SUNY Albany cuts five academic programs from campus

Severe SUNY-wide budget cuts led to the deactivation of five programs at SUNY Albany. The college’s Italian, French, Russian, classics and theatre programs will be phased out in the next two years.

"It was totally unexpected," said Jean-Francois Briere, chair of the languages, literature and culture department at SUNY Albany. "They are going to deactivate and kill the programs. The result is students will no longer have a host of classes."

Getting rid of these programs will not only hurt the students, said Briere, but the professors as well. Twelve professors will lose their jobs.

The cuts are coming after a massive budget reduction that left Albany with few alternatives to cut from. Briere said the college picked these programs to cut because "they don’t have a high number of majors and minors [in the programs]." However, he added, "it’s not really true because there are other departments on campus that have fewer numbers."

Currently, 2,038 students, 15 percent of undergraduates, at Albany take courses in the French, Italian, Russian, classics and theatre departments.

"This is really hitting a large chunk," Briere said.

Albany is also the only college in the SUNY system to offer a Russian program.

"There’s a contradiction here," Briere said. The theme of SUNY Albany, he said, is "The World Within Reach," and cutting these programs is contradictory to that theme.

"You don’t cut foreign languages," Briere said. "It doesn’t make sense."

The College of Arts and Sciences is the only college on SUNY Albany’s campus that is suffering from the reduction in programs.

"All other colleges have been able to absorb the cuts," Briere said.

All other SUNY schools have managed to absorb budget cuts, as well. Albany remains the only college in the system to cut whole departments.

Oswego State President Deborah Stanley said Oswego State will not cut departments.

"It’s not likely in anything that I see at all," she said. "I cannot even foresee a time when we would be in that place."

About 20 or 25 years ago Oswego State cut some departments, but most of those were eventually restored. This measure will not be taken any time in the near future, Stanley said.

"We’re not looking at that for accommodating the budget at all," she said.

Nick Lyons, vice president for administration at Oswego State, does not foresee the college cutting any programs.

"The Oswego campus is financially healthier than many of our counterparts in SUNY," Lyons said. "While the cuts have been severe, we have planned for and accumulated reserves that have mitigated the effect of the budget reductions, especially in the academic area. We have not considered the elimination of any academic programs."

Lyons added that SUNY Albany resorted to cutting departments because they have endured numerous other budget cuts in previous years, and were continuously suffering.

"The academic offering is the last area to absorb budget reductions," he said. "However, SUNY campuses, and all state agencies, have been absorbing reductions to the state budget since the 2007-08 fiscal year."

Briere said he is unsure whether the large number of students and faculty protesting the elimination of these programs will have any effect, but they will continue to fight.

"We are fighting this measure," Briere said. "It is seen by many people as an attack on the core of the institution. Broad education everywhere includes foreign languages