Cuts mean new way to meet language requirement

Students playing scheduling Tetris for spring quarter may want to pause before registering for foreign language courses.

If a recent proposal is approved by the Faculty Council on Academic Standards, there will be a simpler way for students to meet the language requirement imposed on those planning to graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences at the UW.

If students took three years of a language in high school with at least a 3.0 GPA, maneuvering that final block of Spanish 103 — or any language classes for that matter — into a spring schedule could be unnecessary.

“This isn’t actually a change in the foreign language requirement,” said Robert Stacey, divisional dean of Arts and Humanities. “We’re just adding an additional way for students to meet the requirement.”

Right now, there are three ways students can meet the language requirement: passing a 103-level language course with at least a 2.0, passing a 201-level course with at least a .7 or taking a proficiency test that places the student in a 201-level class or above.

The proposed plan calls for a 20-percent TA cut for the entire College of Arts and Sciences next year, reducing the number of introductory sections of French and Spanish.

“Fewer offerings at the 100 level will make classes hopefully less clogged up with students who don’t want to be there,” Stacey said.

However, French language coordinator Hedwige Meyer said that introductory French classes are already full and that the elimination of sections at the 100 and 200 levels may have an impact on students who are pursuing French as a major or in excess of the foreign language requirement.

“This academic year, 42 sections were taught at the 100 level,” Meyer said. “Next year, 25 will be taught at the 100 level. We asked in our 100-level classes who would still take a French class if they didn’t have to, and two-thirds said they would.”

If the polling done in class is an accurate assessment of how many students plan to register for French classes next year, then the 41 percent section cut would mean some students would experience difficulty getting seats for the language classes they want.

Meyer was only minimally concerned by the statistic.

“It’s a difficult time worldwide,” Meyer said. “It’s bound to affect us ... I was fearing even worse before hearing the numbers.”

Stacey mentioned that the humanities division is currently devoting two-thirds of its instruction to classes at the 100 or 200 level. Far fewer upper-division courses are offered each quarter.

The motivation for the shift is twofold, because the plan also allows the foreign language department to focus its resources on teaching more sections of less-commonly-taught languages at more advanced levels.

“There is a huge demand for Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian,” Stacey said. “We turned away 150 students in Arabic last year.”

Though recent budget cuts have posed dilemmas for various academic departments, Stacey said this proposal has been in the works for several years, since long before the state found itself buried in economic recession.

“I think it’s a move that makes sense regardless of if there’s a budget cut or not,” said Ana Mari Cauce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Faculty Council on Academic Standards is expected to reach a final decision on the proposal by the end of February. If the change is adopted, it will affect all students, likely beginning autumn 2009. Both Stacey and Cauce are confident the measure will be passed.

Because there is no way to estimate how the change will affect registration, Stacey requested patience from the university community.

“We don’t have a way to predict the effect this is going to have,” Stacey said. “We think that by making these changes now, we have the best chance of being able to maintain the full range of our foreign language programs.”

Reach contributing writer Rachel Solomon at development@dailyuw.com.

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