In front of the gushing memorial fountain that sits in the shadow of Southeastern’s Fayard Hall, French students and one French teacher gathered together on Thursday, Nov. 4th to bid farewell to Southeastern’s French degree program.
Led by senior French major and president of the French club Annie Doucet, the students voiced their opinions about the recent cut in the fashion of a “Jazz Funeral,” which involved the students gathering around a box draped in a French flag representing a coffin and voicing their opinions.
“We wanted to do something to just gain recognition that our program was canceled,” said Doucet. “UNO had a Jazz Funeral, LSU had a Jazz Funeral so we decided to have our Jazz Funeral.”
Standing alongside Doucet was French professor Margaret Marshall who voiced her opposition to the recent cutting of the program.
“We feel that we have not voiced any opposition toe the decision that has been made, and we think if we don’t saying anything people think that we agree with it,” said Dr. Marshall. “So we wanted to have some kind of a demonstration, a peaceful quiet demonstration, that would show how much we are upset about the termination of the French program.”
In addition to Dr. Marshall, Adelaide Williams, a French major who graduated in August, gave her student insight into the matter during the presentation at the fountain.
“French is our heritage, it’s our culture, and the fact that people even want to get rid of, or even think of getting rid of it, is just horrible, and I don’t really know how they can live with themselves doing that,” said Williams. “And i know they are going to cut other programs… I think its just facilitating the death of French in Louisiana.”
The students also voiced their opposition before the funeral by having a table set up in the Student Union Mall that was selling crepes to passing, while also asking them to sign a petition against the cutting of the French program. The students also wore black t-shirts that bore the phrase “Wear black to bring French back,” which was also on posters across campus advertising the funeral.
“French for me has changed my life,” said biology and French senior Kyle Berry, who attended the funeral and carried the coffin. “I went on a study abroad program here a few years ago to France, Belgium and Germany, and it completely opened my eyes to the rest of the world. I don’t know who I would be without French, and to have some Board of Regents and some politician coming through not even knowing what the hell they are doing and cut out a program without knowing anything about it just boggles my mind.”
Despite the blasting wind which forced the students to rig a makeshift weight for the coffin so it wouldn’t blow away, many students and teachers showed up for the funeral dressed in black attire to show their respects to the “dead” program.
“We have to support our academic programs,” said Germany instructor Andrea Morshaeuser. “Louisiana without French is just unthinkable.”
After the students had voiced their opinions and gave their respects, they then lifted the coffin and walked around the fountain area in funeral fashion while members of the Southland Spirit Band played them off ironically with Southeastern’s fighting song.
“For me, the French program is something that is personal,” said general business senior Jillian Raxdale who also attended the funeral. “I’ve wanted to study French I was maybe four or five, not necessarily something as a major. I always wanted to keep that cutltural heritage for me. WHen you remove that, you just cut out the soul of the state, you cut out the soul of this university.”
Many of the students who attended and participated in the funeral will be join other Southeastern students along with other Louisiana university students this Wednesday, Nov. 10, at the capitol building in Baton Rouge to protest the growing education budget cuts.