloise Brière, an associate professor of French studies, said that the seven tenured French faculty members each year collectively teach about 500 students who are not majors, about 40 at various stages of the major, and about 40 graduate students. She said that these numbers may seem low compared to departments that are able to have large introductory courses with hundreds of students.
“You cannot teach languages to an auditorium of 200,” she said. “It is the nature of what we do that we are then seen as unproductive.” Making decisions in this way “devalues the liberal arts,” she said.
Like her husband, Brière is long-term at Albany, having taught there since 1982. She said she was particularly concerned about younger faculty members, citing those recruited in recent years, one of whom gave up tenure elsewhere. “This is devastating,” she said.
Phil Smith, president of United University Professions, the SUNY faculty union, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, said that it was correct that SUNY has suffered deep budget cuts, but he questioned both the process and the decision. He said that the Albany chapter of the union was not consulted on the cuts, even though changes of this magnitude should have led to such discussions.
Even with a need for cuts, he said, some programs need protection at a comprehensive university like Albany. “I can’t understand how a university can eliminate classics programs and languages like Italian and French,” he said.
Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, said via e-mail: “The plans of the State University of New York at Albany to deny students access to higher learning in three modern and two classical languages are a distressing reverse to the university’s recent efforts to promote global competencies. The advanced study of the languages, literatures, and cultures of the French-, Italian-, and Russian-speaking world are essential components of a liberal arts education in a university setting. While these are financially difficult times for the SUNY system, an institution of the caliber of the University at Albany should honor its claim to offer students a comprehensive, world-class education.”