Petition to Preserve the Current Status of Italian, French, and Russian at

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Petition to Preserve the Current Status 

of Italian, French, and Russian at 



with additional recognition of the  

theatre and classics programs 































November 3




November 2, 2010 

To the administration of SUNY-Albany, 

Officials and Representatives of the Great State of New York, 

and all others whom it may concern, 

The following petition was written by representatives of the Modern Languages and Literatures Department 

of Union College, Schenectady, New York. It was posted to a listserve, the Slavic and East European 

Languages and Literatures List (SEELANGS), with the suggestion that others use it to send similar letters to 

the administration of SUNY-Albany. 

Representatives of The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) suggested that it be signed 

electronically, opened to the general public, and sent as a single letter coordinated by representatives of 

Union College, SRAS, and SUNY-Albany. The following document, with over 13,000 signatures and 75 

additional comments, is the result. The online petition is located here:

 and continues to draw signatures. 

We urge you to read this document and consider each signature. These are not only educators supporting 

educators, these are your students and your alumni supporting your university. These are the business 

people, professionals, and government representatives who will hire and work alongside your graduates as 

they enter our rapidly globalizing workforce. 

To compete in today's world, students must think creatively and critically. A knowledge of the foundations 

of western civilization and of logical processes, as taught by the classics, is needed. The ability to analyze 

personal behavior and social issues and to express thoughts clearly and creatively, as taught by theater, is 

fundamental. The realization that not all people think alike is crucial – and is without doubt taught best by 

the study of languages. (This petition was drafted before the authors knew of additional cuts planned to 

theater and the classics.) 

Developing a creative, critical, and well-informed citizenry is the historical responsibility of a university. 

Cutting a major destroys the student base that forms the foundation of a department's activity.  

This should be an opportunity for you to reach out to students, alumni, and staff to generate creative ideas to 

fix the university budget and to secure the support of the community and state legislature. This should be an 

educational opportunity for students to learn how to solve problems. Additionally, treating this as such an 

opportunity would call attention to these critical programs and encourage students to enroll. 

This should be an opportunity for growth – and not a reason for your students, alumni, and community to 

question the "U" in SUNY. 



Josh Wilson 

Asst. Director, 

The School of Russian and Asian Studies 

Petition to Preserve the Current Status of  

Italian, French, and Russian at SUNY-Albany 



To the Administration of SUNY-Albany  

To local State Senators and Assembly Members  

To the US Representative from the 21st District  

To Members of the Press  


We the undersigned would like to express our concern and dismay at the decision recently taken up by 

the president and his advisory board to eliminate French, Russian, and Italian from SUNY Albany’s 



Not only are we concerned for our colleagues at SUNY Albany, whom we know to be dedicated 

professionals and committed to their students, but we are also gravely disturbed by the irrevocable 

damage this would do to SUNY Albany’s reputation and the students at SUNY Albany, to their 

opportunities, and to their ability to succeed in our global environment.   Furthermore, we feel the 

decision contradicts SUNY Albany’s stated values of diversity and “giving its students first-hand 

international experience” (SUNY’s Strategic Plan 2010, p. 19), and even its logo (until very recently) of 

“The World Within Reach.” As a major institution of learning, SUNY Albany’s reputation could very 

well slide downward as a result of being unable to provide its students with skills that most other 

comparable universities provide. Lastly, the way the decision was reached in no way allowed for 

students or faculty to contribute to a decision which affects their futures.   


As a university representing a large section of New York State’s population, SUNY Albany has an 

obligation to prepare its students for our global environment, and this naturally includes the ability to 

speak and understand foreign languages.  According to the Académie Francaise, the French-speaking 

world includes around 60 countries worldwide (approximately 500 million people). French is the 

international language of trade and business, one of the major languages in the European Union, one of 

the eight UN languages, and a language spoken on five continents. Moreover, Canada is our country’s 

largest trading partner, with French-speaking Quebec (this one province alone) our 6th largest trading 



As for Russian (which is also one of 8 UN languages), the move by SUNY Albany’s president comes at 

a time when the US State Department and the US Department of Defense both recognize Russian as a 

