The Department of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures & Cultures, will suspend Japanese language courses during the upcoming spring semester, until funds can be allocated to hire a full time instructor for the course.
Chair of the LLLC Dr. Lynn Burley said that the department was on track to hire a permanent lecturer for the fall 2021 semester, but due to UCA board policy, as well as a hiring freeze brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of Japanese language courses at UCA is not secured.
Japanese is currently taught by visiting lecturer David House; however, UCA board policy prevents House from being rehired as a part-time instructor.
“If you have someone teaching for three years and the need remains stable, then it is obviously a position that should be full-time and permanent,” Burley said, but, because of a school-wide hiring freeze, she is unsure if her department can find the funds to support a full-time position.
“We didn’t lose a position. We never had a position,” Burley said.
In an email responding to the Echo’s inquiries regarding the future of the course, Burley explained that finding someone to teach Japanese part-time is a difficult challenge.
“One has to have a master’s degree in Japanese or teaching with a rating of advanced in the language, which includes speaking, reading, writing and listening,” Burley said. “There aren't many with these qualifications and a desire to work part-time in Central Arkansas. In fact, as far as I know, there are not any.”
Burley said that House has taught five classes every semester he has been employed at UCA, adding that the average full-time instructors’ workload is only four classes a semester.
Burley said that even if the position is filled the number of classes offered would decrease.
“The question is can we offer three Japanese classes with a part-time instructor? I don't have an answer for that yet,” Burley said.
In opposition to the removal of Japanese courses, students have been emailing faculty members, including the president and provost, about their concerns for the course.
Treasurer of the UCA Japanese Club, Tsutomu Matsunaga, went as far as creating a petition on Change.org that has received more 1200 signatures.
Matsunaga said he came up with the idea for the petition to aid students who wanted to continue studying Japanese at UCA.
“Now that I understand the actual number of people who want to support Japanese classes. It’s impressive,” Matsunaga said during a phone call with the Echo.
House, whose contract is set to expire in December, said that the overwhelming support for the course from students and faculty members has given him hope for the future of Japanese at UCA.
“I was devastated to hear that Japanese classes were going to be suspended for even one semester,” House said. “My greatest fear is that Japanese classes, once suspended, might never return to the schedule.”
However, the popularity of the course just might act as its saving grace.
“The classes have received overwhelming amount of support from Japan-related organizations, faculty members, community members, and of course my current and former students,” House said. “I’m very pleased that, at this point, the Dean of CAHSS and Chair of LLLC are working together to review grant opportunities that could help prevent any interruption in Japanese language education at UCA.”