French programs across New York are in trouble!  We need to stand together and not let this happen.  I trust that I can count on the New York in French community for support.





Thank you!

-Laura Martin

Below is a letter from one of the professors of SUNY Albany's French Department explaining the dire situation:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Today the seven members of the French faculty at SUNY--Albany (all tenured)  were informed that by presidential decision, ostensibly for budgetary reasons, the French program has been "deactivated" at all levels (BA, MA, PhD), as have BA programs in Russian and Italian. The only foreign language program unaffected is Spanish. The primary criterion used in making the decision was undergrad majors-to-faculty ratio. We were told that tenured faculty in French, Russian, and Italian will be kept on long enough for our students to finish their degrees--meaning three years at the outside. Senoir faculty are being encouraged to take early retirement. The rest of us are being urged to "pursue our careers elsewhere," as our Provost put it.

Needless to say, the decision is personally devastating to those of us affected, but it is also symptomatic of the ongoing devaluation of foreign-language and other humanities program in universities across the United States. I'm writing to ask for your help in spreading the word about this decision as widely as possible and in generating as much negative media publicity as possible against SUNY--Albany and the SUNY system in its entirety.

There is much background to add about how this decision was reached and implemented, too much for me to explain fully here. Suffice it to say that the disappearance of French, Italian, and Russian has resulted from an almost complete lack of leadership at the Albany campus and in the SUNY system. Our president, a former state pension fund manager, holds an MBA as his highest degree, has never held a college or university teaching position, and has never engaged in any kind of scholarship.

More disturbing still, due process was not followed in the decision-making process. The affected programs were not consulted or given the opportunity to propose money-saving reforms. Our Dean and Provost simply hand-selected an advisory committee to rubber stamp the president's decision. The legalities of the situation remain to be discussed with our union, UUP, but in the meantime I welcome any advice you may have.



Brett Bowles
Associate Professor of French Studies
French Graduate Program Director
State University of New York, Albany
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Tags: French, education, in, trouble, universities

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Extremely distressing. Another sign of our declining academic standards. How can one be considered educated without a working knowledge of foreign languages, ESPECIALLY French?
Dear Brett:

Please send this message to the Director of ADFL at the MLA, as well as to AAUP, AAUW and AHA. Humanities' leadership must be contacted. These leaders should contact, in turn, the NEH leadership. You should also write to your state and federal congresspeople--representatives and senators. A MASSIVE letter-writing campaign is in order. I also think that you should contact all humanities departments in the SUNY system, e.g. SUNY Stony Brook. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as in other news media is also vital.

Bon courage!

Dr. Elaine M. Ancekewicz
Dear Brett,

I teach in the SUNY system and will support via letter or campaign any efforts to save the French, Italian and Russian programs at SUNY Albany. The corporate model used to run higher education has obviously missed the blatant fact that we live in a global society and it speaks more than English and Spanish.


Florence Dee Boodakian, PhD
Associate Professor of English
State University of New York, Nassau College
C’est affreux ! Il faut apprendre les langues afin d’être bien élevé et raffiné. SUNY-Albany sont bourgeoises qui préfèrent être pratique, donc, ils sauvegardent l’espagnol--on peut gagner un boulot plus facile en Metro NY si l’on sait parler l’espagnol. Je suis désole mais peut-être les profs et les étudiants pourraient l’arrêter. Bon courage.

Dear Laura,

Thanks for your note. This decision has very serious consequences for high-school language programs as well. Please forward the message below to all high-school French teachers that you know.

Dear Colleagues,

Please join us in protesting the termination of French, Italian, Russian, Classics, and Theater at SUNY--Albany by writing to the following administrators by both standard mail and e-mail. Please forward this messae to all interested colleagues as well.

