WVU to keep some Spanish and Chinese classes amid budget cuts

West Virginia University (WVU), the state’s largest public university, announced on Tuesday that it would keep some face-to-face Spanish and Chinese classes, but eliminate majors in those subjects and other foreign language and linguistics classes under a revised budget-cutting plan. The university said it was facing a $45 million budget shortfall and had to make tough decisions to reduce costs.

The revised plan came after the university faced intense scrutiny and criticism from students and faculty, who protested against the initial proposal to dissolve the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics and cut all 24 faculty positions within it. The university had said on Aug. 11 that it was exploring remote options, including an online app, to provide foreign language instruction for students who still want it.

Provost says university listened to feedback

In a statement on Tuesday, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said the university listened to the feedback from the campus community and recognized the importance of face-to-face language instruction.

“We understand that language learning is not only about acquiring vocabulary and grammar, but also about developing cultural competence and global awareness,” Reed said. “We also acknowledge that some languages are more in demand than others, both by our students and by employers in the state and region.”

WVU to keep some Spanish and Chinese classes amid budget cuts

Reed said the university was recommending retaining five faculty positions focused on teaching Spanish and Chinese, which are the two most popular languages among students. These faculty members would be transferred to a different department, such as the Department of English or the Department of Communication Studies.

However, Reed also said the university was proposing to eliminate bachelor’s degrees in French and Spanish, along with Chinese, German and Russian studies, and master’s programs in linguistics and teaching English to speakers of other languages. She said these programs had low enrollment and graduation rates, and did not align with the university’s strategic priorities.

Students and faculty express mixed reactions

The revised plan was met with mixed reactions from students and faculty, who had organized a protest on Aug. 21 outside the Mountainlair student center against the proposed cuts. Some welcomed the decision to keep some language classes, while others lamented the loss of majors and diversity.

Kelly Ward, a creative writing master’s student who attended the protest, said she was glad that some language faculty would be retained, but she was still concerned about the impact of the cuts on the quality of education.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but I don’t think it’s enough,” Ward said. “I think it’s still going to hurt a lot of students who want to pursue languages or linguistics as a career or as a passion.”

Anna Schles, an alumna who graduated with a degree in French and Spanish in 2020, said she was disappointed that her majors would be eliminated, as they had helped her develop valuable skills and opportunities.

“I think it’s a huge mistake,” Schles said. “Languages are so important for communication, for understanding different cultures, for traveling, for working in different fields. I think it’s a disservice to the students and to the state.”

A final decision on the revised plan is expected to be made by the university’s board of governors in September.

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