Latin major given chance for redemption

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Members of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board directed UT officials to remove a major in a present-day language last week, but allowed the University to retain a major in the defunct language of Latin.

Board members classified bachelor’s degrees as low-producing if less than 25 students graduated with the degree during the past five years. A total of 14 bachelor’s degrees at UT did not meet the board’s enrollment requirements. In addition to those granted temporary extension, seven were approved to consolidate with other programs.

Latin, along with five other majors, was deemed low in productivity by the board, but was granted a temporary extension to increase enrollment over the next four years. Members of the Department of Classics filed appeals for both of the department’s majors in Latin and Greek, but only the Latin major was granted a request for temporary extension of the program.

Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said in four years the board will review the UT Latin program, along with the other majors granted the extension, to determine whether they have progressed in productivity. Chavez said appeals made from each department needed to include a plan on how to increase recruitment, retention and graduation rates within the department, in addition to other details on why the major may have a great impact on students.

“If their plan doesn’t work out we’ve got to close it,” Chavez said. “Or if it does, we can tell them congratulations and send them on their merry way. We’re going to give institutions an opportunity to prove the relative strength of their programs and strategies.”

Classics department chair Stephen White said there is certainly a demand for both Latin and Greek courses, and department members supplied the board with numbers of how many students are either enrolled in one or both language courses during the appeal. He said the courses do not create cost deficiencies because so many non-Latin or Greek major students are enrolled in them as well. White also said there are cases when students double-major in Latin or Greek while earning another degree, but those students were not included in the final tally of students graduating during the past five years.

White said in order to lower outstanding cost deficiencies, the department is also considering larger classroom settings to reduce faculty workloads.

President William Powers Jr. said he does not feel eliminating majors in any department will save money for the University either, as the same amount of faculty will still be needed to teach the courses formerly associated with eliminated majors.

“If we still have the same number of students who want to take these classes, we’ll need more faculty to teach and it won’t save money,” Powers said. “Frankly, it’s just a catalog cleanup.”

Chavez said degree elimination will allow money to be used more efficiently in lieu of statewide budget cuts, and although classics department members are not currently planning to reduce faculty numbers, he feels this could change over time.

White said he wants to assure students that UT will still offer courses in both languages, and even if both are eliminated as majors the languages will still be required to complete other degrees.

Classics senior Phillip Cantu said both languages are vital to the general classics major, in addition to archaeology and religious studies majors. Cantu said learning both languages and obtaining a degree in either adds an amount of prestige to one’s resume, in addition to the prestige of the university where the degree was earned. If either degree was eliminated prior to his coming to college, Cantu said he may have chosen to attend a different university.

“UT is supposed to be pretty competitive with others schools that still have these programs,” Cantu said. “But if I wanted to focus on just Latin or Greek I would’ve attended Trinity [University] — that was actually my second choice.”

Printed on September 27, 2011 as: Latin major given chance to increase recruitment