Monday, May 31, 2010

A Call to Arms

Dear Colleagues,

It is clear from the correspondence we've received that Latin, Greek, German, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Swahili are all at risk of reduction or discontinuation at LSU. 

We have long received mixed messages about language instruction at this institution.  On the one hand, the name of the college has recently been changed to the "College of Humanities and Social Sciences."  I wonder what the administration thinks the term humanities includes, if not the study of Latin, Greek, classical studies, and the languages and literatures of the world? 

On the other hand, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures receives virtually no funding for the advertisement and continuation of their programs.  At Fall Fest, the department is allotted one table to advertise all foreign languages and no money has ever been made available for posters, banners, professional brochures and other promotional and recruiting materials.  Likewise, there is no departmental funding available for receptions, awards ceremonies, or regular get-togethers between students and faculty.  Many of us are willing to contribute to these things from our own pockets once a year, yet to sustain a program takes many hundreds (not millions) of dollars and the continued dedication of all foreign language faculty members. 

The discontinuation of comparative literature last fall, the announcement of instructor cuts in January and now the suggested elimination of language programs and offerings seem to be the calculated steps in devaluing the importance of the humanities, which is a disturbing trend across the nation.  The University claims $1.5 million dollars could be saved with full implementation of their plan to eliminate programs in Latin, German, Library Science and to reduce language options.  That's a drop in the bucket compared to the $43 million dollars in budget cuts the University has received over the past year.

It is convenient that this decision comes at the beginning of the summer when most of us are off campus pursuing research or recovering from the last academic year.  Many of us are too busy or unwilling to challenge the administration, many of us think that this is simply another threat to the legislature, many of us consider these decisions a fait accompli.  But if we react by doing nothing, the administration will gladly accept their victory. 

In light of these facts, how many of you are willing to fight?  I admit it would be easier to channel my energy into applying for jobs in places which understand the value of a classical education.  But I feel loyalty to the concept of a university as an institution founded on the study of the Greek and Latin languages and the literature, history and philosophy of the Greeks and Romans.  In the fragmented world in which we live, the study of languages and cultures shows us how human experience is interconnected and depends on communication.  If nothing else, this humanistic approach shows us that we are not the first to suffer a financial crisis or to be affected by natural disasters or to be forced into a war we feel is unnecessary.  We can learn so much about human relationships and responses if we take the wisdom of our predecessors to heart instead of labeling it the ramblings of an ancient or inferior civilization.  And you can never go wrong by fighting for what you believe in, even if you are unsuccessful in the attempt.

1 comment:

Regen und mehr said...

very good points made! FIGHT!!!