George Philip, President:
Catherine Herman, Vice-President:
Susan Phillips, Provost:
Edelgard Wulfert, Dean of Arts & Sciences:

For paper mail:

Office of the President / Vice-President / Provost
University Administration Building
State University of New York
State University of New York
Albany, NY 12222


Office of the Dean
Arts & Sciences Building
1400 Washington Avenue
State Unversity of New York
Albany, NY 12222

Brett Bowles
Associate Professor of French Studies
French Graduate Program Director
State University of New York, Albany
It's ashame. There's a lack of money for education and alot of other things. Meanwhile, our government does not restrain the Pentagon's spending. Iraq and Afghanistan are sucking alot of money out of this country.
It is extremely disappointing to hear about this decision. Very sad day for our education and our cross-cultural training.
If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world. Without it, our education is limited and uninspiring!

Lyudmila Bloch
Cross-cultural etiquette expert and etiquette author
Did no one notice that enrollment was down in French? When I suggested to the AATF - eight years ago - that George Bush's nonstop French-bashing was cutting into my Fourth Grade beginning French enrollments, the officers (University professors) ignored my concerns. Guess what? Those students are now the ones taking French (or not) in college. Now the AATF has brochures pushing French for members to distribute. If the letter writing campaign leads to the reinstatement of a French program, (not necessarily the whole program, but any French program at all), what has to happen is for French enrollment to increase at SUNY Albany. There can be no "status quo ante". The French department will have to get off its pedestal - attractive as it may be - and create a program that attracts growing numbers of students. What is the plan AFTER the letter-writing? THAT is what will make the letter-writing worthwhile. The same old literature and pedantic writing courses won't work. I am taking steps to give the third graders in my school positive feelings about French, inviting them to host "Flat Stanley" exchanges with classes in France, even though they don't study a world language in Third Grade at my school. I am doing this so that when they pick the language they want to start in Fourth Grade, Spanish won't be at the top of their list by default. What ideas do the French faculty of SUNY Albany have that will work to get themselves out of this rut, and help others from falling into it?
I decided to reach out to the community on New York in French where I thought I could find unity and support not more division and bashing. There is a university program in crisis that affects anyone who has an appreciation for the French language and culture and does not want to see programs disappear. The SUNY Albany French Department urgently needs all of our help. I understand the need for long term planning, but if we do not save this and other programs now, there will be nothing further to discuss.
Appalling development.

Here is my blog post on this issue:
It is entitled: "French? Need Not Apply."

Michael Lancer
The Humanities in general, and language study in particular, have become the chopping block of many colleges and universities due to the severe budget crisis that is being faced by them. We have seen the trend in high schools as well. It is a reflection of the lack of understanding on the part of "the powers that be" - many of whom do not have or have not had successful acquisition of language skills.

We must get to the public to help them understand the benefits of learning a language other than English, and in the case of French the usefulness that French provides in the work force. The focus of higher education today appears to be job acquisition and if we cannot make a case for the advantages that a proficiency in French can bring to the job market I am afraid that it does not bode well for us...

In an effort to provide more information for protesting this frightful situation in Albany, here are some more contact e-mails that can be used:

President George M. Phillip:
Vice President for Communications and Marketing Catherine Herman:
Dean of Arts and Sciences Edelgard Wulfert
UUP (United University Professions) Albany Chapter president Candace Merbler at (the union representing SUNY Albany faculty)
Albany Times Union newspaper at and/or Joann Crupi at
Chair of Languages Literatures and Cultures Jean-François Brière (
SUNY Albany French Professor Brett Bowles (
Salut Brett,
May I suggest that you are in touch with the American Association of Teachers of French ( AATF has a detailed Advocacy program and can connect you to strategies and a network of people who can perhaps guide you in this process. Please see: French Advocacy Wiki "Tennesse Bob" Peckham provides information to support French programs at all levels. His email is You can find a link to the Advocacy Depot at Regrettably New York is one of many states that does not have a state advocacy website. However, there is a NEW YORK NEEDS FRENCH
Begin here, I think you will find AATF very helpful.
Bon courage,
Connie Fredericks-Malone


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