UAlbany language cuts spark petition
By STEPHANIE LEE Staff Writer
Published: 12:00 a.m., Monday, November 15, 2010
ALBANY — More than 13,000 people from around the world have signed an online petition in an effort to save the French, Russian and Italian foreign language programs targeted for closure at the University of Albany.
The petition, available here, will be submitted to UAlbany administrators by members of UAlbany and Union College communities, as well as the School of Russian and Asian Studies, which offers educational and cultural understanding programs in Russia and Eurasia.
In October, UAlbany president George Philip announced that the campus is suspending admissions to five programs — French, Russian, Italian, classics and theater — in the wake of an unprecedented budget shortfall. A growing number of critics have condemned the move as an attack on the humanities.
The petition reads: “Not only are we concerned for our colleagues at SUNY Albany, whom we know to be dedicated professionals and committed to their students, but we are also gravely disturbed by the irrevocable damage this would do to SUNY Albany’s reputation and the students at SUNY Albany, to their opportunities, and to their ability to succeed in our global environment.”
The petition cites the 500 million French speakers across the globe, Russian’s classification as a “critical need” language by the U.S. government and New York’s large Italian-American population.
The petition focuses less on theater and the classics, with Josh Wilson, assistant director of the School of Russian and Asian Studies, saying it was drafted “before the authors knew of additional cuts planned to” those programs.
The document has garnered signatures and comments from 37 foreign countries, particularly in Europe, Asia and the Pacific, as well as 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
UAlbany’s languages, literatures and cultures department has also received more than 500 letters from supporters since the announcement, said Brett Bowles, a French professor at UAlbany, in an e-mail.
Stephanie Lee can be reached at (518) 454-5057 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.