April 25, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Romance studies graduate students denounce recommended changes to arts college language requirement

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To the editor:

We, the undersigned graduate students of the Romance Studies Department, emphatically denounce the recommendations of the Arts & Sciences Curriculum Committee. We lend our support to the Romance Studies Faculty’s unanimous and unambiguous rejection of the current proposal.

Beyond the committee’s hasty procedure and failure to adequately consult the many departments who will be affected, our principal concern is the reduction of the language requirement by almost half.

The lower undergraduate enrollment in our courses will result in fewer faculty, fewer course offerings and fewer graduate assistantships. This is a direct blow to our funding, our teaching opportunities and our competitiveness on the job market, and threatens the prestige of our program.

Apart from our concern for the quality of post-graduate studies at this institution, we would like to emphasize the following: This proposal severely undermines the value of an undergraduate education at Cornell University. It has been suggested that fulfilling the language requirement is difficult for pre-med and science students. We have found our many students from the STEM and pre-med fields to be superb language learners. If the goal is to ease course loads for pre-med students, the curriculum changes will harm those whose very burden they seek to alleviate. Cornell’s own Weill Medical College website explicitly states “proficiency in a second language” in their selection criteria.

The extant requirement is as follows: One course at the non-introductory level or 11 credits in a single language. This provides students with the classroom time necessary for advanced engagement with the language and its historical, political and cultural contexts. We speak in defense not only of the languages taught in our department, but the many languages offered at this institution. At stake is a philosophy of learning that respects in-depth engagement with a foreign language and culture, and its replacement with an approach that treats Cornell’s language courses as mere items on a menu. This sabotages the very ideals upon which the committee’s recommendations are predicated: Cornell’s status as a “global university.”

Amanda Recupero, grad, Italian
Kelly Camille Moore, grad, Spanish
Cristina Hung, grad, Spanish
Matías Borg Oviedo, grad, Spanish
Andy Leonel Barrientos-Gómez, grad, Spanish & Portuguese
Lia Turtas, grad, Italian
Patrick Kozey, grad, Spanish
Álvaro Garrote Pascual, grad, Spanish
Emily C. Vázquez Enríquez, grad, Spanish
Alexander Gannuscio, grad, Spanish
Elise Finielz, grad, French
Félix Miguel Rosario Ortiz, grad, Spanish
Gustavo Quintero, grad, Spanish
Giulia Andreon, gradi, Italian
Brandon Greer, grad, French
Janet Hendrickson, grad, Spanish
Chenyun Li, grad, Spanish
Nicholas Huelster, grad, French
Hannah Cole Hughes, grad, French
Mario Jimenez Chacon, grad, Spanish
Peter Caswell, grad, French
Romain Pasquer Brochard, grad, French
Julia Karczewski, grad, French
Jackqueline Frost, grad, French
Mary Jane Dempsey, grad, Italian
Vincent Guimiot, grad, French
Eliana Hernández-Pachón, grad, Spanish.
Magdala Lissa Jeudy, grad, French
Yen Vu, grad, French
Sam Carter, grad, Spanish
Alex Lenoble, grad, French
Sebastian Antezana, grad, Spanish
Ebtisam Mursi, grad, Spanish
Valeria Dani, grad, Italian
Antonio di Fenza, grad, Italian
Heftzi Vázquez Rodríguez, grad, Spanish
Martina Broner, grad, Spanish
Penelope Rosenstock-Murav, grad, French
Paulo Lorca, grad, Spanish