SUNY Albany Suspends Five Humanities Programs

November 16, 2010

Group of students studyingThe University of Albany recently announced it would suspend five humanities programs due to state budget shortfalls.

NPR reported that UAlbany plans to suspend their French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater programs, which means that, for now, new students will not have the option of majoring in these areas. Current juniors and seniors in all five programs will be able to finish the major, while most freshmen and sophomores will have to come up with an alternative. No decision has been made to permanently end the programs, however, said Provost Susan Phillips.

According to The Business Review, Phillips said the school's budget shortfall has grown to $13.5 million. As a result, UAlbany must reduce operating expenses between now and the end of the 2011-12 academic year.

NPR noted that while there have already been cuts at UAlbany, the fact that five humanities programs have been suspended has not only upset students and faculty but also created quite a stir within the public and the press. "None of us accepted that it was something that a university could do and still call itself a university," said David Wills, a professor of French. "This university is not a university if you only have one non-English European language program left standing."

Many have also said that the school's decision does not uphold its slogan, "The World Within Reach". Alexandra Cialeo, a sophomore who transferred to UAlbany to major in Italian, asked, "How is the world within reach when a school is going to take away the foreign language department so you can't communicate around the world?" French professor Cynthia Fox told The Business Review that the changes will jeopardize the school's reputation.

According to the Times Union, many see the suspension as an "assault on the humanities". Indeed, NPR noted that UAlbany is not the only university suffering from cuts. Louisiana State University is also struggling with budget cuts and colleges in Missouri were recently asked to reevaluate low-producing degree programs, many of which were foreign language programs.

Interestingly, UAlbany's announcement came at a time when Cornell University President David Skorton called for more national support for the arts and humanities. As NPR pointed out, many believe the humanities is less career-oriented and, thus, is of lesser value. Additionally, College Board recently announced it would reinstate its Advanced Placement Italian Language and Culture program.

The Times Union reported that a petition with some 13,000 signatures from around the world is now circulating to garner support for the five programs.

Compiled by Staff


"Cuts To University's Humanities Program Draw Outcry,", November 16, 2010, Margot Adler

"UAlbany faculty senate blasts language cuts,", November 15, 2010, Scott Waldman

"UAlbany faculty votes in support of language programs,", November 16, 2010, Robin K. Cooper

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