The ASMC, like much of the student body, is deeply concerned about the imminent cuts of faculty and staff at Mills, three of which may come from the language department because of their high proportion of part-time faculty. As a French major, I must acknowledge my inherent bias on this subject, though it will not deter me from making my argument.
I and the ASMC as a whole, believe that such drastic cuts to the language department, nearly reducing the size of the department by half, would be a great disservice to Mills in numerous ways.
First, it would present a poor image of the college’s excellence. Many prospective students already see our lack of a language requirement as a signal that we are not as rigorous or culturally sensitive as other colleges and universities. The reduction of the department to just five faculty teaching only two languages would further exacerbate that problem.
Second, it would hinder the ability of current and future Mills students to successfully gain employment or admission to graduate study, as more and more employers and programs require language proficiency. For example, many of the graduate departments at Mills prefer students who have studied a foreign language.
Finally and, I believe, most importantly, it would run counter to the college’s much publicized commitment to multiculturalism, diversity, and social responsibility. There is no better way to understand another culture than by learning the language its people speak.
Speaking another’s language demonstrates to them that we value their culture and that we don’t expect them to simply discard their background in order to communicate with us. It fosters an atmosphere of tolerance and acknowledges that we can learn a lot by stepping out of our world and into another.
Short of learning another language, studying the literature and art of another culture through courses such as Contemporary Women Writers from Africa and The German Novella can offer great insight into other world cultures. Sadly, these popular courses are most in jeopardy if the proposed cuts are executed. The removal of such courses would drastically reduce the number of cultures Mills includes in its multicultural curriculum.
Through our many meetings with the administration and as a board governed by a strict budget, the ASMC understands the harsh reality of financial problems. However, we believe that other adjustments could be made in less crucial areas – such as energy reduction, for example – to share the burden of the budget cuts.
A language requirement as part of general education would fill more modern languages and literature courses and make their classes more economical. Students often comment that they would love to take a language course, but don’t make the time for it because it’s not a requirement. It would also bring Mills more in line with other colleges of its academic stature.
The ASMC strongly support the efforts of the students to help the modern languages and literatures department, and we are more than willing to work with the administration to devise other money-saving strategies.