Look to tomorrow for answers

Staff Editorial

As Taylor Gravett, SGA president, put in a letter to the editor we published last week, the announcement that nobody may declare Spanish or French as a major anymore doesn’t quite connect all the dots.

Give them time

Karl Kunkel, dean of arts and sciences, has explained that this decision came after an extended program-review process.
The review aimed to remedy an indeed poor graduation rate for students in the Spanish and French majors.
That was before the decision came to cut the majors as they currently exist, only after the remedy failed.
Kunkel finds himself saddled now with a lot of angry students and a lot of questions to answer.
We don’t seek to judge how he’s handled things. He deserves time to address the situation.
He’ll be holding a question-and-answer session at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, in 102 Grubbs Hall, and we look forward to what he has to say.

Don’t doubt problem

Even so, the fact that no student seems to have had any idea the major deletion was coming before last Monday, when it’s been in the works for years, is troubling.
Regardless of the reason, at least Gravett should have been in the know as a student leader before this came down.
Yet SGA was scrambling as much as anyone else to adjust after it did.
Without a doubt, cutting back foreign language studies at Pittsburg State harms the university, both in terms of image and academics.
What does it say about any institution of learning that trims studies of Spanish under any circumstances when this country’s number of native Spanish-speakers will continue its rapid growth?
Yet, what’s done is done, and to expect the university to restore the programs as they were before would be unrealistic.
The decision is final, and we are best to look to the future.

Good so far…

In so doing, the university should focus first on the welfare of students already in the majors. Kunkel has said none of the changes should affect them if they stay the course to graduation. That’s good.
What must be avoided is any desire to just smooth things over with the students who are angry while advanced studies of language at Pitt State stay in limbo.
Whether it’s to address conceal-and-carry privileges or the question of a tobacco ban on campus, issues at Pitt State have a tendency to become stalled in crimson and gold tape.
The university has spent the time through the program review process to understand what’s happening with these majors and how they’ve determined to delete them.

But, expect results

When they go to talk with the dean tomorrow, those concerned should tell him that a straight solution and path forward amid the controversy is something that’s needed.
In other words, we don’t need to waste time convening more review boards or holding more opinion polls.
If anyone thought this change could happen without significant upset, they were wrong.
Kunkel has been proactive so far in making clear that the university understands the value of higher-level language learning.
The best step forward from here is to engage Pitt State’s leaders and expect them to keep their promise that while these majors might be gone, a worthy successor will take their place.


Letters to the Editor

Letters ‘reprehensible’

The decision of our university to liquidate the French and Spanish majors is nothing less than embarrassing.
The way in which said decision was announced is also reprehensible. There was no notice, no effort to include the opinions of the student body, and no offer for students currently enrolled in foreign language minors a last opportunity to enter into the major programs terminating in 2017.
The low-level language classes that will now solely be offered, hence the elimination of intensive high-level courses, are simply not sufficient to make students competitive.
The world, our country, and especially the state of Kansas need more college graduates capable of engaging in cultural diffusion and global critical analysis through the medium of bilingual and polyglot communication.
As a major of Spanish, the skills I have gained in the high-level courses have given me an irrefutable advantage in the workforce over those who will only obtain certification through this new curriculum.
However, the administration still speaks only of numbers, their “bottom line.”
Here’s the rub: hundreds of prospective students, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for the university will be lost in the coming decade due to their short-sightedness.

Clark Neal is a senior in Spanish and international business.

We value language studies

The Kansas Board of Regents, the governing body overseeing public universities in the state, requires internal reviews of all degree programs at least every seven years.
This process is designed to determine programs remain viable with sufficient interest and student success outcomes providing appropriate credentials, skills, and perspectives for leading fulfilling lives.
During the 2009 program review of the B.A. in Spanish and B.A. in French, the number of majors and/or graduates of these programs was determined to be lower than expected.
The department of Modern Languages and Literatures was asked to create a comprehensive plan addressing these issues better enhancing the success of our students.
Unfortunately, the department’s efforts and initiatives did not yield the necessary results leading to the 2013 program review decision to discontinue offering these majors.
I want to make it very clear that administrators at Pittsburg State remain committed to continuing modern language instruction on our campus.
The ability to speak, understand, and communicate through another language is essential to the internationalization emphasis at Pittsburg State and the mission of “creating global citizens” in the College of Arts and Sciences.
These are essential opportunities we must continue to make available for our students.
Despite the program review decision to discontinue these two majors, Pittsburg State still offers general education courses in Spanish and French, and the minors in these areas remain.
In addition, students currently enrolled in the B.A. programs in Spanish and French are provided the opportunity to complete these degree programs with classes being offered through the spring of 2017.
Further, and most important, I am forming a steering committee of faculty from the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, along with faculty stakeholders from other disciplines across campus where students can benefit from modern language instruction, to decide the future of language degree programs on our campus.
The program review process, dating back to 2009, determined the current form of language credentials was not producing the level of student success we expect at Pittsburg State.
Simply put, we will search for and determine a method of modern language opportunity most beneficial for our students’ needs leading to successful program completion and making language instruction at Pittsburg State stronger than ever.
There are several models among our peer institutions for us to consider. I personally look forward to working with the steering committee on this vital task. Our students deserve nothing less.

Karl R. Kunkel, Ph.D., is the dean of arts and sciences.

Bilingualism has benefits

After receiving notice that PSU will no longer offer majors in Spanish or French, I began to research the benefits of second language acquisition.
According to research at www.nea.org, the National Education Association, learning a new language can improve cognitive abilities, provides greater understanding and empathy toward other cultures, academic scores are improved in all subjects, and creativity is enhanced.
All of this from hola or bon jour!
These benefits are not only for children. Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, Canada, has researched how bilingualism can fend off Alzheimer’s.
Learning another language provides insight into other cultures not otherwise available.
Globalization has made the world a very small place and removing opportunities to expand our knowledge about our global neighbors and partners is putting the United States at a clear disadvantage over the rest of the world.
I chose Pitt State because of the opportunities in the Modern Languages and Literature Department.
I sincerely hope the administration will reconsider the decision to limit our options and continue to provide the opportunities that will help all students succeed in our global and multicultural world.

Jennifer Bristow is a senior in Spanish and communication.

No ‘ student input’

As most students know as of now, Spanish and French major programs have been eliminated within the department of Modern Languages and Literatures.
This decision was made without the input of the very people that it will affect, the students. Students are rightfully disappointed by this decision.
As a university that seeks to promote diversity, and prepare its students for a global economy and culturally changing state and country, this decision severely lacks foresight, fortitude and vision.
Despite the lack of communication from Pittsburg State’s administration, students will not be silent on this issue. We will not accept the administration’s complete disregard for student opinion.
Other universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system in the state continue to offer competitive degree programs to compete in the 21st century job market.
It is very disheartening to see that the PSU administration wishes to take us in the opposite direction. This decision sets us back as a university.
As the days go by, I urge my fellow students to not be silent on this issue. Make your voices loud, and let them be heard. Tell the PSU administration to cut somewhere else.
Perhaps they can start with their own bloated salaries.

Sen. Ethan Spurling is a member of the Student Government Association and a sophomore in political science and education.

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