Agenda Item FA 10-24

Submitted by the Executive Committee

Department of World Languages Name Changed Request

09/02/10: Passed

09/10/10: Approved

 

 

Department of World Languages
Name Changed Request
 
October 14, 2009
 
To:
Barbara Hetrick, Dean
College of Arts and Sciences
   
From
Jorge Febles, Chair
Department of World Languages
   
Re:
Department name change request
 
During academic year 2003-2004, the incipient Department of Foreign Languages requested that its name be changed to Department of World Languages.   The justification focused on issues such as the multicultural nature of the United States, the evolving global environment and the plan to offer more languages than Spanish and French.   At the time, the department only provided a minor in French and a major and minor in Spanish.  In order to justify the request, the department alluded to the fact that several universities around the United States had opted for the World Languages designation.  Those listed were the University of Central Arkansas, California State San Marcos, Pacific University, Humboldt State University, Juniata College, Indiana-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI), and Brigham Young University.  The decision to change the name, therefore, was not based on programmatic realities or strategic planning, but rather on a perceived national trend that, in truth, has not materialized except at the high school level.  The designation is also popular among publishing houses because of its all-encompassing nature.  Colleges and universities, however, have discovered the inherent value of tradition and the burden posed by the noun "world," even when employed adjectivally.  It communicates a variety only possible at universities such as Brigham Young, culturally committed for religious as well as pedagogical reasons to offer a vast array of foreign languages.  In fact, since our department presented its justification in November 11, 2003, the language department at California State University San Marcos became the Department of Modern Language Studies and the University of Hawai'i adopted the designation Department of Languages and Literatures of Europe and the Americas to encompass French and Spanish among others, while including Chinese and Japanese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures.  Even Brigham Young, that by all rights should have retained the name, opted instead to create departments of Spanish and Portuguese, Germanic and Slavic Languages, French and Italian and Asian and Near Eastern Languages.
 
At the University of North Florida, the name Department of World Languages has proved problematic for a number of reasons.  First, it creates unrealistic expectations on the part of colleagues and students alike.  To most, the expression "world languages" implies a limitless number of offerings.  Therefore, we are constantly coping with queries about why we do not offer Arabic, Hebrew, Serbo-Croatian, Swahili, Japanese and so forth.  Second, the name disguises departmental identity, suggesting as it does a mere service function that belies the true nature of our programs and the expertise of our faculty.  We offer at all levels courses centering exclusively on language studies, but we also offer literature and culture classes in the target languages as well as in English.  Third, it is a title that does not travel well.  Despite the multicultural intent that generated it, the fact is that when we translate it for audiences abroad, as we must do regularly, it appears abstract and even offensive, given its global implications.  Fourth, it distances us after a fashion from our peer aspirant institutions, as the ensuing list underscores:
 
Miami University of Ohio:  Classics Department, Department of German, Russian and East Asian Languages, Department of French and Italian, Department of Spanish and Portuguese           
 
James Madison University:  Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures
 
Portland State University:  Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
 
University of North Carolina -Charlotte:  Department of Languages and Culture Studies
 
University of North Carolina -Wilmington:  Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
 
The College of New Jersey:  Modern Languages Department
 

University of Maryland-Baltimore County:  Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics

 
 
Towson University:  Department of Foreign Languages
 
Montclair State University:  Department of Modern Languages and Literatures; Department of Spanish and Italian; Department of Classics and General Humanities
 
Appalachian State University:  Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures            
 
A perusal of the list indicates that most of these institutions have opted to include literature or culture or both more accurately to define the nature of the departments in question.  Although the adjective "foreign" is still the preferred modifier, "modern" is employed twice and in well-established universities, such as Miami and Montclair State, departments have evolved into distinct units based on language specialization.  None of the peer aspirant universities have opted for the expression "world languages" to characterize departments whose mission is to teach language, literature and culture.
 
Given the reality described above, the faculty of the Department of World Languages proposes that its name be changed to Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.  This name, patterned after those used by the University of South Carolina, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Illinois State University among others, avoids the term foreign found objective by the UNF language faculty in November 2003.  Additionally, it illustrates clearly that-as specified in its Web page as well as in its mission statement and strategic plan-the department's mission is to teach not only those languages that it offers regularly (Chinese, French, German, Latin and Spanish) and those it may choose to offer in the future, but also the cultures and literatures intrinsically entwined with them.  Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, therefore, is an inclusive term that embraces what Lyotard has called "the multiplicity of worlds of names, the insurmountable diversity of cultures."  As such, it is a more comfortable and more readily simplifiable (i.e. "Languages," "Language Department") description of our department, one that the World Languages faculty proposes enthusiastically and with unanimity.
 
For the reasons delineated above, we respectfully request that this name change request be approved.  The faculty of the Department of World Languages will welcome your support and your efforts in this regard.
 
(attached is a copy of endorsement by Dean Hetrick of College of Arts and Sciences)