By Cheikh M. Ndiaye
Recently we at the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at Union College expressed our concern and dismay at the decision taken up by the President and his Advisory Board to eliminate French, Russian, and Italian from SUNY Albany’s curriculum.
Our Department wrote an online open letter (signed by more than 10,000 individuals worldwide) not only to support our Colleagues at SUNY Albany, whom we know to be dedicated professionals and committed to their students, but also to point out the irrevocable damage this decision would do to SUNY Albany’s reputation and its students, to their opportunities, and to their ability to succeed in our global environment. Furthermore, we felt this decision contradicted SUNY Albany’s stated values of diversity and “giving its students first-hand international experience” (SUNY’s Strategic Plan 2010, p. 19), and even its logo of “The World Within Reach.”
Here at home, with the WPAD (Working Plan for Academic Development) making its way, we can expect from its implementation a big impact on our departments and programs (goals, resources, services) across the board. And it’s truly exciting to see that the WPAD puts an emphasis on the need for our students to be “global and diverse.” The Department of Modern Languages will heavily contribute to this vision as it is doing in the current Core Curriculum.
Our Department clearly plays a key role here at home and abroad; while Foreign Languages in general are in danger because of budget cuts and hiring of short term faculty, we remain strong; our Language Programs contribute to the Union College’s vision and commitment “to inspire our students in addressing complex 21st-century societal and intellectual challenges;” we offer 11 different foreign languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and now Swahili that we just added to our curriculum in collaboration with the Anthropology department.) Our curriculum (language, literature, culture and civilization courses) and our term-abroad programs truly connect our students with the world and we hope Union College will continue to support our programs.