April 9, 2009

Budget Strikes Again: C.U. Fells Dutch, Swedish

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This is the first in a two-part series which focuses on Cornell’s decision to phase out smaller language programs in an attempt to reduce the University’s budget.
“I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” Will Ezra Cornell’s famous motto be able to weather the current economic crisis? With the decision to terminate the Swedish and Dutch language programs by the summer of 2010, Cornell’s pledge may be under siege by a worldwide recession and a daunting budget shortfall on campus.
Due to the University’s economic woes, both the Swedish and Dutch language programs, offered under the Department of German Studies, will no longer be available after next year. The effects of this loss will be felt University-wide, with students unable to find instruction and support in these languages and with at least two members of Cornell’s staff losing their jobs.
“Historically, Cornell has been very strong in less commonly taught languages and these are two programs that we have been most proud of. They have been around for a while and they do attract very healthy enrollments. They’ve also been very important in providing the kinds of training that graduate students need to conduct research,” said Professor Sydney Van Morgan, associate director for the Institute of European Studies.

[img_assist|nid=36820|title=No homework|desc=[From left to right] Instructor Chrissy Hosea, Kathy Crowley grad and Jasmine Griggs ’10 converse in Elementary Dutch (Dutch 1220).|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
These two language programs were cut by the Department of German Studies because of serious budget concerns. Since they fall under the Department of German Studies and not under departments that offer many languages — such as the Department of Romance Studies — there is less protection for these languages and less organization when allocating funds.

“These languages are scattered around. Swedish and Dutch fall under German Studies. We have Polish which is sometimes in Russian, sometimes in Linguistics. We have Turkish, which is in Near Eastern Studies. And all of these languages are kind of orphan languages that have been adopted by these departments but are very vulnerable under these kind of economic conditions, more vulnerable than much less popular languages under Romance Studies and Asian Studies,” Van Morgan said.
[img_assist|nid=36717|title=No homework|desc=[From left to right] Instructor Chrissy Hosea, Kathy Crowley grad and Jasmine Griggs ’10 converse in Elementary Dutch (Dutch 1220).|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]

Van Morgan also explained that two Cornell staff members will lose their positions as these programs face termination.

“Both Cecilia [Alm] and Chrissy [Hosea] have been amazingly energetic new faculty who have attracted a lot more interest to these programs. They were right on the cusp of taking off and despite that, they are being cut,” Van Morgan said.

Hosea, a lecturer of the Dutch language, expressed her dismay over the loss of her program. She just recently received a letter from the University informing her of the decision.

“I’m very sad. This is my first year and I’ve been loving my time at Cornell. It’s a very stimulating environment but I feel really sad for the students because they will be losing this program,” Hosea said.

Alm, a lecturer of the Swedish language, will also lose her position at Cornell despite a strong history of enrollment in the program.

“Swedish has been taught here for more than 20 years. In the past 11 years, we’ve had around 350 enrollments. This year it’s been a bit more than 30,” Alm said.

Both lecturers emphasized the importance of the Dutch and Swedish language programs and how their termination will affect the students of Cornell most. Many people in the University rely on these two programs, including scholars, undergraduates, graduate students and members of organizations like the Dutch Club and the Scandinavian Club.

“It’s important to recognize how valuable and how active this program is and that it serves many constituencies across campus, it supports scholars and students at the undergraduate and graduate level,” said Alm.

Many graduate students whose individual fields focus on the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries will lose very valuable resources. These two lecturers will no longer be able to assist them with networking, translation and cultural studies.

“I do a lot of individual studies, mostly with grad students who need to read Dutch texts or do research in cooperation with Dutch people, so a lot of my time is spent working with graduate students. I told all my students that they really have to plan for next year because it will be my last year… When I’m not here it will be very difficult for them to get any instruction on Dutch language and culture,” Hosea said.

One graduate student explained that her research involves translating Dutch texts. She pointed out that translation of Dutch literature is often very dependent on native speakers.

“I’m really surprised to hear that they are cutting the program. It’s very helpful because I am interested in Dutch literature and it’s not a language you can explore on your own … You really do need an instructor,” said Judy Park, a graduate student in the English Department.

Exemplifying the diverse subjects that depend on these two programs, a graduate student in the Department of Natural Resources described her reliance on the Dutch language program.

“I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of Natural Resources, and I am studying Dutch for my research in wetland ecology. I study an unusual type of wetland for which Dutch scientists have done much of the key work, and I hope to do research at sites in the Netherlands. For students like me, the cut of the Dutch program is a sad loss that will inhibit our work,” stated Kathy Crowley, grad, in an e-mail.

Adding an interesting point, Crowley called attention to the fact that Cornell is located in New York State. With deep historical roots in the Dutch culture, the loss of the language program is really a loss of a geographically relevant aspect of Cornell’s history.

“Dutch is an integral part of the history of New York State, which was colonized by the Dutch. New York City was originally called New Amsterdam, and Henry Hudson’s initial exploration of the Hudson River occurred on an expedition funded by the Dutch East India Company. If an institution like Cornell does not maintain its Dutch language and culture program, how will we keep a connection with our history?” Crowley stated.

College administrators were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Both Hosea and Alm welcome ideas from the Cornell community on how to save these programs. They can be contacted, respectively, by e-mail: [email protected] and [email protected]