This just in from the Chronicle of Higher Education's Ticker:
The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin has dropped a plan to reduce foreign-language requirements in the face of faculty outrage. After a packed faculty meeting on Monday at which no attendees spoke in favor of proposals to reduce the requirement from 16 credits to 12 credits, a dean sent an e-mail message to the faculty saying that changing the language requirement was off the table. Department heads have been told to find other ways to cope with budget cuts, said Peter Hess, chair of the Germanic-studies department. (Ticker, 10/22/2009)
While small victories like this are important (particularly to the lecturers and professors who teach language courses or in language-based departments), it doesn't change the larger problem. University leadership is still leaning on departments to cut themselves, as evidenced by Peter Hess's comment—and this mentality is what needs to be fought.
At UCLA, a committee has been convened to discuss the future of the humanities (with particular attention to language departments). Though the rhetoric is that the committee is there to ensure the continuing excellence of the humanities at UCLA, discussion seems to have focused on finding ways to cut $6 million from the humanities operating budget. This number just happens to be the same as the entire fund for lecturers and graduate student TAships. To my mind, this is nothing more than a veiled threat from the administration—that is, "if you don't find a way to cut $6 million from your own budget, we'll do it for you." This is what faculty governance amounts to in the latter days of the public university—self-mutilation. Do it for us, so we don't have to do it, and so we can say that you did it to yourself.
This leaves me with a couple of questions. First, are there similar committees for each of the divisions of the College of Letters and Science or is it just the Humanities Division, which is already cut to the bone, that must bear the weight of the budget crisis? Second, where does this $6 million figure come from? And how are the cuts and expenses of the various divisions being viewed across the campus?
(Note: I write this not in my capacity as an employee of UC, but as a concerned private citizen.)