“critical need foreign language” and has begun awarding money through the Foreign Language 

Assistance Program to secondary schools across the country, specifically in order to teach Russian and 

other “Critical Languages.” It appears SUNY Albany will not even be in the running regarding this 

national initiative, since it will not be able to continue the students’ Russian. Furthermore, we have been 

informed by our colleagues that this means there will be no Russian major anywhere in the SUNY 

system, a stunning fact for the Empire State with its internationalist orientation and large Russian 



Lastly, for a major university not to recognize the importance of Italian language simply seems 

inconceivable in a state with such a large Italian-American population, to say nothing of the enormous 

influence of Italian culture on this state and the world. 


We believe the actions of president of SUNY Albany and his advisory board resulting in the destruction 

of entire programs are unprecedented in their rashness and scope. They will severely diminish their 

students’ competitiveness in a world that is becoming more, and not less, integrated.  If these moves are 

implemented, SUNY-Albany will be alone nation-wide among major universities in closing an entire 

French program, and nowhere in the entire system will a student be able to have a Russian major. 


We cannot see how SUNY Albany can propose to “send students abroad” (SUNY’s Strategic Plan 2010, 

p. 19), without being embarrassed and ashamed that they will be some of the few students from a major 

university unable to communicate with so many peoples of the world. We hope that the president and 

administration at SUNY Albany will reconsider this destructive action.  We hope that policy-makers in 

Albany will take note of how much less competitive this will make students of this great state and will 

work to find a better alternative to this unprecedented move. 




The Undersigned 


Additional Commentary to  

SUNY-Albany Discontinues Language Programs 


The comments below were added to the online signatures or submitted via email to the petition creators. 



Thank you so much for writing and posting the petition "SUNY-Albany Discontinues Valuable 

Language Programs."  I am in total agreement and was signatory number 5347. 


As an alumnus of UAlbany (B.A. (cum laude), German Language and Literature, 1972 with a 

minor in French), it grieved me when the German program was cut a number of years ago, 

but the discontinuation of the French, Russian and Italian programs seems totally 

incomprehensible to me.  Foreign language study has always an essential part of any 

meaningful education, and in the global economy of the twenty-first century, it's 

absolutely essential. 


Following graduation from SUNY-Albany, I joined the United States Army and served for 20 

years.  During these two decades, I completed three intensive language courses at the 

Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California (a 47-week course in Russian

and 37- and 47-week courses in Polish).  Combining these linguistic skills with my 

knowledge of German, I served a total of nine years in Germany during the Cold War, 

collecting vital intelligence information on East bloc countries.  During my last 

overseas tour, I earned a Master's degree in international relations from the University 

of Southern California in 1985. 


Upon completion of that tour, I returned to DLI as an instructor.  Having achieved an 

Inter agency Language Roundtable Language Level 4 in reading and listening comprehension 

and 3+ in speaking in both German and Polish, I taught German for two years and Polish 

for three years.  During that period, I earned a second Master's degree in teaching 

foreign language from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. 


As the global political and economic climate changed, so did my role in it.  Following 

retirement from the Army, I taught educational psychology and history and varieties of 

English for one year at the Teachers' College of English, University of Szczecin, 

Poland.  Although the classes were all conducted in English, my knowledge of Polish gave 

me a distinct advantage over the other native English faculty. 


For the last decade, I have been employed as a paralegal with advanced certification in 

intellectual property law.  In recent years, I have seen an increase in the number of 

clients who have sought protection of their trademarks abroad.  Once again, my knowledge 

of foreign languages has been an asset in my job. 


Over my lifetime, I have been able to enjoy careers in three distinctly different fields, 

due in large part to the foreign language skills I developed as a student at the State 

University of New York at Albany.  To deny future students that opportunity is a tragedy. 


(Please feel free to use any or all of the above to make your case for continuing the 

language programs at SUNY-Albany.) 


