Four major world languages are at risk — Russian, Portuguese, Hindi/Urdu and Hebrew.
Termination of entire language programs is just one among dozens of proposed options to counter budget shortfalls and structural inequalities within the Division of Humanities at UC Santa Cruz. To eliminate these languages would ultimately save $182,000 per year.
The division, which comprises 20 percent of UCSC’s students and faculty, faced a permanent funding cut of about $1.1 million in the past year and a half, and now braces for an additional loss of $1.4 to $1.6 million for this fiscal year. These cuts have been so deep that the division must resort to cutting core education.
“We took so much in cuts last year, there is nothing left to cut except instruction,” Dean of Humanities Georges Van Den Abbeele said. “At some point, you are not only cutting into the bone, you’re amputating limbs. So we need to figure out which limbs will go.”
This year, the languages program has lost 11 of its 200 classes. Italian lost two classes, 11 percent of its total. Possible cuts this year could eliminate or reduce 35 to 40 classes, about 20 percent of the program’s total.
Although UCSC is the only UC without a general education language requirement, language study is a requirement for the major programs of language studies, global economics, anthropology, Latin American and Latino studies, and health sciences. Starting next year, the literature department will implement a new language requirement as well.
How does one prepare a division that represents one-fifth of UCSC’s academics for budget cuts? What should be prioritized? Should departments emphasize breadth or depth of subjects?
In order to help answer these questions, Van Den Abbeele established an advisory task force within the division to help brainstorm solutions to the budget problem.
The majority of instruction in foreign languages and writing is offered by lecturers, not ladder-ranked faculty, which makes the program vulnerable during budget cuts. Ladder-ranked faculty cannot be laid off, but any lecturer who has worked less than six years can be let go at any time.
Some of the options laid out in the task force’s report include: integration of language curriculum with other departments or programs; moving the writing program to the colleges; and merging the administrative functions of the American studies, feminist studies and history of consciousness departments.
From now through Feb. 15, Van Den Abbeele is seeking consultation and feedback on the report from students and faculty with the goal of reaching some kind of consensus by April.
“This should not be viewed as a blueprint,” Van Den Abbeele said. “… No decisions have been made.”
Some lecturers on campus are concerned with how the proposal deals with cuts to languages.
Suggestions include reducing courses offered, eliminating languages that have little connection to existing majors, giving priority enrollment to majors, hiring graduate student instructors to teach in the program, and switching French, Portuguese and Spanish to a five-quarter sequence.
“The university does not seem to want to commit funding for the language program,” said Italian lecturer Giulia Centineo. “They’ve been shortsighted, to say the least. In Italian, we are back to the number of sections of 1989, while there are many more students and the demand for language has increased.”
French lecturer Angela Elsey is also concerned. With the help of other professors, Elsey wrote a letter she hopes students will send to administrators.
“We cannot just sit by and see our program cut and destroyed,” Elsey said.
Eric Porter, professor and chair of American studies, feels that language is essential for any well-rounded undergraduate education.
“Languages are a fundamental part of education and creating informed world citizens,” Porter said.
Porter also said it is important for students to give feedback, because these changes will have a campus-wide impact.
“Humanities is put in a difficult position by having two programs — writing and languages — which serve the entire campus,” Porter said.
Community studies field coordinator and Santa Cruz Mayor Mike Rotkin urges students to take action on issues which are important to them.
“There needs to be a fight and response to this at every level,” Rotkin said. “Students need to make demands, get organized, put pressure on the administration and involve their parents.”
Italian lecturer Centineo also encourages students to save the language programs.
“Students should demand to keep the language programs. It’s your university, you’re paying for it,” Centineo said. “Write letters, demand that priorities be instruction and not administration.”
Students can voice their opinion by submitting feedback on the dean of humanities’ website.
“The dean of humanities is open and transparent about his budget,” Rotkin said. “He just doesn’t have enough money to fund the existing writing and language programs. He’s facing a hard decision [and] he is doing his best with limited resources.”