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UI language departments merging to one division

BY ARIANA WITT | APRIL 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is moving ahead with plans to create a single division for foreign languages.

Officials plan to announce on Tuesday the committee of university employees who will oversee the development of a Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

The division will consist of the college’s undergraduate and graduate language departments, said Linda Maxson, the dean of the liberal-arts college.

Maxson sent approximately 10 invitations to UI faculty members last week asking them to serve on the committee, said Steve Duck, a UI professor of communication studies.

Duck will lead the search for the division’s director after the committee develops a profile for the position, which, he said, will likely be someone who understands the complexity of language studies.

“It’s not just spoken language, but a living culture,” he said. “We want to make sure we find someone who understands the cultural aspects.”

But some departmental faculty are not sold on the idea of a single division.

At least three faculty members in language departments contacted by The Daily Iowan declined to be directly quoted, but they said they worry the move won’t be as cost-effective as officials hope.

They also expressed some concerns about smaller language departments getting overlooked.

Duck said some of the money the college spends to fund individual department faculty — upwards of $100,000 — could be phased out of the budget with the merger.

It would be easier for a single unit to argue for funding resources, he said.

“I think people are wary because it’s change, but it has been done effectively before,” said Richard Hurtig, a UI professor of communication sciences and disorders who helped develop the framework of the division plan.

His department, American Sign Language, is one of the smaller language programs and will likely benefit from a single division, he said.

Maxson said the purpose of the consolidation is to promote greater interaction among languages.

Though the UI’s performing-arts departments consolidated a decade ago, Duck said, officials aren’t using that move as an example this time. Instead, they plan to look at other universities nationwide as models.

Alan MacVey, the director of the Division of Performing Arts, said putting the UI theater, music, and dance departments in a single division has made obtaining funding and new resources easier.

He pointed to the $12 cultural-arts fee, which funds arts programs and is paid by students each semester, as a positive outcome of the merger.

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