Carl E. Mueller 

7510 Yorkshire Court 

Amarillo, TX 79121 





The decision to drop foreign languages and Latin from the curricula at the State 

University of New York at Albany is a travesty of the traditional purpose of a 

university. This decision also does not recognize the globalization of our era, which 

necessitates a language for international commerce, mutual understanding of other 

cultures, and the ability to communicate in matters of diplomacy. The world is getting to 

be more like a social arch in which we have a greater, ever-growing interdependency. We 

must be tooled to work for common good on the principle of enlightened self interest and 

social contract. We must know other languages and we must know the cultures of other 

people. We Americans have made big mistakes in Vietnam and now in the middle and far east 

precisely because we did not know the culture, we did not know their habits, we did not 

know their goals, we did not know the intensity of their beliefs, and we did not know 

their propensity to commit suicide to uphold their orthodoxy. Money is our problem when 

it comes to the humanities, like foreign languages. The problem, however, is based on, to 

a degree, wrong priorities. Do we want SUNYA and other universities, who will follow 

SUNYA as an example, to create technically competent barbarians rather than individuals 

who have a background in the humanities and languages and various cultures to channel the 

atomic potential toward peace and not war, toward humanistic values, rather than 

materialistic values? If our language programs are inadequate, then change them but don't 

drop them. We are citizens of the global community. I am a PhD product of SUNYA in the 

field of ancient Latin and Greek, and as a publisher, I have been creating translations 

of the ancient literature - Latin, Greek and Mesopotamian - because I believe in 

promoting foreign languages and humanistic values, and I try to keep in check our 

materialistic orientation. I realize that we are competing against threatening tyrannies 

and societies that are intent on developing armaments rather than a decent life for their 

citizens, but let us not be like the technically competent barbarians like Hitler

Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Not only SAT scores will 

suffer, but also our norms of behavior. There is a difference between training and 

education. Don't allow a university to become a trade school.  


Please preserve and encourage Latin curriculum - it's humanizing. 




Ladislaus J. Bolchazy 




Lou Bolchazy 


Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. 

1570 Baskin Road 

Mundelein, Illinois 60060


Tollfree: 800.392.6453 

Phone: 847.388.7123 

Fax: 847.526.2867 


Slovak American International Cultural 

Foundation, Inc. 

1570 Baskin Road 

Mundelein, Illinois 60060 

Phone: 847.526.4396 





This is an outrage! 

#58  Jennifer Sabonis 

Graduate Assistant, Syracuse University


As an alumnus, I am very saddened by this decision 


#467 Nathaniel Hendrix


Do not lessen the flame of learning.  Cut funding for student groups and athletics 


#480 Eugene Ryan Fitzpatrick 

History Grad Student, The New York State Museum


my best friend goes to your school and her language is being droped. how dare this school 

do that to these students they have all worked too hard and too long for this to happen 

to them!! 


#668 Justin Gerrity


I am a graduate student at the University of Toronto, but I am a resident of New York 

State.  My outrage at this situation will be reflected by the way I vote in future 



#720 Susannah Brower, 

University of Toronto



World Language Teacher, Westborough Public Schools, Westborough MA 

as a high school teacher in a school where over 90\% of our students attend college, 

including many of them at nearby NY state schools, I cannot encourage any child to attend 

a school that pretends to be a university while actually ignoring our "universe". 



#982  Shelly McCormick-Lane



These closures are hideously short-sighted and devalue a SUNY degree. 


#1002, Deidre Lynch

Chancellor Jackman Professor, 

Director of Graduate Studies in English,

University of Toronto


This assault on languages and Theater could have been invented by the University at 

Albany's worst enemy. Perhaps it was. 


#1037 Jim Holstun,

 Professor of English, SUNY Buffalo




two languages should be mandatory!! 1 Euro, 1 non-Euro... 


#1445 Robert Heidlage 



If languages are not taught at the universities in the United States, how will the 

students of the future get the training they need to be translators and interpreters in 

the global community we are building? 


#1634  Ellen Elias-Bursac 

visiting scholar, UMass Amherst Translation Center


I fear for the future of the humanities program where theater and the classics are no 

longer taught as well. The cuts to the language programs makes the motto "The World 

Within Reach" seem somehow inappropriate. The world that isn't Russian, Italian, or 

French speaking, you mean. 


#1679 Kara Cavanaugh 


There are enough francophone countries in Africa that we need to continue to have French-

speaking people! 


