Friday, March 03, 2006

To the SIUC community

In a time of rapid globalization of the world, enrollment problems and financial uncertainty here at SIUC, it is ironic, tragic and shortsighted of the university to consider reorganizing the Linguistics Department out of existence.

The department's MA TESOL program (TESOL is Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) has been sending qualified teachers of ESL/EFL around the globe for many years, and has an excellent and well-deserved reputation. I go to the international TESOL Conference every year, and SIUC alumni from around the world approach me regularly and tell me of their fond memories of our excellent program. These teachers and administrators, in every corner of the world, remain our loyal allies should SIUC get serious about increasing international enrollment, or becoming an integral part of an increasingly better-connected world. They are appalled to hear of the war of attrition on the department - the last five tenure lines not replaced - and the possible dissolution of the department, with various instructors and the MA TESOL program going elsewhere. The university can package it however they like, but the combination of the above factors means the certain demise of a program with a proud and world-famous tradition.

It has often been said that Linguistics is like Classics- its value might not be readily apparent to everyone, but all serious universities should have it.
The value of Linguistics, however, should be apparent, at least to administrators; even Bush has noticed it recently, and a national push is on to rectify our nation's sad underappreciation of language skills. In our own state, a newfound realization that our language minorities are underserved has led to a certification in Bilingual Education that this Linguistics Department pioneered in. The university's stand that financial problems necessitate the reorganization can't be serious: the MA TESOL program alone has been and continues to be a windfall, with most of its students international and paying much more tuition than everyone else. But these students won't want a program that isn't taken seriously, or is housed in a foreign languages and literatures department. If finances are the reason for reorganization, why should SIUC cut off our ability to meet the needs of these students, the state, the country and the world for years to come?

After a clear look at the finances, one can only conclude that the university has other reasons: a personal vendetta, or just a lack of appreciation of what this department is, has done, and has meant to SIUC's reputation worldwide over the years. Or, it could be a combination of the two. In either case, shame on you, SIUC. I urge every member of the SIUC community to back the proper rebuilding of the Linguistics Department, and restore this university's proper place in the world of international education.

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