KU to cut its language school; departments will remain intact

photo by: Chris Conde

Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus is shown on Sept. 13, 2018.

The University of Kansas will cut its School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures because of budget cuts, according to an email from the interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The closing of the school will not affect the language departments themselves, interim dean John Colombo specified in a Friday email to faculty and staff.

Colombo called the school closing a change in “administrative structure for languages at KU.”

“I want to make very clear that the departments within the school will continue to operate as they have,” Colombo wrote in his email. “This is a change only to the overarching administrative structure of the school and will not affect degree offerings or curriculum; students will not be impacted.”

The School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (SLLC) has existed for about five years as an administrative directorship for six departments: African and African American Studies; East Asian Languages and Cultures; French, Francophone and Italian Studies; German Studies; Slavic Languages and Literatures; and Spanish and Portuguese.

The school will close at the end of this academic year.

One staff position will be lost because of the closing of this program, Colombo wrote in an email to the Journal-World. The director and co-director of the SLLC are also faculty members and will return to their respective positions within their academic units.

Colombo wrote that the creation of the school had not resulted in increased enrollment for language departments nor raised substantial private support to sustain the language programs, as was originally anticipated.

“Given a continuing budget deficit and a new budget model, my most pressing duty is to ensure efficient, effective and strategic use of our limited resources,” Colombo wrote in his email. “There are no easy choices to meet our budget deficit, which stands at about $1 million left.”

Colombo wrote that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will reinvest some of the SLLC funding back into the aforementioned language departments. The rest will go toward budget savings.

Colombo told the Journal-World that he would not be able to provide the exact amount of funding that goes to the SLLC until later in the week. (KU was closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.)

According to KU’s 2020 budget, the SLLC was budgeted to received $440,947 for fiscal year 2020.

“Given our duty to be responsible stewards of state and taxpayer funds, we are continually evaluating our resources against our outcomes,” Colombo wrote. “There is no option to not make cuts; rather, we must be strategic in how we meet these cuts while preserving the core functions of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.”

Marc Greenberg, who serves as the director of the SLLC, wrote in an email that he is disappointed that the school will close.

“I put my heart and soul into building the SLLC and deferred some of my career goals in order to strengthen the support for the language programs at KU,” he wrote. Greenberg mentioned two student scholarship programs as one of the successes of the school, as well as the development of a master’s degree in teaching, which “will help meet a huge need in the Kansas K-12 system.”

Greenberg wrote that the scholarships will continue to be awarded to students, and that the master’s is “still in the works.”

Though disappointed by the school’s closing, Greenberg wrote that he is ready to get back to teaching and conducting research and that he has faith the chairs and professors of the KU language programs “will continue to maintain the distinctive educational offerings and research excellence for which we have become well known.”

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