April 15, 2009

Future Turkish Classes Available Only on Video

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Correction Appended

This is the second article in a two-part series which focuses on Cornell’s decision to phase out language programs in an attempt to reduce the University’s budget.

Cornell’s motto of “any person, any study” has suffered yet another setback due the University-mandated 5-percent budget cuts required across departments in response to the current economic downturn. On top of the elimination of language instructions in Dutch and Swedish, Cornell will no longer have an instructor available for the Turkish language. Instruction in Turkish, which is only offered in about 30 universities across the United States, will now only be available via video, according to Osman Balkan, the sole lecturer for Turkish at Cornell. This transition will eliminate Balkan’s position.
“Turkish is technically not being cut. The Turkish program is switching to a video-based learning system in conjunction with Syracuse University. Students will be learning through video conferencing. However, Cornell will not have a Turkish instructor,” Balkan said. “It’s a great disadvantage to learn a language through video because the teacher is not there with you.”
Balkan expressed his disappointment over the University’s decision. With an enrollment of four students this semester, Balkan sincerely felt that interest in Turkish was growing and that enrollment would increase next year.
“Since I’ve been here there’s been a growing interest in Turkish. I would have expected enrollment to be close to double digit numbers next semester. It’s been a matter of trying to publicize the program. But since I’ve been here, since last year, word has spread,” Balkan said.
Current students of Turkish, which is housed under the Department of Near Eastern Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, were upset that they would lose face-to-face instruction in the language.
“Cornell is one of few universities to offer a Turkish language program, and the loss of an actual instructor severely hurts it. An instructor is essential for a true understanding of any new language; a video conference won’t be able to provide nearly as much information as a real class. I really enjoyed this year’s program, and learned an incredible amount of Turkish. The class size was small, so it allowed for discussions and individual attention, which was rare in all my other classes,” Faraz Butte ’12 said.
The Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences stated in an e-mail that the recent cuts in language courses of instruction are necessary sacrifices.
“Like the rest of Cornell, Arts and Sciences must absorb significant budget reductions over the next two to three years. It is important to remember that this period of intensive review, discussion, and sometimes difficult determinations, is necessary in order to strengthen the University. … It is regrettable that we must trim some offerings that have added even more variety to the College’s academic breadth. While consulting with the departments most directly involved, we have approached each decision with respect for the instructors and students, and great care for the future shape of arts and sciences at Cornell,” stated Susan Robertson on behalf of the office.
Balkan, who will lose his position at the end of the semester, believes that these sacrifices are not beneficial for the University.
“One of the main selling points of Cornell is that you can take Dutch here, or Quechua. These languages aren’t offered at a lot of universities and that makes Cornell an exceptional university. I think this will hurt Cornell’s image. To me it’s not a question of enrollment numbers that makes something worthwhile, its intellectual endeavor,” Balkan said.

This article quoted a Turkish instructor saying that Turkish classes will not be available with in-person instruction. In fact, Cornell will bring in Fullbright Teaching Assistants to teach some classes. Intermediate Turkish will be taught via distance learning. The Sun regrets this error.