Romance Language Funding

As seen in the Oregon Daily Emerald!

Every student at the University of Oregon must eventually ask him or herself one very important question: What do I hate more, math or foreign languages?

In many cases, it is this question that determines for the student whether he or she becomes a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or a bachelor of sciences (the infinitely funnier B.S.). I know a girl who is getting her bachelor of sciences in theater arts because she would rather take math classes than foreign language classes. It’s in college experiences like these where we choose our path based not on what we want to do, but on what we don’t want to do.

I am painfully bad at math. This is no exaggeration – when I try to multiply fractions, my head fills with the sound of grinding gears and young children crying. It is for that reason that I am a bachelor of arts, now in my second year of Spanish study. I came to college with the high-minded ideal of actually learning a second language, not just faking my way through on charm and bribery like I did in my high school Spanish classes. However, once I got to college, things were considerably more difficult.

At the beginning of last year, I attempted to register for my Advanced Beginning Spanish (111) class, only to find that every available timeslot had filled up. The following term I was lucky enough to get on the waiting list for a Spanish 111 class, and through some time honored charm and bribery was able to get a seat in the class, which met at 8:00 AM five days a week in a building as far from my dorm as humanly possible. There were quite a few other students in line behind me for that seat in the class, none of whom were able to get in. As Spanish 111 is a two-term sequence, these students had to either take it over the summer or put off their foreign language requirements for next year. So far this year in Spanish 202 I’ve seen at least two people each term jockeying for one seat in a Spanish class, each knowing that if they don’t get in they’ll have to wait another year to take the three-term 202 sequence.

The problem is that two years ago the Romance Languages department had only just clawed its way out of a multiple-year spiral of debt, brought on by multiple budget cuts. Since then, the department has been struggling to stay within its smaller budget, which means either drilling for oil outside Friendly Hall or laying off professors. Sadly yet more practically, the department has been forced to eliminate several teaching positions in the past few years, resulting in fewer available classes, which in turn leads to several students playing musical chairs for a spot in a class when there’s only one chair, or maybe no chair at all.

The obvious solution to this problem – the obvious solution to most problems, come to think of it – is more money. Departments throughout the University have had to face shrinking budgets as times get tougher, but to slash budgets for the Romance Languages department, where nearly all bachelor of arts students go to fulfill their language requirements, seriously impacts nearly half the student body. But what can we do? There’s only so much money, and plenty of programs that need it. I know I’d be first in line to complain if funds from my beloved marching band were diverted to another, perhaps more widely benefical, program. The simple fact is that the University just doesn’t have the money to completely fund every one of its academic programs.

If only we had some world-famous, billionaire alumnus with a history of philanthropy…

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