by Max Brantley
More reporting to be done, but I received some solid information over the weekend that UALR has plans to phase out German studies, the 88 students enrolled in various classes not considered sufficient to financially justify a program. Courses will continue long enough to allow current majors to finish their degrees.
Coincidentally, at least two local high schools are expanding the teaching of German, a subject for which I have some affection because it was one of the rare courses to which I devoted study in college (it was study or flunk). The "language of science and scholarship" is down the pecking order these days from Spanish and Chinese, no doubt.
UPDATE: My note prompted an e-mail from Fayetteville, where German lives, and from a UALR faculty member:
This is Kathleen Condray; I'm the German Section Head at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. I was also sad to hear about the proposed closing of the German studies program at UALR. We currently have an excellent graduate student in our MA program from UALR, and each year, there are a few students who come from UALR to take part in the international German certification exams we offer on our campus, and they do well.
More importantly, we have numerous strong German high school programs around the state. These students as freshmen are always able to start in major-level German classes at the university, some earning double majors within as short a period as a year and a half. Now, excellent high school students such as these will have to choose the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the University of Central Arkansas, or Hendrix College to continue their study of German if they wish to stay in the state.
And, they have a number of reasons for continuing to study German. At UAF, students routinely participate in internships abroad at institutions such as BMW, an architecture firm in Leipzig, a marketing start-up in Berlin, and a research laboratory at the University of Weimar. They can certify their language skills for future employers with the internationally recognized exams of the Goethe Institute; one of our recent graduates just started a position at Google’s headquarters in California. He noted that they were especially interested in his German skills and that 78% of their employees speak more than one language. In spite of Eurozone woes, the European Union is still the largest trading partner of the United States, and Germany is its economic engine. Within the state, the July 2012 Arkansas International Business Report (compiled by ADEC) states: “Arkansas has twenty-one (21) German-owned companies with thirty-three (33) locations that account for nearly 1,600 jobs. These companies include manufacturers of wind turbines, automotive parts, power tools, and steel among others.”
A new program at UAF allows students in other colleges such as business and engineering to add an additional major in German by doing the 24 hours of advanced German coursework. And, students interested in cultural studies are also drawn to German. On October 11th-13th, we are hosting an international symposium on the German writer Friedrich Gerstäcker, who wrote about Arkansas as the Wild West in the mid-19th century. And, my colleague, Dr. Jennifer Hoyer, just received a Legacy Heritage Grant for $18,000 for a Jewish Studies lecture series entitled "Beyond the Holocaust." One of our graduate students, Yvette Ortiz, spent the summer in New York on a grant studying Yiddish; as a native speaker of Spanish, she is one of several students who are fluent in both Spanish and German. We also have students who study both German and Chinese. Our students take preparation for a global workplace very seriously and want experience in Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
I also received this note from Nick Jovanovich, a member of the UALR Faculty Senate:
As for me, it is my understanding that there are more than 60 German Studies programs at U.S. colleges and universities that have one full-time faculty member. UALR still has one full-time faculty member, so the program could be continued without hiring new faculty members.
It is also my understanding that the students and faculty in the German Studies program learned about the possible shutdown of the program by reading a newspaper article in the UALR Forum, instead of receiving some kind of official notification—-no meeting, no letter, no email message was sent to them. If true, that is no way to treat students or faculty members.
It is also my understanding that a freshman German Studies scholarship student was recruited through the VIP program in AHSS, but the student, who is now in her/his first semester at UALR, has now been told that s/he cannot declare a major in German Studies. If true, that is no way to treat a freshman who came to UALR expressly to major in German Studies.
I am opposed to the shutdown of the German Studies program, but I really dislike the way students and faculty members are being treated.