Cuts continue for the Languages department

In recent years, classes in the department of Languages and Literatures have seen major changes at Wilfrid Laurier University. The department offers a variety of language courses at a first-and second-year level with majors available in French and Spanish whereas Italian, Arabic and German on the other hand have never been available as majors, but always as third and fourth-year classes. That is until this year.

Michael Carroll, dean of arts at Laurier, has noticed that enrolment was low in these third-and fourth- year courses and had someone look into it.
“They decided to discontinue third and fourth-year language courses and instead roll out a number of culture classes,” said Carroll. These classes will supplement the upper-year language classes.

In addition to the culture courses, second-year language courses will be cycled to provide students in a four-year program access to similar language experiences. This will be true for Arabic and German.

According to Carroll, in the past month, the Italian government has given money to Wilfrid Laurier University to subsidize two third-year Italian classes, which will eliminate the need to cycle these courses.

Milo Sweedler, head of the languages department at WLU, commented on this income from the Italian government. “As long as this money continues to come in, we will continue to offer courses in what ever areas of need the Italian section identify,” Sweedler said.

In addition to the language classes, the option of Mediterranean studies as a major will be discontinued; this was also due to low enrolment. This doesn’t mean there won’t be Mediterranean classes however, “They’re taking their two most popular courses and bringing them under the major of languages,” said Carroll.

Greek and Latin will not be affected by this language change as it is in the department of archeology and classics. However, that department has lost full-time staff and will be going through a change in the next few years.

“They’re going to keep the three majors, but streamline them,” Carroll added.
The decision to discontinue these classes has brought a backlash from students and professors alike. A number of students have been circulating a petition to keep these classes in effect, and many language students are enraged at the choice to cancel the classes. Filipe Nurwandi, a first-year languages student at WLU, stated that this choice will “ruin his major.”

Professors also are displeased, Dr. Monica Stellin, head of the Italian department, voiced her displeasure with the choices as well. “Frankly, I totally disagree with what’s happening,” said Stellin. It is Stellin’s opinion that the department is using “low” numbers as an excuse to cut these courses.

In the fall term of 2011 Italian had 317 students enrolled, only trailing Spanish by a mere 317 students. Stellin doesn’t think that these numbers are enough. She believes that if the courses are cut the “academic integrity of the department [will be] under question.”

As stated above, external funding has been provided for third-year Italian classes, and although money has been brought in from the Italian government, the state of third-year Italian classes is still in question.

“Stellin recently received money from the Italian government and gave the course to Brantford, so instead of it coming into our department it was going to Brantford,” said Sweedler.

As it stands right now, the third- and fourth-year courses for Arabic and German will be discontinued, however there are a number of student groups working to change this, and if money comes in from Italy, then the Italian courses may be offered as well.

Leave a Reply