Southeastern Louisiana University recently sent me and the other students in the French degree program a letter informing us that they plan to eliminate the French department because of budget cuts. This has been highly upsetting to me and all of the friends that I have made through the French department. This decision will be affecting 25 students and 3 tenured professors.
An article written by The Advocate said that John Crain, Southeastern's president, stated that those who are unable to complete their degree "will need to transfer or switch majors." The article also states that "the changes will mean three tenured professors losing their jobs in a year."
It seems to me that those who came to this decision do not fully understand the repercussions of their actions and that they do not know what the French program means to us, the students, and to the professors. It also seems to me that they do not understand the importance of keeping the French language in Louisiana.
Without the French program at Southeastern, I would not be where I am today. I am lucky that I am currently taking my last class and will be graduating in August--others are not so lucky. After I graduate, I would like to try and find a way to teach or tutor Louisiana students in French. After that, I plan to move to Montreal. It is my ultimate goal to teach English in a French-speaking elementary school in a francophone. Without my knowledge of the French language, I would not be able to do this.
My passion for the French language came about in high school. I took French in my junior year simply because I had taken it in middle school, so I figured that it would be easier than learning a completely new language. At first, I did not care about the class and only cared about passing; however, this soon changed. I realized that I was able to learn the language more easily than any other subject I was currently taking. School has admittedly always been difficult for me, and finding a subject I excelled in made me feel better about myself and about my ability to do well academically. My French teacher at the time was my inspiration to keep pursuing French when I got to the university level. Without her, I would not be where I am today.
I came to Southeastern during my junior year of college. My first French class was a service learning class in which I went to a local elementary school and taught French to a class of first graders. I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher, and I had worked with children for a while, but this experience solidified this desire and my desire to work with the French language. I could tell that in my one semester there, these children loved learning French. I could see the joy and excitement in their faces when they answered questions correctly. It was a truly inspiring experience, and I hope that these children continue to have an interest in the French language.
Since then, I have taken just about every upper level French class offered at Southeastern, and I have had the opportunity to be taught by the greatest professors I have ever met. It is amazing how much each one of them cares about their students. They are all willing to work outside of class with us so that we can better understand what they are teaching. I know that this has been a great help to many of us. I have taken all of the professors more than once, and they are all incredibly knowledgeable in French and in what they do. The best thing about it is that they do it all for us; they care about us, and they want us to succeed so that we can go on and achieve something great. It may seem like because the French program only has twenty-five students that it is okay to shove them off to the side; however, the small class size is a huge benefit to the learning environment. The professors are better able to teach us and answer any questions we may have. It is a more personal environment than many other classes at Southeastern, and that is one of the things I love about it.
Southeastern offers many study abroad opportunities, and going to France every summer is one of them. Personally, I have not had the chance to do this, but many of my friends have, and they only have positive things to say about it. After coming back from their trips, they are able to relate their experiences to what we are learning in class. They have always told me how much they love going to France with Dr. Marshall and how much it has helped them succeed in their French classes at Southeastern.
Even though I have not participated in Southeastern's study abroad program, this summer I, along with two others from the French program, are going to do a French immersion program in Liège, Belgium, for three weeks. CODOFIL, the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, offers scholarships every summer to Louisiana high school students, college students and French teachers. I was lucky enough to have been able to receive one of their scholarships. This immersion program will allow me to strengthen my knowledge of the French language, and without the professors at Southeastern, I never would have known about this opportunity. I consider myself eternally grateful to the professors and to CODOFIL for allowing me to do this. They are all doing their part to educate students in the French language in order to stop the language from dying out in Louisiana.
The skills that I have learned throughout my time at Southeastern, and the skills that I will learn after I complete my French immersion program in Belgium, will better enable me to teach children French, and they will better enable me to communicate with those to whom I will one day be teaching English.
It is disheartening to hear that Southeastern could so easily dispose of its French department knowing how important the French language is to the state of Louisiana. In fact, it is one of Louisiana's official languages. When the Acadians came to Louisiana from Canada, they brought the French language with them. This is the language that defines our very culture, and ever since the early part of the 20th century, efforts have constantly been made to suppress the Cajun French language and culture. Eliminating the French program from Southeastern is just another example of this, and it is enabling the French language to disappear from Louisiana forever. This decision is a complete disregard for Louisiana's cultural heritage.
I think that Southeastern should give more thought to the consequences of their actions. Not only are they disrupting students' lives and potential to graduate and go on to careers working with the French language, they are facilitating the French language's disappearance in the state of Louisiana.
J'espère que vous prendrez en considération nos pensées.
Here is a petition I made. I don't necessarily think it will do much, but hopefully it will get their attention and let them know that there are people out there who care about this.
Here is an article from Louisiana's newspaper, The Advocate.
Here is an article from a local news station.
Here is an article from another local newspaper.
Any help that you could give would be greatly appreciated!