Public colleges and universities across the country are under the gun as state budgets face huge shortfalls. NPR reports that “Universities are now ending low-enrollment programs and increasing class size.
“The State University of New York has had to cut $640 million from its budget, and the president of its Albany campus recently announced the suspension of five humanities programs, including French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater.
“Although there have been cuts at SUNY Albany in everything from journalism to business, the fact that five humanities programs have been suspended has resonated with the public and the press.Upon learning about the suspension of the foreign language programs, David Wills, a professor of French, was shocked at first, but then he was angry.
“None of us accepted that it was something that a university could do and still call itself a university,” Wills said. “This is not a university if you only have one non-English European language program left standing.”To be fair, students can still take some classes in these subjects. Suspension means new students will not be able to major in these areas, at least for now.Juniors and seniors at SUNY Albany will be able to finish their majors in French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater. But most freshmen and sophomores will have to choose alternatives.
Alexandra Cialeo, a sophomore majoring in Italian, transferred to SUNY Albany a few months ago. Noting that SUNY Albany’s slogan is “The World Within Reach,” Cialeo asks, “How is the world within reach when a school is going to take away the foreign language department so you can’t communicate around the world?” She says the program suspensions sadden her because she wants to be a teacher and has a passion for Italian.
SUNY Albany Provost Susan Phillips says up until now, cuts in the humanities have been 4 percent — less than in other areas. She says there have been more faculty losses in the social sciences and in the professional schools. And she emphasizes that no decisions have yet been made to close down these programs permanently. Continue reading “On the humanities meltdown”