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Monday, Oct. 20, 10:41 a.m.
Opinion

Op-Ed: In defense of the liberal arts and languages at UMaine

Stevens Hall has been the home of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Maine for most of its history, and if you take the time to look at its facade, you’ll notice a distinctive keystone carved between the words “Stevens” and “Hall.” This keystone motif can be found on North Stevens and South Stevens buildings. This strong symbol is there to remind us that the humanities are the keystone of education.

How ironic, then, that the masterminds behind the Academic Program Priority Working Group decided the humanities were obsolete. Of course, they don’t say that; they say things like, “We are very concerned about the future,” and blah, blah, blah.

But let’s be frank: The liberal arts are literally under attack.

Raymond Pelletier, the chairperson of the Modern Languages and Classics Department, was quoted in an article in The Maine Campus (“Language students react to proposed cuts,” Mar. 25) as saying, “We need to go at it philosophically, not by the numbers.” He is perfectly right. It is a matter of philosophy, and APPWG’s report shows the philosophy of university pretty clearly: They lean toward education over instruction.

Instruction means giving the bare minimum of knowledge a student needs to be competent at his future job.

Education is this as well, but it also includes giving students the tools they need to later be an independent, free-thinking and morally sound citizen. Education is aimed to make one grow as a human being, while preparing for your future career as well. Education makes citizens; instruction makes good servants.

Recently, Dean of Students Robert Dana tried to comfort us with an e-mail in which he writes, “Our primary focus remains on providing the best possible experience for our students.” Tellingly, in this long e-mail, the word “instruction” is used once, while the word “education” is nowhere to be found.

People go to Disneyland for a good experience, but students pay tuition for an education.

The APPWG report basically represents a first-class burial for education as we know it. It will transform UMaine into an expensive, three-star community college.

If President Robert Kennedy dares accept this proposal, it will show the administration has given up on its mission. One can legitimately say this report is betraying the moral contract UMaine has had with the citizens of Maine since 1865.

Such a decision, which will impact the future of the entire state of Maine, requires real debate involving all our representatives, not an obscure committee. Therefore, we have to force the Maine Legislature to get involved in this debate immediately. Only then could we ask the people of Maine what kind of education they think they deserve.

Even though I realize budget sacrifices need to be made, I refuse to believe the only solution is cutting positions or majors. There are other solutions — if only the administration will spend time thinking about them. Times of crisis call for solidarity, but solidarity is absent from the APPWG report.

Professors are not a luxury item; we are what gives the meaning to the word “education.”

We now need all students and workers of UMaine to contact their representatives and raise their voice. If you don’t feel concerned yet, don’t forget that your department, program or position could be next in line.

Yann Dupuy is an adjuct professor for the French program in the Modern Languages and Classics Department.