#1833 Joan Shrum 

the actions undertaken by the SUNY Albany administration are a disgrace to all of us who 

value education. 

Victoria Martinez #2247


another attempt to stymie diversity 

Patricia A. Schindler  #2497


There are more reasons to keep Classics than to drop it. Please remain open-minded! 


#2503 Vanessa Walker 



US already has a shortage of  the less  taugh languages! Dont add to our problems! We 

need to add to the language options, not reduce.  


#2554 Alicia Mayfield



Very sad to hear this as a SUNY alumna. 

#2705 Melanie Conroy

PhD Candidate in French, Stanford University 


This is an absolute outrage; especially from a SUNY school! I urge you to reconsider!  


#2960 Brooke Prestano AATF Suffolk


Alum '07...I took Italian and it is was one of my favorite things about my academic 

career at UA! Our world is GLOBALIZING! Removing any language courses deprives students 

of the opportunity to become a part of a globalized world, where interaction among 

countries in education, technology, and business will be the forefront. This is our 

future! Prepare students for that! 


#3134 Laura Fratangelo

School Counselor Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES


Disappointing news, quite shocking. Though then again, this is the USA. We are so short-

sighted sometimes. 


#3145 Lisa Defalco


Please do not make this mistake. 

#3549 Zigis Switzer

Albany brings the “World Within Reach” -- assuming everyone speaks English or Spanish and 

that there are no important cultural differences we need to consider. Theater provides 

the ability to communicate without a shared langue – and provides a way to present the 

wisdom of both sages and scientists to the public. Sadly we seem to put our faith in a 

few esoteric fields that CURRENTLY appear lucrative (nanoscience, micro RNA and Cancer 

genomics). Those are not the areas that will be at the forefront of our efforts to deal 

with global human problems. All anyone can say is that this seems to be where the money 

is right now. What will tomorrow bring? Will our students have the skills needed to deal 

with a world in which cheap energy is a thing of the past, in which the stable climate 

that we all depend on for our food may be a thing of the past?  Have the administrators 

answered these questions yet? 


#3660 Helmut Hirsch

Trustee's Distinguished Teaching Professor of Biology

University at Albany


Who would like to go to a university which in 2010, thinks foreign languages are not 

important? what an old fashioned, arrogant way of thinking! 


#3751 Juanita Cuervo

estudiante, JCU



#3969 Lesley Poteet

Lecturer, Arizona State University 


To Whom it May Concern: I find the elimination of international language and culture 

programs from your school curriculum  to be of dire concern and would like to explain in 

few words why it will seriously threaten the well-roundedness and preparedness of future 

SUNY graduates. Aside from the fact that a modern-day college graduate must have 

international language/ cultural preparation in order to remain competitive in our 

increasingly global economy, this initiative sends a devastating signal to the next 

generation of a country already immersed in an emotionally unhealthy fixation on material 

gain. The delegitimization of any endeavor whose end is not material in nature is a 

recipe for an ignorant, dangerous, and, ultimately, psychologically unhealthy society, 

and the elimination of all languages whose "usefulness" is not rooted directly in 

economic pragmatism represents a grave step in that direction . The value of the 

humanities lies in its potential to create well rounded scholars and human beings wh 


#3982 David Winkler, 

PhD candidate, Italian language and literature, 

Associate Instructor of Italian

Indiana University-Bloomington


It makes no sense to close your language programs while trying to bolster your business 

school.. this is a global economy! 


#4246 Nicole Higgins


Please Please.  Foreign Languages are too important in a globalized world. 


#4272 Marc Wiesmann

Associate Prof. of French, Skidmore College


Vive la langue francaise! 

#4514 Emily Mesmer

French teacher, West Seneca West Senior High School


a shortsighted decision  

#4544 Dr. Olga M. Mladenova

University of Calgary


We need our language programs. Kids need variety in their school day. 


#4577 Kerry Rivera


As a successful graduate of the SUNY system (now Assist. Prof. out of state), I am 

saddened at the closing of programs and departments at Albany. Surely in the past decade 

the need for capable and effective language programs needs no special justification. 

