Programs such as the Arabic language program and South Mountain College have continuously been in danger of being cut from Lehigh’s academic curriculum due to low enrollment and lack of faculty support.
For the 2015-2016 year, South Mountain College, a program focused on intellectual curiosity with an interdisciplinary approach and no letter grades, will no longer be available at Lehigh University.
“(South Mountain College) was always going to be small, but in recent years the student enrollment has declined,” said Nandini Deo, an assistant professor of political science. “This is partly because of economic anxieties, which push students away from risky intellectual exploration and towards the more conventional credentialing process.”
Deo also said the lack of long-term support for the program made it very difficult for it to survive on faculty effort alone. Being a part of the program has been enormously rewarding and she hopes that they can find a way to keep South Mountain College alive at Lehigh.
“As someone who has been a part of this program for most of my Lehigh career, I am sad to see it go,” Hillary Engelman, ’15, said. “I feel that Lehigh is an institution very much focused on engineering and business, and that it’s a shame for a great program with emphasis on humanities and interdisciplinary studies has gotten cut.”
Engelman also said there have been efforts from students and faculty to transition South Mountain College into a campus club, where the kind of people that South Mountain College attracts can get together, have conversations and keep the South Mountain College spirit alive.
The Arabic language program has also suffered from low enrollment numbers and a lack of support. As a result, the program is in danger of being cut.
Arabic is not available as a major at Lehigh. However, the language can fulfill several requirements, such as the language requirement for Global Studies majors.
“I believe that the Arabic program is in danger here at Lehigh because enrollment is falling,” said Helen Ard, ’17, who is taking Arabic to fulfill the Global Studies language requirement. “There is no minor, and professors would rather leave than stay at a university where a program is not being advanced.”
Ard said she is passionate about Arabic and strongly believes that Lehigh would only benefit by keeping the Arabic program or expanding it to at least include a minor program for those students that want to pursue it.
“Arabic is one of the top five most spoken languages in the world with over 300 million speakers,” Ard said. “Its strategic importance cannot be underestimated. It is also one of the five languages used at the United Nations playing a key role in global communications and international affairs. Arabic is also one of the critical non-European languages deemed appropriate for US national security.”
Ard also said Arabic is a beautiful language that makes up patterns and formulas that all combine to create a beautiful language that has many different levels to its meaning. She hopes that there will be more support for the language.
Antonio Prieto, the chair of the modern languages and literature department, said the department is currently conducting a search for an instructor to teach all three levels of Arabic for the next two years.
Prieto echoed Ard’s thoughts about the importance of the language, since it has millions of native speakers.
“Hopefully more students at Lehigh will realize the cultural and strategic importance of Arabic,” he said. “We have to manage our resources wisely, and enrollments are an important factor.”