Money and employment rates have been hotly contested issues on America’s political stage, and these arguments have filtered down to the entire population. The measures that are being taken are being felt here at Juniata, with resources being lost in the Humanities department in particular. Michael Henderson, professor of French and Humanities Department Chair, comments on the state of affairs with language faculty:
What exactly is going on in the Humanities department right now?
“What happened was, and this was an initiative during the Bush administration, through the Fulbright organization, funds were made available to universities across the country for what were called critical languages. including Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and several other languages. Juniata had been getting the visiting language instructors (VLIs) in French, German, and Spanish, but then when the strategic language initiative was put in place, we were able to put one in for Russian. It didn’t cost Juniata anything. This past year, in the rather heated debate about raising the debt ceiling, Congress was pushing for ways to decrease the deficit. Lots of funding was cut, and one of the things that were cut was the funding for Fulbright. At the last minute, when we had already selected a language instructor, we then found out that our funding was cut.
Has the lack of resources been a strain on the department?
So far, only in figuring out Russian staffing. Of course, it’s created concern about what’s going to happen in the long run. If we do lose the ability to get the French, German, and Spanish VLIs, it will put a big strain on our department. They also bring a great deal of diversity to the campus, and that would be a big loss.
Do you think that this could affect enrollment in years to come?
I think that’s impossible to say. It’s certainly something we’re not going to be emphasizing when we talk to prospective students.
How will this affect the student body?
This is just my feeling- I think students should take these cuts in education as something that is affecting them very directly. As boring as the conversation might seem, you need to pay attention to what Congress is putting on the table for cutting. It’s going to start affecting other areas of your education. Juniata is dedicated to teaching Russian, it is something that distinguishes us from other institutions of our size, but at this point it seems that Fulbright is going to be unable to help us.
What is the single biggest loss with the issue?
I think it’s more than the classroom aspect. It’s a big impact on the students planning on studying in Russia. It diminishes Professor Roney’s ability to bring Russian culture to campus in extracurricular ways.
Joe Plumer ’14, Juniata Online Journalist