Budget cuts force departments to merge

HAMMOND, La. – Although few things have the ability to sober one up like a hit to the wallet, the reality of the university’s financial condition has become even more tangible for some students and faculty.

President John Crain decided to combine the Department of Foreign Languages with the Department of Communication to offset expenses caused by budget cuts to higher education. The new department is headed by Dr. Lucia Harrison, former department head of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

Dr. Lucia Harrison, the department head of the Department of Communication and Foreign Languages.

The potential created by the decision was immediately recognized by some people.

“I believe it will ultimately make the communication department stronger, giving us a more global/international perspective,” said Dr. Suzette Bryan, former interim department head of the Department of Communication. “We should be a good fit.”

While members of both departments are excited for the opportunity to work together, the excitement of some members of the foreign language department – which experienced much loss – was overshadowed in the beginning.

Harrison said, “My initial reaction was disappointment and distress because of the loss of our French and French Education majors, its consequences for our students and the termination of three outstanding internationally-recognized colleagues.”

Senior communication major Heather Gonzales learned about the change over the summer when she tried to go to the communication department’s main office, and it wasn’t there.

Gonzales said, “It threw me off – the place they sent me was foreign language’s office. I was caught off-guard and didn’t understand what happened or why. I’m not upset, but I’m concerned about foreign languages. I’d freak out if it were us.”

Many people hear about the percentage of funds and the large amount of money cut. Increases in tuition, housing and other fees at the university have signified Southeastern’s state, but now majors are being done away with.

“It was inevitable, and I cannot think of a nicer group of people with whom to merge,” said Dr. Cheryll Javaherian, an associate Spanish professor. “But the news was overshadowed with the shock, anger and grief I experienced over the loss of our French major-field programs and of three tenured colleagues.”

“I do not think I will ever comprehend this decision,” Javaherian said. “It is like a bad, recurrent dream, and I empathize deeply with my friends and colleagues and their students who have suffered much. This being said, I think we have a great group of faculty – creative, industrious, resilient and dedicated to helping each other succeed in this venture with Dr. Harrison at the helm.”

Some students and faculty thought it was unusual to combine the two departments, but it appears that unifying communication and foreign languages departments is an action undertaken by many universities.

Harrison realizes the success this unity can lead to, and she is armed with the favor, support and vigor of her faculty and dean. Still, she knows that there is a lot of work to be done.

“The challenge for me is to create a new culture for the department that reflects its unique strengths,” Harrison said.

Harrison’s goals – with the help of the faculty – are to give rise to a new mission for the department and be intentional about its priorities. She said some ideas are to have programs that consist of the study of a language in conjunction with media and translation, translation and interpreting, management studies or international development studies. Team teaching is also a prospect.

Current French majors have until May 2011 to complete their French courses and until 2012 to finish the other subjects in their curriculum.

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