Thursday, May 1, 2008


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Dear Chancellor Birgeneau, Executive Dean Breslauer, and Dean Broughton:

We, the undersigned, protest the unfair cuts made to UC Berkeley's East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC) Department, where it is predicted that 66% of the Korean classes, 54% of the Chinese classes, and 40% of the Japanese classes on campus will be eliminated as of Fall 2008. Not only will the number of courses offered by EALC be drastically reduced, but also, the Korean program faces outright extinction. We are outraged at this prospect and concerned that Berkeley’s EALC curriculum, which already trails behind both UCLA and Stanford, will not be able to recover from the devastation wreaked upon it by these budget cuts.

These cuts will greatly damage Berkeley’s international standing as a major research university. But even more serious is the unprecedented negative impact it will have on us, the Berkeley student population (45% of which is of Asian descent), and on the ability of the university to fulfill its fundamental educational mission to the campus community. Undergraduate and graduate students in departments outside the College of Letters and Sciences will not be able to pursue Korean, Chinese, or Japanese language study. Students in related fields of economics, political science, history, amongst others, will be unable to fulfill their educational aspirations and their departmental requirements. If these budget cuts continue, the ability of anyone to learn these global and heritage languages will be imperiled.

In a recent interview published in the April 23rd issue of The Berkeleyan, Nathan Brostrom, Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Administration, states: “I don’t think it’s strategic at all to do wholesale or arbitrary layoffs, because that can do a lot more harm to the campus than what we could gain in budget savings.” Yet with firings impending for instructors in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian languages, this type of harm is exactly what is slated to happen.

East Asian languages are amongst the most in-demand languages on the Berkeley campus, and the demand only continues to grow. As heritage languages to a huge percentage of the student population, they are a vital resource and part of the multiethnic fabric of Berkeley, the United States, and the Pacific Rim. In practical terms, reduction in instructional personnel also means that non-heritage students will be deprived of the opportunity to learn Korean, Japanese, and Chinese languages for the first time, just as the demands for access to these languages are clearly on the rise.

Berkeley is the flagship campus in the UC system and currently enjoys a worldwide reputation as a leading U.S. research center and educational institution with regard to East Asia. We believe that the present policy sends a resoundingly negative message not only to all current students and potential students at Berkeley but also to the Pacific Rim community of scholars, opinion-makers, and donors. Berkeley does not deserve this reputation.

We strongly ask that you abandon this decision to cut these vital East Asian languages and work toward an alternative that both supports the EALC program, in general, and fully preserves the Korean program, in particular.


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