LETTER TO THE EDITOR: WKU making big mistake in phasing out French program

Dear editor,

I would like to respond to the ongoing phaseout of the WKU Department of Modern Languages. In my opinion, WKU is making a big mistake in no longer requiring even a minimum number of hours in language education.

The idea that WKU positions itself as a university “with international reach” and refers to the “internationalization” of WKU (as spelled out in an email I received last week) is ludicrous at best when the programs that help WKU achieve international reach have been eliminated.

How can WKU call itself a university when it offers only a meager lineup of courses in modern languages? I have never heard of a university without modern language programs.

I was a part-time French instructor at WKU for many years until
the Spring 2017 semester when the language requirement was suddenly eliminated. It seems the “band-aid” Jerry Daday, former chair of the Colonnade General Education Committee, referred to in a previous Herald article has become permanent.

Instead of excusing the 7,000 students who had procrastinated and not met their language requirement, the university should have insisted that this original degree requirement be fulfilled. That was these students’ contract with the university spelled out in their catalog term, wasn’t it? Was this fair to past students who did take their degree requirements seriously?

As anyone with any experience in language instruction knows, the two years of language study a student might have had in high school (which now fulfill the university requirement) rarely offer any real benefit. I had many students tell me that they were so pleased to finally be learning something about the language.

They remarked that in high school, their French class was usually spent listening to music or watching movies simply to pass the time.

What degree requirements will be eliminated next? I’m very much afraid that a degree from Western Kentucky University is rapidly losing its worth. If WKU continues to lower standards, how can it ever hope to be “a leading American university with international reach”?

Terry Spears is a former WKU part-time French instructor who lives in Franklin, KY.