Cuts To University's Humanities Program Draw Outcry Facing drastic budget cuts, the State University of New York at Albany has suspended student admissions to the French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater programs because of low student enrollment. The announcement has provoked a debate on the value of a humanities education.
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Cuts To University's Humanities Program Draw Outcry

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Cuts To University's Humanities Program Draw Outcry

Cuts To University's Humanities Program Draw Outcry

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: NPR's Margot Adler has more.

MARGOT ADLER: David Wills is a professor of French. At first he was shocked. Then he was angry.

DAVID WILLS: None of us accepted that it was something that a university could do and still call itself a university. This is not a university if you only have one non-English, European language program left standing.

ADLER: To be fair, you will still be able to take some classes in these subjects, but not major in them.

SUNY A: The World Within Reach.

ALEXANDRA CIALEO: How is the world within reach when a school is going to take away the foreign language department so you can't communicate around the world? It's just saddens me, because I have such a passion for the language and the culture and I want to become a teacher someday.

ADLER: Albany Provost Susan Phillips says up until now, cuts in the humanities had been 4 percent - less than in other areas.

SUSAN PHILLIPS: The faculty losses, actually, so far, have been much more on the social sciences and professional schools side.

ADLER: And she emphasizes up to this point, no decisions have been made to close down these programs permanently. But that's not how it feels to Victoria Savino, a senior majoring in English, minoring in classics. Reading Latin, she says...

VICTORIA SAVINO: That completely changed my entire mentality for the rest of college. I will now read my children Ovid before they go to sleep before I read them Dr. Seuss.

ADLER: What makes her mad is when she sees campus buildings being renovated that seem perfectly fine.

SAVINO: And I can't study what I want to study.

ADLER: But Julie Gondor, a senior majoring in public policy and the president of the student assembly, says many students don't understand the complexities. For example, construction is a separate fund.

JULIE GONDOR: I definitely feel for these students that came in wanting to major in these programs.

ADLER: But Gondor says this is a larger political battle that has to go to the legislature.

GONDOR: My tuition needs to be going back into the SUNY system and into the campus that I'm going to.

ADLER: In New York State and a few other states, the state takes the tuition. Nancy Zimpher, the chancellor of the entire 64-campus SUNY system, says tuition is paid to the state, but it's the legislature that decides how much of it goes to each campus.

NANCY ZIMPHER: They re-appropriate it to us, and in the last session, only gave us 10 percent back. That, to me, sounds like a tax on people who are seeking to better themselves by higher education.

ADLER: But that doesn't answer Victoria Savino, who says she learned the most in a Latin class with two other people.

SAVINO: But, hey, I'm also in a lecture center, a sociology class, that has 300 people in it. Yeah, that class is really popular, but I haven't learned one thing.

ADLER: Freshman Jessica Stapf won an appeal, met with tons of advisers and will finish her French requirements by 2012.

JESSICA STAPF: My dreams mean more than anything else. I'm not going to let them stop me.

ADLER: Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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