Rearguard action at Radford University
Latin program at risk
by Scott Gibson
September 29, 2006
A fundamental block of Liberal Arts and Education fades away at Radford University, while those strong enough to defend it say or do nothing. A major halved into a minor, finally devoured into oblivion: Latin is almost gone from RU.
For generations, to be educated meant to have linguistics knowledge; some basic understanding of other languages was expected. For Western culture, arguably none of these languages had a greater influence than Latin. French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian directly derive from it, and English drowns in the overflow of its influence.
Now this language will no longer be offered at RU. This demands explanation.
According to the Radford University Fact Book for 2005-2006, only 10 individuals graduated with a degree in Foreign Language and Literature for the 2004-2005 academic year.
The blows keep coming, for while a decline in people majoring in a department certainly leads to downsizing, the added punch is that not many students study a second language here at all.
Low enrollment hurts the most, but RU itself does not help. For one, the only separation between a B.S. degree and a B.A. is that a B.A. requires 12 credits in a foreign language, while a B.S. requires only six to eight credits. Some of these credits are spent in fields irrelevant to Math or Science completely (History majors can take Art classes and earn a B.S.). So students can obtain a B.S. degree with fewer credits and have those credits in usually a variety of classes.
These three forces have combined so soon that Latin will be erased from RU. So, what can be done to help?
Students should realize the benefits from studying the language. English and several other languages offered at RU derive from Latin; however, to study it means more than simply learning vocabulary and grammar. Ancient Rome’s culture has a rich variety of material in architecture, engineering and politics; all of these are given topics in any Latin class. The literature of the Ancient World alone makes Latin worth studying and preserving.
Faculty, get involved. Advise students to pursue Latin; share your own benefits from taking Latin (which many of you have done) with them. Convince those Liberal Arts majors especially that a B.A. could be better for most of them than a B.S.
Freshmen and sophomores, go to the Foreign Language and Literature Department and show a desire to take Latin.
Radford administrators, think about changing the B.S. to equaling the number of credits of a B.A.
Teachers, encourage students to take Latin. Students, demand the classes. RU, help save the program. With enough interest, maybe Latin can be saved, keeping this block of education intact.