When the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences implemented a new undergraduate curriculum last fall, it nixed foreign language and culture requirements, leaving some language professors in fear that their department’s enrollment numbers would plunge.
And since the curriculum overhaul, the University’s Russian program has seen a staggering 40 percent decrease in enrollment. But oddly enough, Russian seems to be the only department that has reported falling numbers.
Richard Robin, the head of the Russian program, has expressed concern that if this decline continues, it is likely that the University will have to lower the number of courses and sections offered.
Learning a foreign language forces students to think as other cultures do and analyze new vocabulary and sentence structures. Students clearly recognize the importance of becoming proficient in a language, as indicated by the wait lists in the Spanish and French departments as well as the recent additions of an Arabic major and minor. So the decrease in enrollment in the Russian department is strange, given the fact that other departments are not facing similar declines.
The Russian department, struggling to maintain enrollment, needs to reevaluate itself. We do not want to see the department fall by the wayside, but to find success in the future, the Russian department must rethink the way it markets itself to students.
Granted, unlike Spanish and French, which are widely taught in high schools, students often do not take their first Russian course until college. But the Russian department needs to make the language relevant for students who are focused on practicality and convince them the curriculum is valuable and applicable to their careers.
The department needs to figure out why fewer individuals are enrolling and reflect on how it can gain popularity, rather than relying on Russia being in the news and piquing student interest.