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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's official: German studies program at UALR kaput

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 10:32 AM

DR. SUSANNE WAGNER
  • DR. SUSANNE WAGNER
I spoke this morning with Dr. Susanne Wagner, the one-person German Studies program at UALR.

She met Friday with Chancellor Joel Anderson to appeal the Arts and Humanities College dean's recommendation reported here earlier to end the program at the end of this school year, which means non-renewal of Dr. Wagner effective May 15. Wagner said Anderson was courteous, attentive and complimentary of her case for continuing the program, but said he would affirm the decision of the dean.

"I just don't really understand it," Wagner said. The program has grown steadily in her five years at UALR, to 20 majors. It is the only German Studies major in the state, blending conventional German courses with required courses outside the department on the European community and other topics. She said German students are winning scholarships and consistently posting high grades — a cumulative 3.65 GPA, she said.

Wagner is most concerned about students. They and she learned about the impending decision in a campus newspaper article. That article contained university assurances that current majors would be helped in finishing major requirements after this year, by May 2014, but no specific notice of the program change has been given to students yet, she said. Wagner won't be teaching next year and it remains unclear who will teach as an adjunct faculty member, work that generally pays about $2,000 per course. Wagner said she knows most of the people capable of teaching German in Little Rock and doubts any would be willing or able to step in. German majors are offered at Hendrix and UA-Fayetteville, but UALR's students, many of them commuters, aren't likely to be able to afford that transfer, she said.

Wagner hasn't been given a specific reason for non-renewal, nor is it required. But the college is in a budget crunch, the program is relatively small and Wagner would be eligible for tenure next year, a complicating factor were she to be allowed to continue in her $52,000-a-year assistant professor slot. She believes, between majors and other who minor in the program, that the small program is profitable. It is under the umbrella of the international and second language studies department and thus is under no pressure from state regulators on account of enrollment. All majors in the department are counted as one, she said, not as part of individual language majors.

At this point, about the only hope for German at UALR would appear to be charity. Breathes there a philanthropist with an affection for German studies sufficient to underwrite its continuation at UALR? In the meanwhile, Wagner said the German club would continues its busy schedule of community activities. But time grows short for students to make future plans.

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