Save Modern Languages at Mansfield University sign now

Dr. Maravene S. Loeschke
Mansfield University
Office of the President
500 North Hall
Mansfield, PA 16933

Dear President Loeschke:

We are writing to urge you to reconsider your decision, announced last year, to eliminate the French and German programs at Mansfield University, as well as your recent decision to retrench faculty members in the Department of Modern Languages. While we understand the budget constraints that led you to take these drastic steps as a short-term solution, we believe that the decisions will be detrimental to the academic standing, intellectual integrity and even the economic health of Mansfield University in the long term.

As faculty members, we feel that the value of studying languages, literatures and cultures extends beyond the borders of a particular discipline to encompass the values that are at the core of any university: understanding of diverse cultures; insight into other ways of perceiving the world; and self-knowledge, for it is only by understanding different ways of thought and expression that we can gain a perspective on our own language and culture. These benefits are not luxuries that should be reserved for students at more elite universities; they are essential to creating educated citizens and future leaders. We should not deprive our students of the opportunity to become fully educated through long-term study of the language, literature and culture of their choice.

While there are compelling intellectual arguments to be made for maintaining strong programs in a variety of languages, we feel that there are also economic gains to be made from supporting language study. A recent report from the Modern Languages Association shows that, nation-wide, enrollments in all languages have been steadily increasing, with a 12.9\% overall increase during the period 2002-2006, and a 6.6\% increase for the years 2006-2009. (http://www.mla.org/2009_enrollmentsurvey). In French and German, the languages eliminated at Mansfield, the increases were +2.2\% and +3.5\%, respectively, for 2002-2006, and +4.8\% and +2.2\%, respectively, for 2006-2009. Clearly, on the national level, there is an upward trend of enrollments in French and German. It is reasonable to assume that strong student interest in these languages could lead to gains in the number of majors and minors enrolled in the Department of Modern Languages at Mansfield, if the faculty and programs were properly supported. On the other hand, elimination of these programs and retrenchment of faculty members creates the impression among potential students that Mansfield is on the decline, both intellectually and economically, and may lead to difficulties with recruitment.

The strong enrollments in languages nation-wide show that American students are aware of the need to learn about other cultures and become proficient in languages other than English. Here in Pennsylvania, many of the companies that will be hiring our graduates are international, and value employees who can communicate with potential customers in their own language. For example, an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the G-20 Summit held in Pittsburgh in 2009 states that there are about 340 foreign-owned companies in the Pittsburgh area (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09265/999691-482.stm). Knowledge of a foreign language would be of unique benefit to any college graduate applying to work for one of these companies. We hope that you would not want to deprive students at Mansfield University of the opportunity to compete for jobs with international companies, which are becoming increasingly common in a global economy. Having a strong record of job placement for graduates will help Mansfield to recruit new students and engage in successful fund-raising efforts with alumni.

While we are sympathetic to the budget constraints under which you are operating as President of Mansfield University, we ask you to consider the long-term academic and financial damage that will result from eliminating programs in Modern Languages and retrenching faculty. We urge you to reinstate the programs in French and German, and to retain the departments faculty complement at its current level.

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