Reconsider cuts to the languages program


The recent changes to Wilfrid Laurier University’s language programs are regrettable and speak to a systemic issue regarding specialty programs at the university. Third-and fourth-year classes in Italian, Arabic and German are being discontinued and courses in Arabic and German will be cycled, making it more difficult for students to complete minors in the subject in a timely fashion. Many Laurier students are enroling in courses at the University of Waterloo just to finish the degrees they started.

The university cites low enrolment in this decision — the same reasoning used to justify the elimination of the Mediterranean studies program. Yet, with specialty programs such as these, their popularity should not be the main driver of their success and the university’s recognition of them.

Students who enrol in these programs do so because they are looking to pursue a certain passion in the subject area. Just because fewer students enrol in these programs compared to other arts programs or even business does not make them any less valid or legitimate. As a whole, Laurier’s faculty of arts is basically indistinguishable from other Canadian universities. But with specialty programs,
Laurier has an opportunity to develop a solid and unique reputation in select academic niches. As well, these niches can draw the out-of-province and international students the university struggles to attract.

Laurier cannot keep sweeping specialty programs under the rug. The political science, philosophy and economics (PPE) program was one of those casualties in recent years and it was the only multidisciplinary program of its kind in Canada. Why the university continues to review its support for these programs, especially in light of mediocre and disturbing national rankings, is mind-boggling.

As a medium-sized university, choices must be made. It’s understandable that in a difficult economic climate, not all programs can receive a consistent level of funding. However, we have to recognize that not every student is suited for one of the more popular programs. Students have different academic desires and skillsets. It’s up to the university to accommodate these academic pursuits and give as much weight to specialty programs as it does to the ones with significantly higher enrolments.

– The Cord Editorial Board

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