Help save East Asian Studies at the University of Alberta

Dear MCLC list members,

My colleagues and I are facing the closure of our department, and we would like to ask for your help.

The University of Alberta is trying to merge our interdisciplinary Department of East Asian Studies with Modern Languages and Cultures (MLCS), a department dedicated to European languages and literatures.  That department has three times the number of faculty as we do, meaning that any merger would put control of East Asian teaching and research at our university in the hands of Europeanists.

Although this move is being pursued by Dean Lesley Cormack of the Faculty of Arts during a period of severe budget pressure, she has admitted in writing that closing our department would not result in any cost savings to the University.  Instead we believe that, by forcibly merging our department into the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, Dean Cormack is hoping to make up for  the relative weakness of European-language classes by grouping them with our much healthier registrations in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.  While we would be glad to support and advocate for our colleagues in that department, killing off our own department to keep them afloat is the wrong solution.  And this merger would indeed do great harm to interdisciplinary research and teaching about Asia at our university: our area-studies model would largely be stripped down to language teaching, and our resources handed over to a department dedicated to European culture.

However, we are hopeful that a strong response by the international scholarly community might help convince the University of Alberta that this is the wrong move.  If you are able to find the time to write a letter on our behalf, to express your own opinion on the value of an independent Department of East Asian Studies to a public research university such as ours, my colleagues and I would be deeply grateful.

(We have discussed the possibility of an online petition, but believe that this would not be very effective.  Although we understand that asking for individual letters during such a busy time is a large request, we hope that as many of you as possible would be able to find some spare time to write for us.)

My colleagues and I will be collecting letters and presenting them as a group.  Therefore, although we recommend addressing your letter to Dean Lesley Cormack, please send your letter either to me (dfried@ualberta.ca), our chair Chris Lupke (lupke@ualberta.ca) or our strategy coordinator Xiaoting Li (xiaoting.li@ualberta.ca). It would be extremely helpful if you would be able to send us a letter by September 30, but if you can’t send one until later, that would still be a help to us.  I’ve also attached an information sheet about our situation, in case it would be helpful to you.

Thank you very much, and best wishes for the remainder of your semester!

Daniel Fried

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