President David Flanagan, University of Southern Maine
United States of America

On October 6, 2014, the administration at the University of Southern Maine announced it would eliminate the French major and the full-time tenured position in French.

(1) The Administration has made this decision based solely on the number of majors graduating in French, knowing it has faulty data. It discounts the students enrolled in French and the fact that in 2012-13 the USM French program ranked 4th in New England in terms of students finishing a degree in French among public schools behind the University of Connecticut, the University of Rhode Island and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and 8th if both private and public institutions are included. The number of students graduating in French each year is higher than the national average in the United States and equivalent with the number of students graduating from the University of Maine (Orono), which employs three full-time faculty positions to support their French program.

(2) The French program is fiscally viable because it serves much more than the French major. The French program is more than the number of majors counted. It helps fulfill the mission statement of the University of Southern Maine: it not only helps students understand the French language as well as francophone culture, civilization and literature, but engages them in critical inquiry, analytical writing and civic participation. It is a unique tool which helps students develop a better understanding of social, cultural and political issues through a comparative lens, engaging them in reflection on issues of diversity, difference and cultural sensitivity. Courses in French satisfy general education requirements and support programs in other departments.

(3) The decision to cut French sends a tremendous negative message to a group of people who have suffered from discrimination for a long time, whether the Franco-American and Franco-Canadian peoples or the new immigrants from the Franco-African communities. The French program helps sustain and support the heritage of the Franco-Canadian, Franco-American and Franco-African community, the largest growing immigrant community in Maine In addition, the French program helps serve the needs of the local business, health-services, legal and social service sectors of the most densely populated part of the State of Maine. Imagine the outrage if a public university in Florida or Texas were to decide to eliminate the teaching of Spanish? This outrage is what I am hearing from my students and members of the francophone community. Not only does the State of Maine have an obligation to teach its heritage language, but to eliminate World Languages in the 21st century global economy is short-sighted given the future demand for second languages.

(4) The French program prepares students to enter the job market directly, especially in the field of education. Maine continues to have a critical shortage of French teachers. The current Maine Guiding Principles for K-12 education require that students leave school a clear and effective communicator in at least one language in addition to English. In 2018 every Maine student will be required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one language in addition to English to receive a high school diploma. In order to meet that requirement school districts are expanding their offerings and hiring teachers. The critical need for trained language teachers in Maine will provide students with jobs. We are the only public or private university in Southern Maine with a degree program that certifies teachers. The program is desirable, valuable and necessary.

We, the undersigned, call on President David Flanagan to reverse the decision to cut French and the tenured position at the University of Southern Maine.

The Saving French at USM petition to President David Flanagan, University of Southern Maine was written by Nancy Erickson and is in the category Education at GoPetition.