The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Program recommends combining French, German majors

UW-Eau Claire’s French and German language programs may be combining in the future after a recommendation from the Program to Evaluate and Enhance Quality was announced late this summer according to the foreign language department.

Johannes Strohsch„nk, professor of German and department chair, said among the recommendations from the PEEQ review was the suggestion to reduce the number of foreign language programs, including the possibility of a European languages program in place of some existing programs.

Strohsch„nk said it was clear the suggestion was to combine the French and German major programs, which are part of two of the three principal languages offered at UW-Eau Claire.

Spanish, the third major, is not at risk for the consolidation because of the demand for courses, Carter Smith, associate professor of Spanish, said.

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PEEQ is a self-assessment exercise that was carried out last year for all university departments and non-academic units Strohsch„nk said. The PEEQ self-reports were subsequently studied by an evaluation team consisting of 12 faculty and 12 non-faculty members, whose job was to evaluate each department at UWEC.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Beth Hellwig said the benefit of such an approach was that everyone had an opportunity to provide feedback to the Chancellor, as opposed to the Chancellor just making decisions on his own.

Provost and vice chancellor Patricia Kleine said PEEQ encouraged departments to evaluate themselves.

“PEEQ was a process created for people to look at our practices, programs and services,” she said.

Kleine said the language programs were not in danger of combining. She referenced the “Chancellor’s Response to PEEQ” issued Dec. 14, 2009 which said the university would “reinforce the importance of and our capacity for all students to acquire foreign language competencies.”

Kleine said that PEEQ came up with ideas and topics to be discussed within departments, not recommendations. She also said the university understood student need for access to language classes in this day and age.

“No one’s sitting there with an axe that says PEEQ on it,” she said.

So why does the language department believe the French and German programs are in danger of combining? Smith said it had to do with the way PEEQ evaluated the foreign language department as a whole. Smith said the PEEQ board members wanted concrete numbers and statistics to prove the success of the department.

“We’re preparing students to be much more communicative, but you can’t quantify that,” he said. “How do you quantify cultural understanding?”

Senior Whitney Zahn does not think a European Studies program would benefit students enrolled in either program. Zahn said that as a German major, she wants to concentrate on her proficiency in the language.

“French is lovely, but it’s not my particular area of interest and I would rather focus on becoming as close to fluent as I can in German, rather than having minimal proficiency in French and German,” she said.

Zahn also said that because Germany has the largest national economy in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world by nominal gross domestic product in 2008, according to CIA World Factbook, that it was important for the university to preserve the program. She said that Germany also has a long history of being one of America’s top five trading partners.

“If a French major was no longer offered at UWEC, I would transfer immediately,” senior Michelle Roemmich said.

After receiving the PEEQ report, the department created a task force called the Proactive Planning Initiative after Kleine granted them until the end of spring semester to come up with an alternative plan Strohsch„nk said. He said he thinks the PPI will prevail and save the French and German programs from consolidation.

“PEEQ was a wonderful opportunity for introspection,” he said. “In that sense, I found it invaluable.”

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Program recommends combining French, German majors