SUNY-Albany Discontinues Valuable Language Programs
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To local State Senators and Assembly Members
To the US Representative from the 21st District
To Members of the Press
We the undersigned would like to express our concern and dismay at the decision recently taken up by the president and his advisory board to eliminate French, Russian, and Italian from SUNY Albanys curriculum.
Not only are we concerned for our colleagues at SUNY Albany, whom we know to be dedicated professionals and committed to their students, but we are also gravely disturbed by the irrevocable damage this would do to SUNY Albanys reputation and the students at SUNY Albany, to their opportunities, and to their ability to succeed in our global environment. Furthermore, we feel the decision contradicts SUNY Albanys stated values of diversity and giving its students first-hand international experience (SUNYs Strategic Plan 2010, p. 19), and even its logo (until very recently) of The World Within Reach. As a major institution of learning, SUNY Albanys reputation could very well slide downward as a result of being unable to provide its students with skills that most other comparable universities provide. Lastly, the way the decision was reached in no way allowed for students or faculty to contribute to a decision which affects their futures.
As a university representing a large section of New York States population, SUNY Albany has an obligation to prepare its students for our global environment, and this naturally includes the ability to speak and understand foreign languages. According to the Acadйmie Francaise, the French-speaking world includes around 60 countries worldwide (approximately 500 million people). French is the international language of trade and business, one of the major languages in the European Union, one of the eight UN languages, and a language spoken on five continents. Moreover, Canada is our countrys largest trading partner, with French-speaking Quebec (this one province alone) our 6th largest trading partner.
As for Russian (which is also one of 8 UN languages), the move by SUNY Albanys president comes at a time when the US State Department and the US Department of Defense both recognize Russian as a critical need foreign language and has begun awarding money through the Foreign Language Assistance Program to secondary schools across the country, specifically in order to teach Russian and other Critical Languages. It appears SUNY Albany will not even be in the running regarding this national initiative, since it will not be able to continue the students Russian. Furthermore, we have been informed by our colleagues that this means there will be no Russian major anywhere in the SUNY system, a stunning fact for the Empire State with its internationalist orientation and large Russian population.
Lastly, for a major university not to recognize the importance of Italian language simply seems inconceivable in a state with such a large Italian-American population, to say nothing of the enormous influence of Italian culture on this state and the world.
We believe the actions of president of SUNY Albany and his advisory board resulting in the destruction of entire programs are unprecedented in their rashness and scope. They will severely diminish their students competitiveness in a world that is becoming more, and not less, integrated. If these moves are implemented, SUNY-Albany will be alone nation-wide among major universities in closing an entire French program, and nowhere in the entire system will a student be able to have a Russian major.
We cannot see how SUNY Albany can propose to send students abroad
(SUNYs Strategic Plan 2010, p. 19), without being embarrassed and ashamed that they will be some of the few students from a major university unable to
communicate with so many peoples of the world. We hope that the president and
administration at SUNY Albany will reconsider this destructive action. We hope that policy-makers in Albany will take note of how much less competitive this will make students of this great state and will work to find a better alternative to this unprecedented move.