March 28, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: On proposed curriculum change to language requirement

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To the editor:

We, the undersigned, as members of the Cornell community and as faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, are alarmed by the proposed changes to the language requirement for the College of Arts and Sciences suggested by the Curriculum Committee. These changes are wide-ranging and, in our opinion, dramatically antithetical to the mission of the College. For this reason, we believe that further discussion must be held that include the opinions of the many members of the faculty who oppose the proposed changes.

We are unsettled not only by the changes themselves, but by the distinct lack of familiarity demonstrated in the document with the global mission of our classes. For as long as we have been teaching at Cornell, our classes reflect the dynamic interplay between language and culture. Long gone are the days — if there ever were — of teaching language simply through rote memorization, conjugated verbs and grammar lessons. Our classes introduce students not only to the language, literature and culture of the European home countries, but, and more importantly, to their historic diffusion across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Furthermore, we prepare students for their future in non-European areas of the world where the influx of peoples and cultures into the European context has radically altered the culture of the “home” countries. To say we do otherwise does a disservice to us, to how we teach and to how Cornell students learn.

To be clear, we support curriculum redesign. At the same time, eleven credits form a cornerstone to linguistic and cultural competency that one would expect of any global citizen of the 21st century. Global citizenry surely means being able to function in the linguistic environment in which you are working, which in turn certainly requires more than two semesters in that language.

Finally, we foresee a dramatic ripple effect from top to bottom with the language requirement as proposed  — on graduate students, on undergraduates, on faculty. Hence our desire for further discussions in which we can lay out the details as to why eleven credits in a language remain fundamental for a Cornell curriculum today.

This important issue concerns all of us within the Cornell community. That is why we feel that more time for informed discussions on these proposed changes is essential.

In solidarity,
Prof. Ti Alkire, Romance studies
Prof. Timothy Campbell, Romance studies
Prof. Liliana Colanzi, Romance studies
Prof. Flavien Glidja, Romance studies
Prof. Mitchell Greenberg, Romance studies
Prof. Patricia Keller, Romance studies
Prof. Cecilia Lawless, Romance studies
Prof. Shawn McDaniel, Romance studies
Prof. Magali Molinie, Romance studies
Prof. Mary Kay Redmond, Romance studies
Prof. Edmundo Paz-Soldan, Romance studies
Prof. Kora von Wittelsbach, Romance studies
Prof. Flaminia Cervesi, Romance studies
Prof. Cynthia Robinson, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of Medieval and Islamic Art
Prof. Karen Pinkus, Romance studies
Prof. Diego Arias-Fuentes, Romance studies
Prof. Irene Eibenstein-Alvisi, Romance studies
Prof. Thierry Toréa, Romance studies
Prof. Valentina Fulginiti, Romance studies
Prof. Michela Baraldi, Romance studies
Prof. Tomás Beviá, Romance studies
Prof. Damien Tissot, Romance studies
Prof. Simone Pinet, Romance studies
Prof. Kathleen Long, Romance studies
Prof. Itziar Rodriguez de Rivera, Romance studies
Prof. Brisa Teutli, Romance studies
Prof. Alisa Linarejos, Romance studies
Prof. Estela Bartol-Martin, Romance studies
Prof. Julia Chang, Romance studies
Prof. Mónica Beviá, Romance studies
Prof. Sturt Manning, Goldwin Smith Professor of Classical Archaeology
Prof. Esperanza Godoy Luque, Romance studies
Prof. Verity Platt, classics
Prof. Alan J. Nussbaum, classics
Prof. Michael Fontaine, classics
Prof. Andrew Moisey, art
Prof. Athena Kirk, classics
Prof. Enzo Traverso, history
Prof. Caitlín Barrett, classics
Prof. Claire Menard, Romance studies
Prof. Courtney Roby, classics
Prof. Pedro Erber, Romance studies
Prof. Leslie A. Adelson, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of German Studies
Prof. Jonathan Culler, Class of 1916 Professor of English
Prof. Tamara Loos, history
Prof. Barry Strauss, Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies
Prof. Ekaterina Pirozhenko, assistant dean of academic advising, College of Arts and Sciences
Prof. Gunhild Lischke, German studies
Prof. Brett de Bary, Asian studies
Prof. Daniel Boucher, religious studies
Prof. Daniel Gold, religious studies
Prof. Anne M. Blackburn, Asian studies
Prof. Stephanie Divo, Asian studies
Prof. Tim Murray, comparative literature and English
Prof. Naoki Sakai, Goldwin Smith Professor of Asian Studies
Catherine Kempf, staff, Romance studies
Prof. Masha Raskolnikov, Romance studies
Prof. Ewa Bachminska, Romance studies
Prof. Rebecca Slayton, science and technology studies
Prof. Eric Rebillard, classics
Prof. Nelson G. Hairston, Jr., Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Environmental Science
Prof. Susan Tarrow, Romance studies
Prof. Jonathan Monroe, comparative literature
Prof. Ross Brann, Near Eastern studies
Prof. Kim Haines-Eitzen, Near Eastern studies
Prof. Marie-Claire Vallois, Romance studies
Prof. Neil Saccamano, English
Prof. Wayles Browne, linguistics
Prof. Alison Power, ecology and evolutionary biology
Prof. Anette Schwarz, German studies
Prof. Thomas D. Hill, English and medieval studies
Prof. Nava Scharf, Near Eastern studies
Prof. Maria Theresa C. Savella, Asian studies
Prof. Geraldine Monterroso, Romance studies
Prof. Alejandro Madrid, music
Prof. Shalom Shoer, Jewish studies
Prof. Paul Fleming, German studies
Prof. Douglas D. Heckathorn, sociology
Prof. Jura Oliveira, Romance studies
Prof. Silvia Amigo-Silvestre, Romance studies
Prof. Makda Weatherspoon, Near Eastern studies
Prof. Jane-Marie Law, Religious studies
Prof. Misa Suzuki, Asian studies
Prof. Misako Chapman, Asian studies
Prof. Sara Pritchard, science and technology studies
Prof. Rui Liu, food science
Prof. Sreemati Mukherjee, Asian studies
Prof. Philip Lorenz, English
Prof. Deborah Starr, Near Eastern studies