Foreign Language Requirement removed from School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Foreign Language professors worry about students’ futures

Many foreign language classes take place in the same classroom on the second floor of Scofield Hall

Aurora Wilson, Staff Writer

  Despite protests from foreign language professors, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences no longer requires foreign language classes to complete its degree programs.   

  Faculty outside of the foreign language department voted on the removal, which went into effect fall 2022, during the reorganization of the new school. UMKC is the only school in the UM system to remove its language requirement for B.As. 

   While students can elect to take foreign language courses, this change is a big shift from the previous requirement of three semesters, which built upon each other in the program. 

  The department chair of foreign languages and literature, Albeto Villamandos, said he understands why students were hesitant to take a foreign language class. 

  “Anytime we hear the word ‘requirement’, our first reaction is going to be no,” Villamandos said. “At the end of the day, students still have to take 120 credits, still need to take a Missouri Constitution requirement and a writing-intensive requirement.”

  Villamandos shared that removing the foreign language requirement from the curriculum takes away opportunities from students they might not receive elsewhere.   

  “Most of our instructors are people of color,” Villamandos said. “For many of our students, it was one of the few chances they had to take a class with a faculty of color.” 

 Students are going to Spain for six weeks over the summer on a trip with Villamandos. Many students do not know about these opportunities and do not seek them out due to cost concerns. He said foreign language classes emphasize study-abroad opportunities, and students often receive credit for these trips.

  “We are missing an opportunity to see college and classes as a platform for something bigger down the road,” Villamandos said. 

  Lorena Hidalgo-Johnson, a Spanish professor, said she worried about the effects of the removal on students’ future careers. 

  “It causes students at UMKC to have their doors closed,” Hidalgo-Johnson said. “Other students from other universities like Mizzou have this skill, which gives them more opportunities. They are going to get the jobs and internships.” 

  The professor said students are missing exposure to cultures that were likely inaccessible to them before coming to college. 

  “We don’t just teach language. We teach culture too. Having a professor like me, students can see a different culture,” Hidalgo-Johnson said. “Traveling to Mexico and going to a resort does not open your eyes to a different culture but having us can.”

 Jennifer Phegley, English Department chair, said when the new school voted to remove the requirement last fall, foreign language departments needed to submit a revision to keep the requirement in place by Dec. 1. Members of the English Department determined they had no time to research and approve any modifications. 

 Phegley shared plans on presenting a single proposal for any potential changes to be voted on during the late spring or early fall of 2023. 

  Departments are exploring more flexible ways for students to fill a language requirement such as lessening the number of courses students have to take.

  To stay up to date on the foreign language department events, follow them on their Instagram or Roo Groups

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