Albion says “sayonara” to Japanese classes

Next fall, Albion’s language department will lose its only non-Western language as the college says “sayonara” to the Japanese language classes.

Dr. Susan Conner, Albion College provost, made the decision not to offer Japanese languages classes in the fall of 2013 due to low enrollment in current classes.

“What it comes down to is we simply don’t have enough students who are taking the classes to support a faculty member,” Connor said.  “Right now there are just twelve students in three sections, which is a 4:1 student-faculty ratio.”

The college began offering Japanese language classes in the fall of 2005 after having previously offered Chinese language classes without success. The classes appeared to capture student interest, particularly when four students elected to create their own majors that incorporated Japanese language classes. However, numbers have dropped in recent years.

Emily Studley, Concord senior, expressed frustration with the college’s lack of communication with students in regards to the situation of the failing language classes.

“Truthfully, I do not believe the students were told soon enough,” Studley said.  “We were excluded from the process from the beginning and were not given a chance to improve it.”

Patrick Buck, Grand Rapids sophomore, began taking Japanese because of its status as the only East Asian language offered by the college. Buck offered his own ideas on how the school could have better approached the Japanese language classes.

“I think what they should have done is create at least a minor program a long time ago,” Buck said.  “It’s been here for years, and I don’t understand.  Practically every professor that’s been here has tried to make a Japanese minor,” Buck said. “The school doesn’t do it because they don’t want to hire any full-time professors.  They just want to give them these year-long assignments so they can underpay them.”

Dr. Conner noted that she had no knowledge of any of the attempts to create a Japanese minor.

“Even a minor, if it doesn’t have a major to go along with it, is not something that always can be supported,” Conner said.

In response to the college’s decision, Studley started a petition to keep the classes.

“I started the petition because I felt like we needed to convey to the administration that people do care about the program and that the enrollment is not just because of a decrease in interest, rather because of many other things, such as time conflicts and no minor,” Studley said.

While for the fall of 2013 there will be no Japanese language classes, there is still hope that future Albion students.

“Just because we’re canceling the classes now or we’re not going to be offering them next year doesn’t mean that’s permanent,” Conner said.

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