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Scott Strasser

Language programs to merge into School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures

By Scott Strasser, May 20 2016 —

How do you say “merger” in Russian and Spanish?

General Faculties Council approved a motion to consolidate the Department of Linguistics, Languages and Cultures and the Department of French, Italian and Spanish on May 19. The merger would group all of the University of Calgary’s language-learning degrees under one banner.

The motion will go before the U of C Board of Governors on May 27 for final approval.

If passed by the BOG, the two departments will be rebranded as the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures.

The School will be split into five divisions and two centres based on language similarities.

Dean of Arts Richard Sigurdson said the model is structured like the School of Creative and Performing Arts, which was created in 2013. He said it makes sense to have all language-learning degrees under one title.

“The idea of having a ‘School’ is very appropriate for the kind of work that is done in each of these [language programs],” Sigurdson said. “These are small programs. You couldn’t really have stand-alone departments. We already have departments that are basically amalgamations of different languages.”

Sigurdson said combining the U of C’s language-learning departments was a multi-year process.

“From 2012–13 we started having discussions with the different departments to see if they wanted to move forward,” Sigurdson said. “It’s a process that has occurred at other universities, so it’s a natural discussion to have.”

McGill University and Queens University recently merged their language programs. The University of Alberta consolidated their language departments eight years ago.

Linguistics, Languages and Cultures department head Olga Mladenova said the merge would give the U of C’s language programs “a stronger voice.”

“We’ll have a broader perspective and share resources. It makes no sense to do things under each program in its own way. It would be better to have one approach,” Mladenova said.

But not everyone involved supports the merger.

Elizabeth Montes Garcés, an associate professor in the department of French, Italian and Spanish, voted against the proposal.

Montes Garcés said the departments have been successful on their own and consolidation would diminish certain programs.

“You don’t need to consolidate to make interdisciplinarity happen,” Montes Garcés told GFC. “You lose specificity. You lose quality.”

She also brought up concerns for how the new School would be governed.

“What is the business plan and strategy to maintain quality? How will this have the resources to work?” she said.

Sigurdson said the French, Italian and Spanish department initially opposed the merger in 2012, but now supports consolidation.

“Over the last three years, the consensus has emerged overwhelmingly in favour of going forward with the merger,” Sigurdson said. “There are individuals who have concerns and resist, but the process was very inclusive.”

Like the SCPA, the new School for languages will be led by a director. Music professor William Jordan, who was a division chair in the SCPA, was selected as interim-director for the School’s first year.

“He’s been through this process and was appointed for a one-year period until we can advertise for a new director internationally,” Mladenova said.

If approved by the BOG on May 27, the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures will officially form on
July 1.

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