Language degrees no longer offered, limits students


¿Puede usted leer esto? Many Florida A&M students do not know a foreign language.

Last year, the university considered cutting majors that did not have enough graduates, and foreign language was among the first programs to go.

According to Rodner Wright, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, the factors considered included enrollment, student FTE (credit hours) generated, degrees awarded, sponsored research funding, return on investment for research, cost per credit hour, state need and university mission.

“There’s a provision for what’s called ‘teach-out,’” said Yakini Kemp, chair of the Department of English. “So, the students who were already in the major track for Spanish and French, all of them will be finished in the spring of 2013.”

If students want to go further than the bachelor’s requirement of 12 foreign language credits, which includes Spanish I, Spanish II and the lab for each, they must attend Florida State University.

“No one in either department – in English or in languages – is happy about that,” Kemp said.

Kemp and administrators such as Yvonne McIntosh, interim associate dean for the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, cited the importance for FAMU graduates to be globally competitive and ready to serve their communities with foreign language degrees and experience. McIntosh said there are many ways a foreign language program would enhance a degree.

“Even though we had a small number of French and Spanish majors, we had quite a few minors in the program that could’ve benefited to enhance the degree that they were currently studying,” she said.

McIntosh also mentioned the cultural aspect of foreign language.

“What if you’re in France and you’re invited over to someone’s home for dinner?” she said. “You know not to give them chrysanthemums as a flower because chrysanthemums are only given for funerals.”

The university has not updated the foreign language section of its website. It still emphasizes the importance of a foreign language degree in the marketplace and encourages incoming students to apply and pursue a degree in those fields.

“I know the significance of the language – if you’re bilingual or trilingual,” said Fredo Selbonne, a civil engineering transfer student.

Selbonne is from Guadeloupe and speaks French and English. He said that because the number of students who are interested in learning a foreign language are about “10 percent,” their voices do not have a big impact.

“Even though we had a small number of French and Spanish majors, we had quite a few minors in the program that could’ve benefited…to enhance the degree that they were currently studying,” McIntosh said.

Kemp said many HBCUs are eliminating foreign language programs, but it is up to students to demand the programs be reinstated.

“I’m saddened to see the largest African-American university not have a major in a foreign language,” Kemp said.

However, Wright cites major budget cuts to FAMU’s funding. He said that it is not financially feasible for an institution to provide every major a student may want to study. In the past five years, FAMU has lost 23 percent of its budget.