To: Anne Lopes, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Re: The Reduction of Italian courses at Brooklyn College
As Director of Italian American Studies at Queens College I am writing to register my dismay over the recent action taken to severely reduce the Italian course offerings at Brooklyn College. In my more than forty years of creating, cultivating and teaching Italian American Studies at the university level, I have never seen such action taken by an administration. Your decision to deactivate the major and minor and to offer only a few language courses signals a death knell for the study of one of the most important historical and contemporary languages of scholarship and commercial activity.
The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, to which I am attached as Distinguished Professor, was created as a result of overt discrimination against Italian Americans, something I see occurring through your drastic actions. What you are saying to current and prospective students is that Italian is not worthy of study, something that could not be more wrong, and offensive to the Italian speaking communities of New York.
Having spent over twelve years at CUNY and ten at SUNY-Stony Brook, where I directed Italian American Studies programs, I can say that for the great number of heritage speakers of Italian, being able to study the language at the college level is very important. While I am not a teacher of the language, I do know that as a result of the courses I have taught at Queens College and Stony Brook University, students who have taken Italian American Studies classes in English often realize the need and the importance of studying Italian. I refer to these courses as the back door to Italian language study programs, and without them, students who come from Italian backgrounds have no possibility of pursuing interests developed in my courses.
I am especially perturbed that this is happening at Brooklyn College, a major institution in the CUNY system, especially after the language requirement, which had been eliminated, was reinstated this year. This decision limits how far a student can progress in the study of Italian, and that is simply unacceptable.
I will join my colleagues throughout CUNY to work towards the overturning of this decision.
Fred L. Gardaphe, Distinguished Professor, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute
and Queens College