Retain these departments and their faculty. 


#5174 Scott 



Please Save the Theater program as well! 

#5234 James 



Please don't remove these valuable programs from your curriculum. I think it would be a 

shame for someone to lose out on the amazing instructional value of these programs in 

relation to other, perhaps safer, options that they might not be as passionate about. The 

fact is that by cutting these programs you are essentially telling a potential student of 

that discipline that what they are doing or what they wanted to do is not important and 

can be, like an appendix, taken away from the body of learning without causing any harm 

to the rest of the organism. Yours is a well-known school, so you automatically set 

examples, especially to students who are aspiring to apply there. You are influencing 

more than the population already there and more than the instructors of those disciplines 

(and others who might want to pursue comparative studies). I would urge you to please, 

please reconsider this decision, for the good of humanity and the Humanities. The world 

is smaller-other means of communication are needed. Thanks 


#5396 Asmaa Ghonim

English and Comparative Literature and Environmental Science


I understand we are facing budget cuts, but there are plenty of things you could cut 

instead of our academic programs. What's with all the construction? Do we really need to 

waste our money on that?  


#5769 Jess Dolnick


Foreign languages may not seem necessary, as many foreign nationals have learned English.  

However, if only for courtesy we should continue teaching our students foreign languages.  

Courtesy aside, there is no denying the benefit of speaking and *thinking* in foreign 

languages--It will further expand students' minds, further unlocking their potentials. 


#5789 David Hiles


As a SUNY grad - I am horrifed! 


#6173 Margaret A. Burtm, Esq.

Attorney at Law, self employed attorney


Please do not isolate the students of the United States from language and culture 

studies, more necessary now than ever! 


#6309 Joanna Petritsis

Teacher of French and Spanish, 

Northern Highlands Regional HS, Alllendale, NJ 

Former SUNY Albany French/Spanish major and Russian program alumna, SUNY/ Université de 

Nice program alumna.


As a foreign language student at another school, I am very disappointed in you, SUNY 

Albany, for even considering to do this!  


#6404 Melissa Krug


student demand for Russian and French is increasing, do not retreat! 


#6969 Owen Ewald

Chair, Languages, Seattle Pacific University


Educational Institutions Made the Hudson! 


#7005 Lucey Bowen

writer, publisher


Croswell Bowen's Great River of the Mountains: The Hudson


I taught at SUNY Albany and valued my colleagues in French. 


#7035 Maryellen Bieder

Professor of Spanish Indiana University, Bloomington


Your management of money is just plain sad. 


#7144 Anna Hendon


Prepare your students for global interaction and collaboration.  


#7274 Donna Podgorny

World Languages Curriculum Coordinator

Union County Public Schools, North Carolina 


Please reconsider. This is a huge mistake! 


#7551 Elisabeth O. Grant

Spanish teacher Williston Northampton School


Helping the business and professional community acquire the skills/knowledge they 

couldn't acquire in school and college! 


#7610 Kathryn Buck, Ph.D.




This action betrays the mission of your institution  


#7696 David K. Anderson

Assistant Professor, Oklahoma English department


An appalling, senseless, outrageous ruling that must be reversed. Thousands of academics 

and students are in disbelief at what can happen at a once first rate university such as 

SUNY Albany under its current SECOND RATE administration.  


#8232 Yuri M. Sangalli

Assistant Professor, University Western Ontario 


And start a German program too while you are restoring the others. 


#8702 Carl Skoggard


I can speak and/or read Italian, Spanish, French, German, Latin, Hebrew  


#8725 Cristelle Baskins

Associate Professor Tufts University


I protest the Theatre Program elimination also! 


#8750 Marjorie Hayes


Professional Artists  SSDC, AEA, SAG, AFTRA


This is an incredibly short sighted decision. 


#8788 Robert L. Maxwell

Chair, Special Collections and Formats Catalog Department

Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young Unversity


A key boundary has been crossed in the war of universities against their own programs for 

excellence.  There seems no end in sight for this madness, but we can only hope that the 

SUNY administrators will see the light at the end of the tunnel anyway. 


