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Mills’ Chinese program cancelled

Mills College’s first Chinese language program was cancelled this semester, Spring 2008. Students worry that the course’s failure was perceived as a lack of student interest in the Chinese language program.

Elementary Chinese, taught by Professor Ling Chen Kelly, was first offered in Fall 2007. Seven students attended.
This spring, enrollment dropped to two students and the course was cancelled.

It is school policy to cancel classes that have less than ten students, according to Vice Provost Andrew Workman.
Workman explained that the fall Chinese language course was offered “as an experiment to gauge interest.”

Students and faculty involved in the Chinese Language course said that the administration must look further than enrollment to gauge student interest.
“From the outside it looks like students dropped it because there’s no interest,” said Holly Vickers, a sophomore who took the class fall semester and planned on auditing it this spring.
“But there are all these other factors in the situation,” she added.

According to Vickers, the main factor in the course’s failure was inadequate advertisement. “No one seemed to know about it until after first semester-and at that point they couldn’t enroll.”

“If it had been better advertised, then more students would have enrolled last fall. Then, there wouldn’t have been the problem with under enrollment in the second semester,” Vickers added.

Wah Cheng, head of the History Department and one of only three Chinese-speaking faculty at Mills, was on the search committee to find the Chinese language professor, Ling Chen Kelley. He said that the development of the program was rushed and that there was a lack of communication between faculty, students, and administration in the planning process.

French and Francophone studies Professor Christian Marouby, a member of the search committee, agreed that the program might not have received the support it needed and said that Mills lacks a foreign language department. “As individuals we [the language professors] were present and supportive of Professor Kelley but with a separate department there would be better support,” he said.

“It can’t be assumed that something wasn’t done because we took the same procedure as with any other new course,” Workman said. “I presume that there was enough time given to preparation,” he added.

Workman said that course plans began more than a year in advance and were finalized in time for pre-registration. Yet he agreed that the lack of a strong departmental structure posed a problem to the course.

Many students and faculty hope that the school will not give up on a Chinese language program. “For a program like Chinese to be successful, the College had to stick to it to really give it the chance to succeed,” Marouby said.

He added that the College might have to accept a small class for the first couple semesters “with the goal of increasing to a larger class size.” He stressed that two semesters of Chinese fulfill a study abroad requirement, creating opportunities that students would not otherwise have.

Professor Cheng is also hopeful for a “good sustainable Chinese program in the future.”
To view the Mills course schedule online, please visit the Mills Web site at