Friday, Sept. 22, the College of William and Mary’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures issued a statement opposing West Virginia University’s recent decision to discontinue its World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics Program.
Following final approval by WVU’s board of governors on Sept. 15, WVU terminated its majors in Chinese Studies, French, German Studies, Russian Studies and Spanish. Additionally, Masters programs in Linguistics and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) were cut. According to the recommendations, these decisions were primarily motivated by cost-saving measures based on low student enrollment.
Francie Cate, chair of the College’s Modern Languages and Literatures, director of the Hispanic Studies program and professor of Modern Language and Literatures, issued the statement on behalf of the department faculty and staff. The Department’s response initially contended that WVU eliminated the entirety of their World Languages and Linguistics program. WVU will continue instruction in Spanish and Chinese, but unaccompanied by an option to major or minor in either.
According to WVU’s statement of final recommendations, Spanish was designated as the “high demand language,” and Chinese was the “critical need language,” or a language certified by the U.S. government as essential for maintaining their global position and influence.
“Overall, the Board dropped twenty-eight of its majors (8%) and 143 faculty positions (5%),” Cate wrote in the statement. “[These] cuts have been deemed draconian and catastrophic by leading voices and media outlets in U.S. higher education, including the Modern Language Association, American Council of Learned Societies, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.”
The majority of the Department’s statement reinforced its firm belief in the importance of the humanities in shaping well-rounded individuals. Cate asserted WVU’s decision as being short-sighted for prioritizing a financial safe measure over the development of their students.
“As long as we as citizens share our place on Earth with multicultural, multilingual communities, the work that scholars and teachers of world languages, literatures, and linguistics do will always be essential and must remain protected,” Cate wrote. “Our academic mission to enhance our students’ comprehension of other nations, to facilitate their awareness of other ways of seeing beyond U.S. borders, and to inform their knowledge about other points of view that circulate around the globe, is, indeed, priceless.
The timeline for the deconstruction of the WVU World Languages and Languages program remains uncertain, but there are ongoing efforts to support the 434 current students affected by the decision. Furthermore, WVU has announced plans to enhance its International Studies major and minor, along with expanding study-abroad opportunities.