Russian B.A. to be Discontinued
February 9, 2005 10:13 AM
SF State has discontinued the bachelor’s degree program in Russian, despite a November recommendation by the Academic Senate to maintain the program.
Foreign language department Chair Midori McKeon received notice from Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs John Gemello on Feb. 1. McKeon said in an e-mail to [X]press that she had not received any statement from SF State President Robert Corrigan or from Caren Colvin, chair of the
Requests for interviews from Gemello, Corrigan, and senate leadership were not returned in time for publication.
After initial cutbacks to Academic Affairs last April, the university curtailed enrollments in the Russian program because of the possibility of discontinuance.
SF State’s Educational Policies Committee voted 15-1 on Nov. 9 for the discontinuance of the bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Russian in an overwhelming vote last semester, said College of Humanities Dean Paul Sherwin.
The EPC recommended the Russian program be kept as a minor, said Russian program director Katerina Siskron. While Siskron and McKeon did not dispute the proposal for discontinuance of the master’s degree due to a lack of students enrolled in the program, they went to the Academic Senate in hopes of keeping the undergraduate degree program.
Siskron’s concern was that students with a minor would not be accepted into graduate programs in Russian offered by UC Berkeley and Stanford University.
“We feel it's shortsighted to eliminate the program,” said Siskron. “It’s a way of saying that everyone speaks English and we don’t need to really learn the culture or language of other people.”
Siskron said there was an overwhelming amount of support for the bachelor's program. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the Immigrants Rights Commission and the CSU Foreign Language Council all passed resolutions in favor of sustaining the bachelor’s program.
Over 900 people signed paper petitions circulated by students and members of the Russian community to save the program. Another 1,700 people signed online petitions in support of the bachelor’s degree offering, Siskron said.
The Academic Senate supported the program’s continuance by a 26-21 vote on Nov. 30.
"I am proud that we were able to bring out facts that were convincing enough to the Academic Senate to support the Russian B.A. programs continuance and preservation," sad McKeon. "We must believe in the collective wisdom of this great university. I thank all who are involved in the review process for their hard work and dedication."
In order to keep the bachelor’s degree, the department would have to hire two new tenure-track faculty, at a yearly cost of at least $90,000 each, including benefits. There are various ways this money could be spent within the department, including adding faculty to other programs or adding classes, said Sherwin.
The impact on current faculty members in the Russian program won’t be clear until the final group of Russian majors completes its coursework. If student interest in Russian coursework increases in the future, reopening the degree program is a possibility, Sherwin added.
“I don’t think we want to keep programs that aren’t strong and healthy in terms of both the quality of the programs and in terms of the academic quality of the course work,” said Sherwin.
The lack of students - at present eight - enrolled in the bachelor’s program was one reason that Sherwin lobbied for discontinuance.
The only CSU campus still offering a bachelor's in Russian is San Diego State University. Students who want to earn an undergraduate degree in Russian and stay in the Bay Area might consider UC Berkeley. However, that institution serves a student population very different from that of SF State, said Siskron.
“The attack is not on the Russian program,” said Siskron. “What is happening is that small classes and small programs are eliminated or emerged so that you have more and more students per classroom.
“I don’t feel that this is personal or that this is addressed just to the Russian (department),” she added. “I feel that this is just the choices we are making as a nation and as a state. And I feel very sad about those choices.”
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