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West Virginia University recommends keeping some language classes, moving forward with axing majors

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia University plans to eliminate its world languages department but is recommending retaining five teaching positions and letting students take some language courses as electives, the university announced Tuesday as it faces a $45 million budget shortfall.

The office of the provost for the state's flagship university also said it is proposing slashing bachelor’s degrees in French and Spanish along with Chinese, German and Russian studies and master’s programs in linguistics and teaching English to speakers of other languages. If the eliminations are finalized, the school would study the possibility of offering pathways to minors in a limited number of high-demand languages, the office said.

Amid declining enrollment and the budget shortfall, the school announced earlier this month that it was reviewing the possibility of cutting its Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics. The announcement sparked criticism and a protest last week from students and faculty.

After an appeal hearing Aug. 25, the university's office of the provost announced Tuesday it planned to go forward with the recommendation.

The university did, however, say that after the appeal it is recommending preserving some face-to-face instruction in two languages: Spanish and Chinese. The university said its recommending that five faculty focused on teaching those languages stay on in a different department. The university's preliminary recommendations released earlier this month would have eliminated all 24 world languages positions.

A final decision is to be made by the institution's board of governors in September.

In a statement Tuesday, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said the school listened to students' feedback about the importance of face-to-face language instruction.

“While we are committed to providing some language instruction on campus, we will continue to explore additional language learning opportunities, such as establishing curriculum partnerships with other universities,” she said. “Further, we will seek to create greater access to study abroad opportunities, where students can gain language proficiency through immersive experiences.”

Just one first-time undergraduate was enrolled as a primary major in languages this fall, and there are 21 students whose primary major is in a foreign language across the school's five programs.

West Virginia University on Aug. 11 recommended the elimination of 32, or 9%, of the majors offered on its Morgantown campus along with a wide-ranging reduction in faculty to address its budget shortfall, which officials say could grow to $75 million in the next five years.

A dozen majors are recommended to be axed are undergraduate-level, while 20 are graduate-level majors. The university said the proposed cuts would represent a total of 434 students, or 2% of its total enrollment.

Among the proposed cuts in other master’s degree programs include acting, creative writing, higher education administration and multi-categorical special education, legal studies and public administration.