Budget cuts and the restructuring of Universities in the U.S. may have a profound impact on Modern Greek Studies Programs. The latest development, the elimination of Greek language courses at Cornell due to funding cuts, has generated discussion in the media (www.cornellsun.com/section/news/content/2011/02/17/after-funding-cut-cornell-will-no-longer-offer-modern-greek-courses) but also within the Modern Greek Studies Association (MGSA).
I draw from the latter to include verbatum below the position of Adjunct Professor Gail Holst-Warhaft (Cornell University) (#1), and a proposal to address the crisis by Neni Panourgia (Columbia University) (#2). Christos D. Katsetos (#3) adds to the discussion a historical perspective of diaspora benefactors financing institutions of Greek learning.
1) Modern Greek at Cornell: A Clarification
As I have been the principle person involved with Modern Greek Studies at Cornell, I would like to clarify what has happened and why the issue has reached the Cornell, Greek-American and Greek national media.
Budget cuts at Cornell, as at most universities in the US, have been deep, and a number of "lesser-taught languages" have been terminated as a result. Dutch and Swedish, which both had healthy enrollments and excellent teachers, have been cut, and our distinguished Russian department, where Vladimir Naobokov taught, has ceased to exist. It is not surprising that Greek has also been cut.While I am strongly opposed to the cuts in languages, which offer the best value for money of any courses on the campus in my opinion, I don't think there is much hope for any change in the Arts College's policy.
One of my students, who is of Greek descent and who intended to take Greek as his obligatory language, was extremely upset when he found out that Greek would not be available next semester and decided to do whatever he could to draw attention to the situation. He called the Cornell Sun who published an article about it. The present Greek instructor, Matoula Halkiopoulos, who is teaching Intermediate Greek, then wrote a letter to the Sun offering to teach Greek without payment. Not surprisingly, Cornell responded that this would not be permitted.
The Hellenic Students' Association at Cornell is now collectively trying to find some solution. I support their efforts while understanding that nothing except a combination of high enrollments and outside financial support would have any effect. I want to stress that this is not a decision of any department, but rather of the College of Arts and Sciences, which is in turn following policy dictated by the University's efforts to trim the budget.
Adjunct Professor Gail Holst-Warhaft
2) As regrettable as this turn of events is it might actually prove to be a blessing in disguise. As we say in Greece: Ιδού πεδίον δόξης λαμπρόν. This is the perfect time for the Greek-American community to show its commitment to all things Greek, to get itself together, engage in fundraising, and fund and endow a modern Greek program at Cornell. Modern Greek programs cannot be sustained solely by Greek funds in perpetuity and the US universities have shown over the past two years that they are following a corporate model which does not encourage the flourishing of the humanities. Therefore this is the time for alumni, Greek-American businesses, and the community at large to invest in and promote education.
3) I second Prof. Panourgia's call. The ultimate goal is attainable: Every Greek Studies Program in the United States (chairs, distinguished professorships, even mid-career faculty positions) ought to be endowed by private donors including Greek American businesses, benevolent organizations, and individual philanthropists.
It is high time for our Omogenia to rise to the occasion and look beyond patriotic rhetoric and perennial Διονύσια.
Christos D. Katsetos, MD, PhD, FRCPath