Lack of European studies classes impacts academic opportunities on campus

Following the retirement of Emeritus professor of history Helena Waddy and the temporary leave of assistant professor of history Margaret Stolee, the future of Geneseo’s European Systems track in the international relations major as well as the Central and Eastern European studies minor remains in jeopardy. Both the European Systems track and Central and Eastern European studies minor are interdisciplinary, relying on the European history courses that Waddy and Stolee taught as part of their course requirements. Professor and chair of the history department Joseph Cope said that the department requested the search of another historian that would have been conducted during this academic year, but the Office of the Provost denied that request. Cope added that the history department might look into temporarily hiring another historian in the spring semester.

Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul Schacht said in a phone interview that when making hiring decisions, the Office of the Provost looks at a variety of factors.

“We look at the department’s needs, the college’s needs, the strategic plan and the budget,” he said. “We also take history of searches in the department into account … We look at a number of factors in making a decision about the searches that go forward in any given year.”

Cope said that the lack of funding by New York State has contributed to the inability of the college to hire more professors.

“This is symptomatic of the structural problem. The state of New York has stopped investing in higher education, which means that we have fewer resources to hire faculty,” he said. “We don’t have a predictable stream, so if one faculty member retires, then that faculty member is going to be replaced right away. We can’t do that anymore, which means that these kinds of situations happen.”

According to the coordinator for international relations and lecturer in international relations and political science Jeremy Grace, many international relations majors are disinclined to complete the European systems track because of the difficulties that arise in scheduling.

“We only have three courses that are being offered this semester in Europe, whereas every other track has at least anywhere from seven to probably 15 courses,” he said. “If you don’t schedule properly, you won’t be able to get into those courses, and you won’t be able to complete the track. So I think that dissuades some students who might otherwise do it.”

Grace said if fewer courses are offered for the European Systems track, it’s possible that it will not be feasible in the future.

“This is obviously a real problem for us because we need to offer the track. It’s an important track and we’ve got to make sure that the track remains viable in the future,” he said. “If all the courses disappear—if we get down to any fewer courses than this—I think we have a real problem, and we may not be able to keep the track.”

International relations and philosophy double major senior Aaron White said that he is currently struggling to complete the European systems track and believes that the college needs to hire another historian to make completing such a track easier.

“I think it’s a matter of hiring a historian who specializes in European history,” he said. “Which is pretty crazy because the fact that we’re going to a college that doesn’t offer any modern European history is pretty outrageous.”

Coordinator of the Central and Eastern European studies minor and coordinator of the German minor Cynthia Klima said that the lack of modern European historians is affecting the Central and Eastern European studies minor as well. Klima explained that two course requirements and three credit hours were cut out of the minor.

“I really want the Central and Eastern European studies program to survive because I’ve had students who have [graduated with] that minor and they’ve gone on to other things … We’ve got students working in the state department, we’ve got students working in the Peace Core and such,” Klima said. “I don’t want that to stop because those are good connections to have, and it carries the name of the school into some really important areas.”

Klima added that there are a substantial number of students in international relations, history, history education, languages and literatures and the Central and Eastern European studies minor who must take these European courses to complete course requirements.

“The lack of courses has a ripple effect because these students need these courses to fulfill their majors and minors, and they’re nonexistent,” Klima said.