By Nigel Flores
City College has retained one of the last language centers in the state but despite a growth in attendance the Language Center on campus may have to close and transition its services elsewhere following the Spring 2017 semester.
The Language Center is located in the Rosenberg Library and provides supplemental foreign language instruction for students participating in such courses.
The foreign language department offers courses in nine different languages, including American sign language. City College boasts significantly more language offerings, as well as more courses for those languages than those of neighboring Bay Area community colleges.
Interim Foreign Language Department Dean, Lillian Marrujo-Duck, argues that the services in the Language Center can “happen in other places.” These services include online labs and foreign language placement testing.
“We need to transition some services in the Language Center so it is not a complete closure,” Marrujo-Duck said.
Conversations about the Language Center began over the summer and spilled into the Fall semester, however Language Center coordinator Verónia Feliu said that there was no indication that this “extreme measure” was in the midst.
Late last year Feliu announced in an open letter that the center may be forced to close its doors following a Dec. 12 meeting in Marrujo-Duck’s office which was also attended by foreign language Chair Carol Reitan.
“No explanation or rationale was provided for such a drastic and unannounced decision,” Feliu said in the open letter.
Faculty in the department did notice a six percent dip in enrollment following the Spring 2016 semester, however attendance in the Language Center increased five percent.
Feliu believes there is a way to generate apportionment through non-credit positive attendance and equity funding as most other learning centers around campus do.
Feliu also pointed to the development of the Language Partner Program which is a collaboration between the Language Center and the International Students Office. The program which is geared through conversation, connects domestic students with native speakers of the languages they are studying.
The program was implemented last semester and has expanded from three target languages to all languages offered through the department and now has more than thirty international student participants.
“We believe any effort to retain and boost enrollment should not only be respected but strongly supported,” Feliu said.
The Language Center suffered a 20 percent budget cut prior to this semester and Marrujo-Duck pointed to the need to preserve funds. By closing the Language Center the department would be saving 1.200 of the 2.00 FTEF that is allotted to the Language Center.
“Concerns have grown about making sure we use our resources well and when we’re cutting classes it also means we need to look at what we can shift around to save students,” Marrujo Duck said.
The interim dean could not say that those funds would go back to the foreign language department directly.
“What my impression is right now is that we have duplicate resources for things and the college as a whole is short on resources,” Marrujo-Duck said.
Feliu compares the situation to that of City College’s battle with the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to retain accreditation in the sense that the college was given an opportunity to make improvements before the closure.
The Language Center coordinator recently proposed a resolution to the Academic Senate at City College which passed unanimously, to force conversations between the administration and Senate regarding the center. Most critically it allows Feliu to implement more improvements to the center in the meantime.
“Top down decisions like this one in which none of the affected constituents has been consulted, which are made without exploring other alternatives and ignoring all of its devastating consequences, only contributes to an atmosphere of distrust, animosity and confrontation,” Feliu said.
Marrujo-Duck expressed that she wouldn’t define the situation as a “closure,” and that changes are necessary to meet the needs of students.
“Right now at the college we are going through a lot of change. We’ve been through years of the accreditation crisis. Change is hard and some of the changes probably feel very sudden and dramatic because not everyone has been involved in all the conversations. So it’s understandably upsetting,” Marrujo-Duck said.