EPC Recommends Russian For Discontinuance
Russian Program Director Still Hopeful
November 11, 2004 3:07 PM
SF State’s Educational Policies Committee (EPC) voted 15-1 on Nov. 9 to refer the Bachelor's and Master's in Russian to the Academic Senate for discontinuance.
Components such as not enough students earning a Bachelor's in Russian -- 88 have been awarded in the past 20 years -- a lack of tenured faculty and not enough students using the degree after graduating were keys of the decision.
Paul Sherwin, dean of Humanities, presented his argument for discontinuance before the EPC while Katerina Siskron, Russian program director, and Midori McKeon, the foreign language chair argued to save the degree.
“While I am saddened by this event, the arguments in support of keeping the Russian degree program are not compelling,” said Sherwin in his opening statement to the EPC. “We must understand that we are not here to discontinue Russian. We will keep the (Russian) language and literature courses in order to keep the minor.”
Sherwin said cost was the main factor in wanting to discontinue the Russian degree. While acknowledging that the elimination of the degrees would save SF State $15,000 per year, Sherwin said, in the long run, the elimination would accrue “massive, permanent savings to the college.”
Sherwin said SF State would save money because the university would not have to hire on any tenured faculty if the degree was eliminated.
Siskron admitted that Russian was vulnerable to discontinuance for many reasons, including a lack of tenured faculty. Professor Ershov, the Russian program’s senior tenured professor went on sick leave five years ago.
"He (Ershov) loved to teach and didn’t want to give up," Siskron said. "He kept hoping that he’d be well enough to come back. It wasn’t until March of this year that his sick leave ran out and he was not well enough to continue teaching, so he had to retire.”
Still, both Siskron and McKeon argued the Russian program is strong as it stands. They recognized its importance to the San Francisco and Bay Area communities by noting the massive support that it has recieved over the past several months.
Resolutions passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the CSU Foreign Language Council and the Immigrants Rights Commission supported the program.
But Richard Giardina, Assistant to Academic Planning said at the meeting that it may not be important to “offer Russian at this institution,” and that the student and societal need and desire for Russian does not match the University's ability to provide a Russian degree program.
SF State student Oxsana Bobarykin, 22, is majoring in Liberal Studies with a minor in Russian. Bobarykin said that she moved from Orange County, Calif. to major in Russian at SF State, upon hearing of the program’s positive reputation in the Bay Area.
When she was admitted to SF State, however, Bobarykin’s request to major in Russian was reduced to a minor, due to the possible discontinuance.
“There is a need for Russian here,” Bobarykin said. “There is a societal need for people like myself who moved here 14 years ago from the Soviet Union. They are all getting to the age where they are needing to retain their culture.”
In addition, Siskron said that student enrollment in Russian 101 is up 38 percent overall and Russian language, according to the U.S Census for 2000, is the fastest growing language in the United States next to Mandarin.
SF State student Cliff Anderson-Bergman, 22, is working towards his doctorate in math. “A Ph.D. in math requires that you minor in either French, German or Russian.”
Siskron also said, “the Federal Government has recently once again acknowledged the importance of Russian as one of the languages strategic for national security.”
But Giardina said that the Russian program needs a minimum of two tenure-track faculty to survive as a degree program. Giardina also said that it would cost the University no less than $100,000 per year for each tenured faculty member that they hire.
However, Dr. Julian Randolph, former language department chair at SF State said, “show me chapter, book and verse where it says that tenure track faculty is needed. I would really like to see where it says that.”
Randolph also said that the “University treats the department of Foreign Languages as it pleases, giving it credit only when it wants to” and “eliminating the Russian degree would continue the downhill process for the program until it is eliminated altogether.”
While Sherwin said that the Humanities council unanimously voted to refer the Russian degree for discontinuance, McKeon said that the entire body of the foreign language department, 61 members strong, signed the letter of support for Russian, that was sent to President Corrigan on May 11, 2004.
The Academic Senate will meet Tuesday, Nov. 16 to review the proposal for discontinuance as well as the rebuttal. The decisions of the EPC and AS will go to President Corrigan’s office for final review.
“(The decision made by the EPC) is very disappointing, but it’s not over yet,” said McKeon.
“I believe that we presented a good case,” said Siskron. “I have faith in the Academic Senate, that they will look at more than just the budget, that they will look at the situation more comprehensively and academically.”
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