ESL program strives for more faculty

Bryan Keogh

Students taking English as a Second Language classes this year have fewer course options and more limited advising time with faculty.
The College of Liberal Arts dean will meet with those students Thursday to discuss the ESL program that now has only two instructors to meet the needs of more than 30 students. One ESL associate professor left in May.
The ESL program is under the umbrella of the seven-year-old Institute of Linguistics and Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures. The East and South Asian language departments plan to leave the institute in January.
As a result, the ESL program plans to restructure.
Program officials submitted a proposal in October calling for three separate chairs for linguistics, Slavic languages and the ESL department. The new positions would allow for more independence, said Elaine Tarone, ESL department head and a 19-year ESL professor.
“The point we’ve made is these are three different units,” Tarone said. “There is no one person who would understand all three programs.”
But Steve Rosenstone, the CLA dean, rejected the proposal, calling it “administratively top-heavy.”
“They wanted multiple chairs,” Rosenstone said. “That is not a very effective way of organizing a unit.”
ESL professor Andrew Cohen said the dean put administrative streamlining above academics.
But until a restructuring proposal is approved, a new ESL faculty member will not be hired.
So Tarone plans to submit a new proposal Nov. 15. Under the plan, each graduate and undergraduate program would be headed by a director with one department chair overseeing all three. The plan will be approved or rejected by Dec. 1.
Planners are “trying to arrange the programs so that there are not too many layers of administration,” she said.
If a proposal is not agreed upon, Rosenstone said he will fill the third faculty position temporarily.
Because the program has grappled with departmental restructuring, it hasn’t been able to implement planned ESL improvements.
“The students aren’t getting the attention from me that they would normally be getting,” Tarone said.
With an increased student interest in ESL courses, Tarone and Cohen had hoped to begin teaching more advanced classes this year.
“We eliminated specialty courses we wanted to teach to our advanced students,” Cohen said. “We must have those programs in the curriculum.”
ESL students and faculty members have complained that the unfilled position is problematic because professors aren’t available to teach introductory courses. Two other courses were dropped.
“We feel that people who know the program here do a better job teaching first-year courses,” Tarone said.
Chuck Speaks, the institute’s acting director, said he has not received complaints from students or faculty. He said the loss of a few classes and the additional administrative work is nothing new.
Rosenstone said a new ESL faculty member will not be added until the departments submit satisfactory restructuring proposals.
During the November meeting of the Graduate and Professional School Assembly, ESL graduate student Rachel Sullivan urged GAPSA members to write letters to the dean calling for a new ESL faculty member.
Sullivan said professors have less time to spend with students outside of class.
“Both faculty (members) are very busy,” she said. “(They have) less time to do advising.”
The GAPSA resolution passed unanimously.
“This is what GAPSA is really designed to do,” said GAPSA President Ben Solomon. “This is a situation where the students are not being served because the dean is not starting the search (for a professor).”

Bryan Keogh covers graduate and professional schools and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.