A year after Fort Lewis College eliminated three majors in a round of across-the-board budget cuts, administrators have decided to eliminate the college’s German and Japanese classes for the fall semester and possibly beyond.
The decision was a financial one, said Linda Schott, dean of the school of arts, humanities and social sciences.
The classes had very low enrollment and part-time instructors, both factors that made them candidates for cuts when the school was looking for places to save money in December, Schott said.
“In scarce financial times we have to shift our resources to where there is more demand,” Schott said.
Beginning-level Japanese and German classes have had between 13 and 17 students over the last two years and the upper-level courses have had between four and 10 students, said Ellen Hartsfield, chairwoman of the modern languages department. German is a minor at the college but Japanese is not.
Hartsfield said she was informed of the college’s decision only after it was made.
Department chairmen are never involved in budget and hiring-related decisions like this one, Schott said.
Though German and Japanese classes aren’t scheduled for next semester, it’s important to note they have not been eliminated from the course catalog, said Barbara Morris, the college’s provost and vice president for academic affairs.
If a course, a minor or a major is deleted from the catalog, that decision must be approved by the Fort Lewis Faculty Curriculum Committee, the Faculty Senate and the Provost. In that case, there will be a “full campus discussion” of the discontinuance before it is finalized, Schott said.
Kevin Walton is the college’s only German instructor. As an adjunct professor he does not have tenure and his contract will not be renewed by the college next semester.
“Truthfully it’s not really about having a job. For me I’m more worried about my students,” Walton said. “I’ve got German minors and if you stop the minor, I don’t feel like they have a plan.”
Schott said she is working with students who are taking German and Japanese classes to work out other options for them, including online classes.
Andrew Landon, a sophomore communications major, has taken beginning level German and was planning to take upper division classes in upcoming years. The decision to eliminate German classes seemed “a little ridiculous,” said Landon, who has taken the language since seventh grade.
Walton criticized the college’s move as whittling away at its broad base of educational offerings.
“It is a liberal arts institution and (administrators) talk about diversity all the time, but they’re going to knock out German and Japanese,” Walton said. “Just offering Spanish and French doesn’t seem particularly diverse.”
In recent years, most demand is occurring not for traditionally liberal arts departments, but for programs like pre-med and health, as well as others in the school of natural and behavioral sciences, Schott said.
“As dean of arts, humanities and social sciences, I don’t particularly like it, but that is the most direct path to a well-paying job,” she said.