Southern eliminates director position

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The Chart / Tyler Payne

Leslie Parker, current director of the ILRC works in her office surrounded by international language resources.

Leslie Parker, director of the International Language Resource Center, says she can’t measure the value of the center’s services for the campus and the community.

Soon she won’t have to.

Currently, as the director of the ILRC, she is responsible for the foreign language lab and its 12 to 15 student workers, tutoring, resource library and arranging Foreign Language Field Day. She also coordinates the Spanish Village summer program, professional development workshops and foreign language outreach to local schools.

As of June 30, her contract will expire and she’ll move to a full-time faculty position teaching Spanish and the director’s job will no longer exist.

“Our fear is that we will be expected to maintain as many of the services as possible without a budget or a staff,” she said. “I’ll be just as busy as everyone else.”

Currently the Center is under the control of the Institute of International Studies, but in 1996 when the ILRC was founded, it was run by the foreign language department, where Dr. Brad Kliendl, interim vice president of academic affairs, thinks it belongs.

“Originally, the center was moved to the Institute because of a nepotism issue that doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.

After the change, what services and programs remain will be left to the foreign languages department.

“It’s up to the department to assign loads based on their goals,” Kliendl said. “The vice president of academic affairs doesn’t go out and micromanage departments.”

Dr. Sherman Hou, department head of foreign language, and Parker said they haven’t been told what motivated the elimination of the director position, nor were they consulted prior to the decision, but they expect budget concerns are to blame.

Dr. Richard Miller, dean of the school of arts and sciences, said the elimination of the full-time director’s position is designed to save money and “streamline,” the running of the center. 

“Ultimately the feeling is that if some of those services aren’t necessary, then do we really need a full-time faculty doing that job?” Miller said. “We’ve closed down other centers on campus, they were offering good services, but it was actually costing the University money.”

For now the language lab will remain intact, however Miller plans to speak with Parker and library director Wendy McGrane about possibly moving some of the books and videos currently housed in the ILRC to Spiva Library.

Miller also said his understanding was that part of the director’s salary will go to the hiring of an international recruiter.

With the director’s position dissolved, coordination of the center and its many services will be left to the department of foreign languages. Hou said someone will have to manage the center and that running it with help from all foreign language faculty would be impractical and a poor use of resources. However, asking a full-time faculty member to undertake the responsibilities of the center, isn’t realistic.

“Whatever we call that position, there is no compensation for it,” he said. “It’s not fair to ask someone to do this without any kind of compensation.”

Miller said Hou could submit a request for overload compensation, but that it would subject to approval.

Of the services currently offered by the center, the foreign language department identified the foreign language lab, tutoring services and foreign language field day as essential to the department. 

“Foreign language field day is a very valuable recruiting tool for us, the language lab is essential to our retention, to make sure students pass their classes. They are indispensable. We cannot afford to lose them,” he said.  “We can only guarantee those services that are mission critical, other services may have to be suspended until we have more funds or more manpower.”

In addition to the official role of the center, both on the campus and in the community, Parker said the center also acts as a referral service for those seeking interpreters and that she has more than a few anecdotes supporting the center as a valuable recruiting tool. However, the elimination of the director’s job could mean eliminating all but the most essential services offered by the Center.

“I feel like for what we do, it doesn’t cost that much,” she said. “The good will of the University, you can’t put a price on it. You can’t measure that, you can’t put that in a pie chart, it doesn’t work that way, you can’t.

“I’m just really sad, the Spanish Village I don’t see how it can continue. It doesn’t make any money. We try our best to break even. These kids come back year after year, and this year I’m going to have to stand up and tell them that it’s done.”

Hou said Parker will maintain the center for the next academic year in addition to her full-time course load, and the Spanish Village will be offered this summer.

“I feel like they see a big pot of money over here and that what we do is just not valuable,” Parker said. “There was some question as to what exactly we do, and are we really serving anyone. I feel like that’s all we do here.”