Professor Doug Mrazek’s office is full of French literature he has collected over the years. He calls his collection his “life’s work.”
Mrazek has been teaching French at Clark since September 1978. After 37 years, his job is threatened by the proposed budget cuts.
The French program is facing elimination if the proposal is finalized. Elimination of the French program would save $104,631 from the instructional budget. German is also proposed to be cut which would save $37,930. If both programs are cut, Spanish and Japanese would be the only languages taught on campus.
Citing low enrollment as the reason behind cutting French, the Instructional Council said students would still have the ability to take other languages on campus.
Mrazek however disagrees, calling enrollment “as good as it’s ever been.” There are three sections of French 121 that are filled according to Mrazek. French 122 has 16 students, but Mrazek said this is normal. “My largest ever second year class has been 19. If we start with 25 [students] in the first year and we’ve got 16 in the second year section, that’s pretty solid.”
Students planning to transfer to Oregon universities are required to have two years of a college language course according to Mrazek.
Mrazek noted that because the administration did not look at the French classes as a whole, but rather individually, the enrollment numbers were deceiving. “Our administration isn’t able to cross-average, and that’s the problem.” Mrazek said that between the first, second and third year students, there is an average of 18 students per section, which he said is “solid.”
Mrazek also pointed out that WSU Vancouver does not have a French program. “That’s always been another stumbling block for students,’’ he said. ‘‘They want to go on in French, and if they need a second year class this is the only place they can get it.”
“Students often take the same language throughout middle school and high school,” Mrazek said. “We have a wonderful base in Vancouver high schools. That’s a service we’re offering. We allow them to move forward with the language they started with.”
Mrazek said he regularly communicates with French high school teachers who are “very concerned with the loss of this landing spot for all the people in high school who want to go further.”
If French gets cut, Mrazek said he would take a “period of reflection to make a decision about returning to the workplace in some other capacity.” Mrazek also said he would consider retirement. “My concern is not where I end up,… it is the position that counts. What choices are left for language if French and German are cut? We’ve eliminated 50 percent of the choices.” Mrazek currently also works as the advisor for French club.
Mrazek stressed that the fate of the department is more important than his own. “My hope, independent of my personal fate, is that French will survive thanks to the protection of the departments,” Mrazek said.
“At this point the organizational chart says French is a department. German is a department. Spanish is a department. If we cut off two of those fingers the rest can go on. If one of those becomes less than full time… but still survives, it’s a little hard to see adjunct faculty keeping the program viable. If there are cuts I hope we see the department survive. We would need a language department coordinator.”
Spanish and Japanese are also proposed to be cut, although not entirely. Both languages are proposed to lose their second year, saving the college $3,898 and $13,533 respectively.
Spanish instructor Elizabeth Ubiergo responded in a written statement. “I realize the budget is short, but cutting all of these classes and programs hurt our students, the community and the quality of our institution. Clark has a strong reputation that we need to work hard to maintain; too many cuts done too quickly will hurt us in the long run.”
Representatives from the Japanese and German programs were unavailable for comment.