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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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German major to be removed

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(Photo by Rose Barrett ’20).

The university stopped accepting new German majors this fall after the department of modern and classical languages decided to eliminate the German major.

Thomas Buckley, Ph.D., assistant professor of German and chair of modern and classical languages, said the primary reason behind the decision was simply that the department didn’t have the numbers. German has been decreasing in popularity on campus and nationwide, he said.

“It’s never been a large major, but it’s gotten smaller and smaller over the years,” Buckley said. “So that’s been an issue in terms of filling up even one upper-division course.”

The department has only had only enough students for one section of an upper-division German course for the past six or seven years, Buckley said. In fact, St. Joe’s currently only has one remaining German major on campus, Allison Clause ’19.

Since there are not enough students to have an actual upper-level course, Clause is fulfilling an independent study to complete her major.

“The only thing that made it possible for me was that when I went abroad, there were more options for classes,” said Clause, who studied abroad in Vienna, Austria during the fall 2017 semester.

Although she was not aware her major had been eliminated, Clause said she agrees with the decision to cut it, given the lack of numbers. Still, she said she has enjoyed the advantages of being the only person in her major.

“This independent study is really helpful because it’s a lot of one-on-one interaction,” Clause said. “It’s a lot of just us speaking, whereas in a classroom you don’t really speak unless you raise your hand or get called on. I think it’s helping my German, personally.”

Clause, who is also majoring in international business, said she thought the German major would be an advantage with firms who want a German-speaking American. She originally wanted to study German because her grandparents emigrated from Germany and she still has family living there. She wants to continue learning German after college.

“I don’t want to lose it,” Clause said.

Buckley also said since he is the only full-time German faculty member, it is impossible to run a quality program alone.

“How do you have a quality program with one full-time faculty, meaning, ‘the world according to me,’ if you will?” Buckley said. “If you’re not going to offer something of value, why offer it?”

Buckley said the university won’t replace him when he retires, either. There just aren’t enough people pursuing careers in German anymore, especially German teaching positions, he said.

In many high schools and colleges, German has been replaced with more popular languages, such as English and Spanish, Buckley said.

One reason St. Joe’s German program doesn’t have the numbers is because a lot
of high schools don’t teach German or have axed their German departments, Buckley said. St. Joseph’s Preparatory School is one of a few high schools in the Philadelphia area that still offers a German curriculum.

Thomas Farren, Ed.D., chair of modern language at St. Joe’s Prep, said German is thriving at the school, with students taking German at all levels. St. Joe’s Prep offers a German exchange program, students take the National German Exam and the school inducts students into Delta Epsilon Phi, The National Honor Society for High School Students studying in German. Farren said that events and programs like these, as well as dedicated native and non native teachers, and student success, are what makes the discipline so popular.

“Kids want to see value,” Farren said. “It becomes real for them and it makes them want to do more with it.”

Farren and other faculty members in the St. Joe’s Prep modern language department said they are disappointed that the university “gave into educational pressures,” as Farren put it, by eliminating the German major. They said they are frustrated that no information has been made public regarding why the decision was made and what measures were taken to try to save the program.

Farren said that the study of modern and classical languages is central to the Jesuit education model and that model is often taken for granted.

Buckley explained the university’s elimination of the major was never announced publicly because it just didn’t affect enough students.

While Buckley said he is sad that the German major is gone, he is not dwelling on the loss.

“You can’t have every language offered for eternity,” he said. “There’s going to be shifting in language. As with anything in life, we can’t mourn the past.”

St. Joe’s will still offer a German minor, and German will remain one of the languages that satisfies the GEP language requirement. Buckley also recommended study abroad programs in Germany and Austria for a more in-depth study of the language.

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