[I received this via the H-FRANCE listserv, and it seems important to pass on. Please do what you can to help us express our extreme indignation at the termination of major programs in the Humanities at SUNY Albany. Petition and other guidelines below.]
The World Within Reach?
An Open Letter Regarding the Termination of French, Italian, Russian, Classics, and Theater at SUNYAlbany
On October 1, 2010, the State University of New York at Albany announced the termination of all degree programs in French (BA, MA, PhD), Italian (BA), Russian (BA), Classics (BA), and Theater (BA) by presidential order. President George Philip has officially suspended new admissions to the all of above programs. A bill recommending the “deactivation” of these same programs is said to have been delivered to the Faculty Senate. The Senate’s vote on this matter is advisory only. President Philip has the power to enforce the deactivation order unilaterally.
The passage of “deactivation” would erase all courses in these disciplines from the curriculum of the university and result in the termination of 20 full-time teaching positions, 14 of which are held by tenured professors. There are currently 161 students enrolled in these degree programs as majors, 140 undergraduates and 21 graduate students. There are currently 240 declared minors in these degree programs. It should be added that the affected programs currently have a total of 2,038 students enrolled in their courses. All data are taken from the Peoplesoft tracking system used by the university registrar.
The Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education has informed declared undergraduate majors and minors that they have until May 2012 to complete their programs of study. Those who cannot are being encouraged to find a new program of study or to transfer credits and pursue their programs at another institution. Intended undergraduate majors who have formally declared that intent are being required to file individual appeals demonstrating that they expect to finish their majors by May 2012. At the graduate level there has been no timeline for completion established. Graduate students have been told only in general terms that there will be “opportunities for them to finish their degrees.” Affected undergraduate and graduate students were notified to this effect without faculty knowledge and in some cases convened to meetings without representation by their designated faculty advisor or program director.
In his e-mail and web announcement of the terminations, President Philip stated that they are necessitated by large budget cuts suffered by the university over the last several years. He adds that "this decision was based on an extensive consultative process with faculty, and in recognition that there are comparatively fewer students enrolled in these degree programs." [ http://www.albany.edu/news/9902.php?WT.svl=news] The phrases "extensive consultative process with faculty" and “comparatively fewer students” are open to interpretation. It is crucial to clarify exactly to what extent faculty in the terminated programs were consulted, as well as how enrollments in the terminated programs compare to those in other degree programs.
Affected faculty attended large “Town Hall” meetings that addressed in very general terms the ongoing budget crisis, the necessity of making cuts across the university, and the principles that would guide these cuts. Within the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), home to all the terminated programs, there were also meetings of all the CAS department chairs convened by the CAS Dean. At this level the discussions were also general, emphasizing the necessity of cuts and identifying general principles for making them. In none of these collective meetings was the idea of eliminating degree programs discussed. However, on April 28, 2010 chairs were asked to submit individual recommendations to this effect on a confidential basis, as noted in the minutes of the Council of Chairs meeting. [ http://www.albany.edu/cas/chair_council_minutes.shtml] To date the results of this polling have not been made public.
The next phase of consultation consisted of three ad-hoc committees, known as Budget Advisory Groups (BAGs). These groups were composed of faculty members whose participation was solicited individually by the CAS and the University Provost. No members of the eliminated language programs received invitations to participate in any of the BAGs. In its public meetings, none of the BAGs recommended program terminations. [ https://portal.itsli.albany.edu/myuadocs/EP-BAG3-Report-Final-Report-for-campus.pdf ] Please note that this is a password-protected document restricted to UAlbany faculty by logging into “My UAlbany.”
At no point between April 28 and October 1, 2010, was any member of the terminated programs consulted regarding the administration’s plans. On October 1 the faculty of each terminated program were summoned to separate meetings with the CAS Dean and University Provost, who presented them with the accomplished fact. The faculty’s first knowledge of the program eliminations came at separate meetings with the CAS Dean and University Provost. Despite the fact that French, Italian, and Russian are all housed in a single administrative unit, the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the chair of that department (a professor of French Studies) was not invited to the meetings with Italian or Russian faculty.
