Lack of professors plagues foreign language department

Due to a short supply of professors and a limited number of class sections in GW’s romance, Slavic and German languages department, many students will be forced to wait until next semester to fulfill their language requirements and electives.

Gregory Ludlow, chair of the department of romance, Slavic and German languages and literature, said his department would like to expand the number of language courses offered but is unable to because of insufficient staffing. The department employs 22 full-time professors and 54 part-time faculty members to teach 183 courses. Three of the full-time professors are not teaching this year.

With an undergraduate population of more than 9,000 students, language classes are often the first to fill up during course registration, and some of the hardest to sign into once a semester begins.

“It is hard to find faculty to hire for these courses which are traditionally taught by part-timers because of the comparatively low salaries that they are paid,” Ludlow wrote in an e-mail last week. “Some extra part-timers have been added over the last 10 years, but nowhere near in proportion to the increase in enrollments in the department.”

Ludlow said that in August three adjunct faculty members slated to teach in the department this fall decided they wouldn’t be returning to GW, leaving the department with little time to find replacements for 12 of its courses. A sophomore, who declined to give her name, said she walked into her Spanish 9 class at the beginning of the semester to learn that an anthropology professor from Spain was teaching the course.

“I am frustrated with how poorly the department is run,” she said. “They are putting professors in uncomfortable positions by having them teach outside of their specialization.”

In July, the department of romance languages and literature merged with the Slavic and German language departments following last year’s recommendation from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Council. A 2002 report from the Faculty Senate Committee on Appointment, Salary and Promotion Policies characterized almost all of GW’s language departments as suffering under “real-duress” because of their heavy reliance on a low-paid part-time faculty.

“We place caps of 20 (students) on class enrollments to ensure individualized attention, but this number, we recognize, is far from ideal,” Ludlow said.

A 2002 survey by the Modern Language Association found that Spanish, French, German and Italian are the most popular languages taught at four-year U.S. colleges. The report found that from 1998 to 2002 Spanish enrollment jumped 13.7 percent, while Italian enrollments saw a 29.6 percent boost.

Although GW doesn’t employ a University-wide waitlist policy like some other colleges, the romance, Slavic, and German language department implemented a waitlist system in August to keep track of students who wanted to sign into closed language courses. There were 54 students on the Spanish waitlist, 15 of whom were placed into their desired classes.

Students signed up for the list, which closed Sept. 8, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Language professors said they make exceptions for transfer students and upperclassmen who have a more pressing need to take required classes.

Freshman Justin Waring said he tried to sign up for a French 4 course throughout the summer and couldn’t find an open slot.

“I now have to wait until next semester and take the placement exam again,” he said. “This throws off my schedule and puts me behind.”

Freshman Angie Castillo said she logged into GWeb Banner to search for openings in Italian courses all summer, but never got into a class.

David Alan Grier, associate dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs, which has a six-semester language requirement, said he hasn’t heard of any students who have not been able to graduate on time thanks to closed-out language classes.

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