APC Hears Proposal Suspending German Major


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

The Academic Planning Council met on Oct. 13 to discuss a handful of topics related to the Foreign Language Program, but the big-ticket item was the proposal to suspend the German major. 

Other items included postponing a discussion on introducing History and Philosophy emphases in the Computer Science Major, viewing the plans regarding the Spanish major and coordinating a plan and overview of the Broadfield Science program and its department location change from Biology to Environmental Sciences and Society.

The Spanish program was commended in the overview for its ability to reach and contact new, arriving freshmen and received support to reestablish a language lab in the Foreign Language Program. 

Attendees at the APC meeting shared various perspectives on the value and virtue to strengthen the Foreign Language Program.

Some attendees mentioned that, after the curriculum restructure in 2016, programs in the Foreign Language Program changed and that no data analysis about the effects of this shift had yet occurred. 

The APC officially acknowledged these ideas and formulated some scaffolding for pursuing the data analysis. Some members noted that, while gathering data is important and interesting, no decisions should be tied to the information until more planning occurs.

Then, the APC transitioned to addressing the German major.

“We’re getting pressure to deal with the low numbers of majors in German,” began Dr. Shane Drefcinski, department chair of Humanities and professor of Philosophy. 

“Now, I want to make it perfectly clear: the line I refuse to cross is to eliminate German as a language offered … but given the numbers and other kinds of pressures, I am considering suspending the German major, allocate the emphasis on building the minor and preserving the language.”

Suspension of a program is different than outright termination. Suspension is, practically speaking, putting a “pause” on an offered degree or program. This decision would be made by UW-Platteville.

Termination, on the other hand, is the thorough dismantling of curriculum and program structure. This decision would be made externally by the UW System.

From a student’s point of view, the two do not differ greatly. Suspension and termination both result in the disappearance of courses offered and faculty presence.

Dr. Madelon Kohler-Busch, associate professor of German, spoke to defend the German major against suspension.

“I asked the students, ‘Why do you take German? What is interesting here?’ And three things came up: ‘I love languages,’ ‘because it gives me a leg up in Europe’ and ‘it allows me to look through a different lens.’”

As noted by Kohler-Busch, German studies across the nation have suffered in recent times. She pointed out the effects of COVID and anti-Germanic sentiment in American politics.

“Being there in person, experiencing the close-knit group of German students, it’s very important. I have usually students who don’t consider majoring or minoring, but if they get through their fourth semester, that’s what they do. It is for the language acquisition,” commented Kohler-Busch.

“The opportunity to look through a different lens and bring that back to the United States and back to the Midwest. That (experience) has not been there for two years.”

Kohler-Busch also spoke about creating benchmarks for the German program over the next couple of years to help build numbers and interest. She also made note that, for a program to succeede, the university community must be invested and supported by colleagues, students and administrators.

Additionally, the German major enables UW-Platteville to create international connections to German institutes, thus widening the breadth of education for students.

On the topic of the importance of language in building understanding of the world, Kohler-Busch emphasized that the German program allows students to step into German cultural ideas and interpretations of reality, including COVID-19.

“You may say a minor is good enough. In a way, it’s not. A major is a point of cultural understanding that comes with immersion. We can prepare our students linguistically, culturally … but students need to go there to experience the culture, too.”

Korey Wein, the interim Dean for Liberal Arts and Education, was present for the APC meeting to defend his effort to suspend the German major.

“It makes sense now to move it,” started Wein, “with our numbers as low as they are because it’s going to be easier to teach those two remaining students through the pipeline than waiting a year or two and getting one or two more majors and going through this again … I don’t see this changing.”

Kohler-Busch and Wein continued to talk about the resources presently available and those that would be available after the proposed suspension, but details were unclear.

The APC acknowledged the importance of this proposal and some members shared their perspectives on bridging the gap between maintaining the normal trajectory and suspending the major in order to find harmony.

The APC has the jurisdiction to recommend and call for investigation, research and further insight on the topic.