“We’re hoping to let people coming through the door know a little bit more about what is happening within the department.”
By Lee Morrow
In the days following the proposed cuts to modern languages by senior members of management, students organised an “interactive silent demonstration” at the Sir Duncan Rice Library.
The group, which goes by ‘Wet Paint’ on social media, described the demonstration as “mimicking the silence (or death) of the modern languages department”, by way of taking something plain and showcasing the diversity of language, culture, and colour that it adds to the University.
‘Wet Paint’ outlined their manifesto on Instagram. Those involved believe that ‘Language is culture, languages are not disposable, the lack of communication and transparency from Senior Management has been highly unsatisfactory, and the cherry-picked statistics used to justify the closure of the languages department are misleading at best and do little to explain this rash decision.”
One of the organisers of the demonstration called the university’s decision to scrap its modern languages programs a “disaster” told The Gaudie that the decisions being made by senior management at the university demonstrate their “lack of humanity”.
A performer stood in the foyer of SDR, wearing a blank sheet. Students and visitors to the library were invited to write a note on a piece of fabric that detailed why languages are important, not only to the University’s international outlook, but also as a whole. They were invited to do so in any language.
The pieces of fabric containing a message were then added to the performer’s blank canvas. The event was organised by students of multiple disciplines, who outlined their inspiration behind the demo in a hand-out given to participants.
It read: “As the piece goes on the robe, it [the robe] will become heavier and thicker with fabric, showing the weight of the decision taken by senior management and the weight of the financial decisions that the staff and students have been made to bear.”
How do students perceive the importance of modern languages?
Staff, students, and members of the community labelled the proposals as “shocking”, while participants mentioned that the learning of foreign languages should be seen as having a profound importance.
An organiser told The Gaudie: “Languages provide very important careers. It is not just the learning of the language you get, but also the culture courses which are invaluable. Being able to understand the political and social situation of a certain country, [the idea of] that being taken away from people in coming years, is terrifying.”
Current students at the University fear for the reputation of their degrees and worry about the wider impact this could have for generations to come.
One student mentioned that by having smaller classrooms, the learning experience was personalised and they were able to have much more substantial relationships with their lecturers.
The student also described statistics presented to University staff in modern languages as “misleading”.
How are students and staff being affected right now?
An email circulated by the Head of School for LLMVC to students of modern languages said:
"Any changes to our language provision as a result of the review will not affect current students.”
However, it became clear during the demonstration that students disagreed with this statement.
One of the organisers said: “[This situation] has made me feel so angry, and I know that that anger is felt, and that hurt is felt amongst others.”
Students of all disciplines have voiced their concerns over the proposals made by senior management. The reputations of their educators are something they hold much value to, as the Wet Paint organiser pointed out:
“We have these personal connections with people who have just found out that their lives are going to change forever, as well as people coming behind us, people we care about.”
“Languages improve lives."