Faculty chairs move to kill English FSP

by Joe Berger | 5/18/93 5:00am

The heads of Dartmouth's academic departments at a meeting yesterday voted to cancel the English foreign study program in London and create a geography program in Prague.

The two-term English FSP at University College London will end by no later than the 1995-96 academic year, but Dean of Faculty James Wright said it might be reinstated as a one-term program.

The committee heard testimony from English Professor Bill Spengemann, who has led the FSP in the past and who expressed his strong feelings in favor of keeping the program and keeping it in its two-term format.

Russian Professor Barry Scherr, who chairs the faculty Committee on Off-campus Activities (COCA) spoke at the meeting and explained COCA's recent letter to the English department recommending the termination of the London program.

Scherr said concerns over the program's academic structure brought up in a 1991 letter from COCA to the English department had been addressed to the committee's satisfaction.

COCA's new recommendation to terminate the English FSP was based not on those prior concerns, but on the program's unique two-term length.

The report stated that because the London program is double the length of all other Dartmouth off-campus programs, it costs the College twice as much to run while serving a fewer number of participants, and makes it hard for students to participate because their enrollment patterns often cannot accomodate two successive terms away from Hanover.

Spengemann said the two-term length is justified by the program's special emphasis on independent study and is a reason to keep the program.

Spengemann said that University College London's English program was equal in reputation to that of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and that Dartmouth students undergo an unparalleled academic maturity while on the two-term program.

"I've taken students who can't even get accross the Green by themselves," he said. "And I can't believe the difference."

Spengemann said students on the program aquire the discipline for independent academic study that is characteristic of University College. He said most of the returning students choose to write honors thesis when they return.

He said the change students undergo on this program is as great as the progress made between freshman and senior years at Dartmouth, and that this only occurs because of the two-term length of the program.

He added that the program was one of the first FSPs at Dartmouth and is nationally unique in that the Dartmouth students are actual first-year students at University College, not outside participants.

He said that since a two-term program requires a special commitment on the part of applicants, and though there are only about 12 each year, all are dedicated and qualified.

But after he was done, other professors pointed out that many Dartmouth FSPs could benefit from a two-term length.

One committee member asked whether COCA should not be recommending that more programs double their length.

Scherr replied that financial constraints ruled out that possibility. He also said that COCA was prepared to seek the establishment of a one-term English program.

Spengemann watched as members of the Committee of Chairs voted 14 to 13 to cancel the program.

English Department Chair Louis Renza said the vote was final.

"We believe very strongly in the program, which we've had for 20 years," Renza said later. "English majors in the future will have lost something."

Renza said COCA had listened to the department's argument, but the program was judged according to criteria set by the committee.

"It was probably one of the best programs we could have had in the English department. We don't feel particularly happy about what happened," he said.

Wright said he expected a one-term English program would be created.

The Committee of Chairs yesterday also voted to establish a geography department program in Prague, in the former Czechoslovakia, now capital of the Czech Republic.

Students will attend classes at Charles University and will each pair up with a Czech student, though the Czech language will not be taught.

One professor questioned whether the lack of language instruction would contribute to the image of the "ugly American," but the motion passed unanimously.

According to Scherr, the program is scheduled to begin in Spring term of 1994.

The geography department has negotiated with Charles University for more than two years since a geography foreign study program in Mexico was cancelled.