With regard to the timing of the terminations, it should be noted that they were announced only days after the university formally received a renewal of its accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the unit of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools that accredits colleges and universities in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. [www.msche.org] The existence of a broad array of humanities degree programs, particularly foreign-language programs, is a crucial requirement for accreditation, which would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, had the terminations taken place earlier.
As to the claim that these terminations are justified by “comparatively” lower enrollments, it is worth noting that there are five other undergraduate degree programs in CAS with lower ratios of majors to full-time faculty (that is, tenured, tenure-track, and lecturers) than the five terminated programs. This information is verifiable on the Peoplesoft tracking system used by the university registrar.
The terminations will have serious, long-term consequences not only for students enrolled in the affected degree programs, but also for students across the university, the SUNY system, and high schools in New York State. The disappearance of French, Italian, and Russian in particular will make our graduates in all disciplines less competitive in a globalized economy, especially international business. It will deprive Franco-American, Italian-American, and Russian-American students of the chance to enrich and maintain a crucial element of their cultural heritage. It will significantly restrict the languages available for undergraduates to complete their two-semester foreign language General Education requirement, and put huge enrollment pressure on those languages retained.
The terminations will impact even those students who have no immediate interest in foreign-language or theater classes. All the terminated programs offer a range of courses in English that fulfill multiple General Education requirements (especially Humanities, Arts, Europe, Regions Beyond Europe, Writing Intensive, Oral Discourse) for all students. Many students already have trouble finishing their degrees on time because of limited General Education offerings, and this decision will restrict student choice even more, extend the time it takes to get their degrees, and cost them more in tuition.
Each semester faculty in French, Russian, and Italian teach courses in both English and the target languages that fulfill degree requirements in the Honors College, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Linguistics, Women’s Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and English. The program terminations will cripple the new undergraduate Globalization Studies major, which requires at least four semesters of foreign language study, and the undergraduate Film Studies minor. The terminated programs offer 11 of the courses that count for Globalization Studies, and 12 of the courses that count for Film Studies.
At the graduate level, these terminations will deprive students in the School of Education of opportunities to satisfy the New York State-mandated requirements for K-12 teacher certification. The terminations will also effectively end the University in the High School (UHS) programs in French, Italian, Russian, and Latin, thereby depriving the university of significant revenue, preventing high-school students from earning credits for later transfer to the university, and depriving the university of a key tool for recruiting the best high-school students in New York.
In addition, the terminations will set a dangerous precedent for dealing with future budget cuts on this campus and across the SUNY system comprising twenty-two four-year colleges and universities. All the SUNY schools have suffered devastating budget cuts in recent years, yet ours is the only campus to deal with these cuts by eliminating entire degree programs by presidential directive.
As entire programs disappear one by one, our university will quickly cease to be a comprehensive, liberal arts university. It will no longer be able to fulfill its mission as a designated SUNY "research center" alongside Buffalo, Stony Brook, and Binghamton. UAlbany has long had a reputation as the leading institution of higher education in the Capital region. As a result of the administration’s actions, the university’s national and international reputation has suffered a major blow.
We ask that you join us in protesting these terminations, asking the UAlbany administration to reverse its decision, and opening a campus-wide discussion about how to balance the budget without eliminating entire degree programs. On by doing so will the university be able to accomplish its stated mission as “internationally recognized public research institution that brings ‘The World Within Reach’ to nearly 18,000 students.” [ http://www.albany.edu/about.php]
There is a web petition that can be signed [ http://www.petitiononline.com/SUNY/petition.html], as well as a Facebook web site [ http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622#!/group.php?gid=108346255894946 ]. Our administrators can be contacted directly at the following addresses: George Philip, President: email@example.com ; Catherine Herman, Vice-President: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Susan Phillips, Provost: email@example.com; Edelgard Wulfert, Dean of Arts & Sciences: firstname.lastname@example.org . Paper mail may be sent to their attention at University Administration Building, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222.
Brett Bowles, Associate Professor of French email@example.com
Susan Blood, Associate Professor of French
Jean-François Brière, Professor of French
Eloise Brière, Associate Professor of French
Cynthia Fox, Associate Professor of French
David Wills, Professor of French
Mary Beth Winn, Professor of French