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An Open Letter from Students of the French & Francophone Studies

Since the news about the proposed curriculum changes came out on Oct. 19, the community of the community of French & Francophone studies has been concerned about the future of language studies at Mills. Not only have Dr. Brinda Mehta and Dr. Audrey Calefas-Strebelle taught us to be critical thinkers and global scholars, they have also fostered a community of love and respect in our department. As language students we are sensitive to the nuances of coded text and speech.

The information we have received from the administration has both confused and frightened us. The proposed plan for the transition of language studies from a major to an area of concentration concerns us. Our department has fought for Mills to have a language requirement for 15 years, and it is finally becoming a part of the core curriculum. It is irresponsible to attempt to broaden the scope of the language department while simultaneously removing our majors and dismissing our faculty. We do not understand what it means to become a concentration in an umbrella major. We cannot spread out without our roots. French, Spanish, and Cultural Studies Majors are a necessary part of our identity as a Liberal Arts College, as all languages should be. We are not only concerned for our own futures, but for the futures of incoming students and of our faculty. Current First-Year Dylan Nesser states:

“I am disheartened by the news of the curriculum changes that are meant to be put in place soon, especially as someone who just recently went through the application, acceptance, and orientation processes at this school… With an institution that widely celebrates and advertises its diverse student population, why is it that the language and culture studies programs are being cut? The studies of different cultures is essential to the respect of diversity, so what does it mean when those studies are being taken away?”

We ask that the administration reevaluate what it is we do in the Department of Languages and Literatures. Sophomore Alexa Barger reminds us that  “… These studies are not merely focused on grammar or mainstream culture; they incorporate nearly every discipline offered at Mills, including history, philosophy, sociology, gender studies, ethnic studies, and literary studies.”

It is important to recognize the diversity of our department, and the impact that our curriculum and our community has on students of color, and what it means to have professors who represent racial and cultural diversity. Senior Kelly Ortiz states:

“Professors like Brinda Mehta and Audrey Calefas-Strebelle provide the interdisciplinary education and cross-cultural perspectives that are often neglected within institutions of higher education. The language department has been the locus of my personal growth as a student of color and a French speaker and thinker during my time at Mills. Professors like Brinda and Audrey are essential in upholding the vision of a diverse and social justice driven institution that Mills College proudly commends itself for being.”

The department of Languages and Literatures has been a safe haven for many students of color who feel alienated in other departments. Senior Tiara Jackson writes:

I came to Mills with the expectation that I would be in community with people who were passionate about learning and social justice, and what I experienced was racial inequality and invisibility. The campus climate was one of hostility toward Black students. It was in the Languages and Literatures Department where I found my voice and where I saw diversity reflected in my professors and my classmates…  it is because of this community that I am proud to call myself a Mills Woman”

We appreciate the support from students and faculty, and ask that the administration hears us and provides clear and intelligible answers to our questions.



Emma Wilson and Tiara Jackson