#9339 Evan Torner

University of Massachusetts Amherst


(I am a U.S. citizen teaching abroad, and can attest to the negative impression this 

action will have in Canada.) 


#9689 Nicholas Sammond

Associate Professor of Cinema Studies and English

University of Toronto


There are plenty of qualified people who could replace President Philip. Get rid of him, 

not the programs! 


#9786 Nicole Rivett

Program & Exchange Coordinator, University of Michigan


I think it is very short sighted to cut languages 


#9789 Lalita Pandit Hogan

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Studied at SUNY Buffalo


At a time when there is an almost unprecedented assault on cultural and linguistic 

diversity, and those who engage in the pursuit of pure knowledge are gleefully dismissed 

as "elites," it is incomprehensible that a prestigious university like SUNY-Albany is 

aiding and abetting this process by terminating its programs in French, Russian and 

Italian.  I sincerely hope that this deplorable decision will be swiftly reversed. 


#9795 Jan P. van Eijk

Professor, First Nations University of Canada


Classical languages should also be preserved, as they bring students in close contact 

with seminal and eye-opening world literature. You do not want to live in a world where 

access to these and other foreign languages is concentrated among elite private 

universities. Consider the mission of a public institution: to bring education in all 

kinds of fields to the people of the state! 


#9861 Cathy Keane

Associate Professor of Classics 

Washington University in St. Louis


I never would have expected this from SUNY! 


#9867 Susan Meisenhelder


California State University


The Humanities, especially Literature Departments, are not accessory to a quality public 



#9872 Benjamin Hair

Graduate Student, UW - Madison


Humanities = Peace  


#9945 Megan Saltzman

University of Otago


It's sheer folly to close down language departments in an age of globalization.  Faculty-

student ratio?  You can't teach languages in a lecture hall! 


#9977 Aranye Fradenburg

Professor UC Santa Barbara


French is the language of over 200 million people in this world - allow our children the 

opportunity to learn it in schools!  There are a lot of excellent jobs for people who 

speak French and we shouldn't take this away from students. 


10039 Jennifer Reid

French Teacher

The Chicago High School for the Arts


Protect Classics and Theatre, too.  


#10164 Misty Schieberle

Assistant Professor, University of Kansas 


Unilaterally imposed cuts like these are detrimental to the essence of what a university 

stands for. 


#10815 Kees Waterman

Dutch historian


owner of a family restaurant, that regularly sees people from around the world, many who 

speak French and Italian. 


#9146 Donna Lombardo

teacher of Spanish and French


I missed out on extending my education in Russian in 1976 due to similar cuts; I have 

always regretted this to this day. 


#11592 Julian 


Assistant Professor


As a French literature graduate of SUNY-Binghamton, I find this really disconcerting -- 

to be stopping language programs in an era of globalization when students must broaden 

their worldview. 



Nancy P. Dunnells

Senior Director, Executive Education

The Darden Graduate School of Business at The University of Virginia


Keep languages!! 


#12334 Austin 



This is ridiculous- reinstate the programs! 


#12340 Karen 


grad student in Linguistics

University of Illinois


Cutting the languages is hurting my scholastic interests. This makes me seriously 

reconsider transferring to SUNY Albany. 


#12428 Carmela 



Unbelievable!!!   Inconceivable for a real university! 


#12449 Donald 



Senior Scholar (History), University of Winnipeg


do not let this slippery slope begin with you  


#12616 Adam 


English Ph.D. candidate, composition instructor

University at Buffalo, SUNY


As a recent graduate of UAlbany, I am very disappointed. 


#12678 Wes 





Pennsylvania Highlands Community College


280K a year as president of Suny Albany? You get that money because of ME & other tuition 

paying students. I'm paying you. You work for me. KEEP THE ACADEMICS. Maybe cut back on 

your own 280K...pretty sure you could live nicely on, oh I don't know...60K a year??? 


#12735 Katie 


Suny Albany Student


SUNY management: please reconsider these short-sighted and damaging decisions 


#12980 Dr. 



Swansea University Wales


This policy will cause long term irrevocable harm to the credibility, respect, and 

stature of UAlbany 


#13070 WIlliam 


Albany Student





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