A major speaks for the Russian Department

By Lindsay Daniels

Four years ago I decided to come to Macalester because of its self-professed “special emphasis on internationalism.” Now I find myself as one of the last majors of a potentially discontinued foreign language and cultural studies department. The Russian Studies department has been a huge part of my life during my time at Macalester. Not only has it been my academic home, but also a place of employment, relaxation, and support for the past four years. Due to the small size of the department, I have been able to create close personal relationships with the other majors and minors as well as with the professors. Yes, that is possible in other departments at Mac, but not many students can say that they’ve had at least one class with every major in their department. Many will say that such a small department is unnecessary, but the Russian department has a strong core of concentrators supplemented by a wide variety of students from other departments who take our classes. For example, my first year course, Tolstoy’s War and Peace taught by Gitta Hammarberg, brought together students interested in studying not just Russian, but Biology, Anthropology and everything in between. We became a stronger community than any other first year course, to my knowledge, and many of us still live together four years later. This would not have been possible without the support and intimacy of the Russian department. My own experiences aside, I am extremely disappointed with EPAG’s decision to eliminate Russian at Macalester. For a school that places so much value on internationalism, cutting a department that so clearly and directly pertains to this goal is incomprehensible. Russian is a State Department designated critical need language and is the language of one of the biggest emerging global economic powers. Not only is the language important, but many works of Russian literature rank amongst the world’s greatest, and Eastern European countries have a rich cultural heritage that have influenced societies the world over. By voting to discontinue the Russian Studies program, EPAG has cut off an entire metro area’s worth of college students from studying the language (Mac is the only ACTC school that offers Russian), expressed its lack of understanding of the importance of Russia in global economics and culture, and completely undermined Macalester’s dedication to “an environment that values the diverse cultures of our world.” The only reasonable response to this is for faculty to take a stand and vote in favor of maintaining Macalester’s credibility as an institution dedicated to global citizenship. refresh –>