It was 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon. I swung open the door in GSB to my favorite class: Mandarin 4. The faces of the people who have been studying Mandarin with me for two years greeted me from the large black tables. Then I saw Professor Chen handing out a vocabulary quiz. It was after everyone had taken the quiz that this Wednesday turned different. Professor Chen came to the podium at the front of the room. Instead of her usual happy greeting, she began with, “I have some bad news today, class.” She proceeded to explain that she had received an email from the administration.
The administration had just told her that the next level of the class, Mandarin 5 is being cut next semester. It is being cut from the curriculum because it is a small class, with seven students currently able to take it. The administration does not feel they should be paying for a class that small. They also do not feel Professor Chen should be teaching Mandarin 5. They only want her to teach Mandarin 1 to 3. Since our other Mandarin professor is gone, this means hiring a new professor for Mandarin 5. They do not want to pay to hire a professor for such a small class. This means all of the top level Mandarin students will no longer be practicing at Mills.
This news has stunned and saddened me. All of the superb work my classmates and I have done in Mandarin is not being valued by the administration. It is frustrating that the administration does not see what a competitive department Mandarin is. Three of the students in Mandarin 4 have studied Mandarin abroad on government scholarships. One of us will be going to Taiwan to study Mandarin on a government scholarship this summer. There are also other students within the Mandarin department who have studied abroad. We were chosen for these scholarships from thousands of other applicants. It was a victory for Mills and the students who studied abroad.
I am shocked at the timing of the administration’s decision. In order to continue our Mandarin studies into advanced classes, my classmates and I will have to take classes at Berkley. Since they have told us about Mandarin 5 being canceled so late in the semester, many Mandarin 4 students are going to struggle to cross-register in time for next semester. This shows a stunning lack of concern for the needs of Mills students on the part of the administration. I am also stunned by the fact that the administration does not see the value of teaching advanced Mandarin in this day and age. America has been doing all sorts of trade with both China and Taiwan. The country needs people who can read and speak Mandarin to translate those business deals and treaties.
This incident has woken me up to the problems our language departments at Mills face. Virtually every foreign language discipline at Mills has endured budget cuts. The Spanish department no longer has a major. The French department has had classes cut. Now Mandarin is receiving cuts. This goes to show how undervalued and under appreciated these departments are at Mills. As a language student, I feel it is my duty to speak up for languages and protect my friends who study them with me.