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New Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages proposed

STANFORD -- A new Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages has been proposed, and the first stages will be in place by fall, according to philosophy Professor John Etchemendy, senior associate dean for the humanities in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

The new division, which was recommended by the Language Task Force headed by Etchemendy, will be composed of the departments of Asian Languages, Comparative Literature, French and Italian, German Studies, Slavic Languages and L iteratures, and Spanish and Portuguese.

It is possible, Etchemendy said, that the Classics Department also will be part of the new division. The classics faculty is now being consulted about that possibility.

Etchemendy said that he hopes that a division head can be appointed by the beginning of fall quarter. The division head will be selected by Etchemendy and John Shoven, dean of humanities and sciences, in consultation with the c hairs of each of the departments and with the faculty.

The head of the division will be responsible for coordination of the undergraduate curriculum across the division, coordination of the graduate admissions process, and administration of appointments and promotions.

The division's main administrative body will be the executive committee, consisting of the department chairs, the director of language instruction and the head of the division, who will chair the committee.

The executive committee will appoint committees, including members from all departments, to carry out certain divisional tasks. These will include an undergraduate curriculum committee to coordinate cross-departmental collabora tion, such as a Cultures, Ideas and Values track, and committees for appointments and promotions.

All language instruction, including the Special Languages Program, now administered by the Linguistics Department, will be housed in the division. Instruction will be supervised by a faculty-level director of language instructi on, who also will be head of a Center for Language Teaching and Learning.

Once the division head is selected, a nationwide search will be launched for a director of language instruction, Etchemendy said. The director will be responsible for coordinating the language curriculum, managing the lecturer and teaching assistant budgets, ensuring the uniform high quality of instruction, and keeping abreast of developments in second language teaching methods and technologies.

The restructuring is not tied to recently announced billet cuts in the language departments, Etchemendy said. "We wanted to come up with a new structure that would consolidate the departments' strengths, independent of the amou nt of resources available," he said.

The question of billets is a complicated one, Etchemendy said. In the 1981-82 academic year, the language and literature departments had a total allocation of 43.5 billets; in 1988-89, 45.82 billets; and at the beginning of the 1993-94 academic year, 43.9.

There are now two offers out, to faculty who would have joint appointments with French and Italian, and comparative literature. A third billet will go to the new director of language instruction. In addition, "after the divisio n is formed and can decide on priorities, we expect to put another billet back in," Etchemendy said.

With the current offers and the language director, the new division will have 42.9 billets at the beginning of the 1994-95 academic year, Etchemendy said, adding "that's not a major reduction over 10 years."

It is true that the humanities departments have grown steadily over the past decade from 185.44 billets in 1981-82 to 201.23 billets at the beginning of this academic year, and that language departments have not shared in that growth, Etchemendy said.

That is in large part, he said, because of the low levels of undergraduate enrollments in these departments.

A major concern of the Language Task Force was that "until enrollments increase, the institution cannot afford to expand or even maintain present billet levels in the language and literature departments." The consensus among th ose who have studied this problem, the task force said, is that the best hope for increasing enrollments lies in cooperative endeavors among affected departments. These range from joint Cultures, Ideas and Values (CIV) tracks to a vari ety of undergraduate majors that cross departmental boundaries.

The restructuring will be implemented in stages, Etchemendy said. One goal, to reduce or simplify the workload of staff members, cannot be reached until all of the departments in the division are located on the Quad, most in La nguage Corner. This is scheduled to happen when earthquake repairs are complete, probably in the spring of 1996.

Because a department's administrative workload is largely independent of its size, staff members in small departments often are faced with an overwhelming number of tasks, Etchemendy said. Within the division, he said, it shoul d be possible to separate those tasks, he said, so that, for example, one person handles all graduate student services, another looks after undergraduate student services, and a third is responsible for computing services.

Plans call for the success of the new division to be evaluated in its sixth year of full operation, Etchemendy said. At that time, a review committee would assess the divisional structure and recommend whether it should be reta ined, modified or disbanded.


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