Proposed budget cuts to the University of Maine’s Modern Languages and Classics majors are opposed by professors and Franco-Americans at the Orono campus. Budget cuts are proposed because the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences needs to reduce expenses by 20 percent by 2014.

Challenging the proposed cuts are professors and the academic staff at the Franco-American Center and Studies programs. Opponents say foreign language studies are important to support the UMaine students looking for research jobs in the global markets or international trade.

Ray Pelletier is a professor of French and the chair of the department of Modern Language and Classics at the University of Maine. He is a Franco-American, born in Berlin, N.H. His father is from Eagle Lake in Aroostook County.

Although the language department cuts are not final, they are targeted to eliminate foreign language major curriculums for French, Latin, Spanish and German over the next five years. This is not the legacy Pelletier hoped the administration would hand to him after 31 years teaching languages at UMaine.

“This proposal was done to save money without faculty consultation,” says Pelletier. If implemented, the cuts will eliminate advanced level classes for students who major in French, Latin, Spanish or German. Lower level courses will continue to be offered but advanced courses will be phased out as 105 foreign language majors graduate over the next five years

Foreign languages are important studies for students enrolled as International Affairs Majors. “These cuts will affect the credibility of the University of Maine’s international affairs curriculum,” says Pelletier.

The proposed cuts will hit the Canadian American Center, a national resources center on Canada. Pelletier is associate director of the Canadian American Center, which offers courses such as Canadian and U.S. Business Comparison, an Introduction to International Business and French language studies. This international program puts UMaine in the company of other select universities where Canadian American studies are offered like Yale, Brown and Harvard. “We need to offer advanced levels of language to remain academically competitive,” says Pelletier.

Yvon Labbe is a founder of the University of Maine’s Franco-American Center. In the early 1970s, Labbe organized a group of students who wanted to learn about their French-Canadian heritage. He opposes the cuts because it has taken 30 years to build the university as a center of Franco-American studies.

“After 30 years, we are finally reaching a new generation of Franco-American students,” he says. “We see growing interest from students learning about the Franco-American immigration experience.”

The cuts proposed by the College of Arts and Humanities still need approval from the provost and the president. Responding to objections, Jeff Hecker, College of Arts and Humanities dean, says many of Maine’s language majors are studying double-majors. Students can continue to obtain a minor in a foreign language while majoring in other programs. “We can continue to offer students a high quality education experiences in foreign languages without offering the major,” writes Hecker.

Retired University of Maine French teacher James Herlan says the cuts might hurt Maine’s international commerce neighbor in Quebec.

“Let’s remember, 80 percent of Quebec’s 8 million people speak French as their primary language” says Herlan.


Juliana L’Heureux can be contacted at:

[email protected]


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