Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000395, Sun, 4 Dec 1994 15:22:59 -0800

University of Washington (fwd)
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
To: Nabokov <Nabokv-L@UCSBVM.ucsb.edu>

I would like to add my own personal statement to Jim Augerot's SOS letter.
The possible elimination of the Slavic Department at my university has
nothing to do with the quality of the department (which is quite high --
our majors have more than doubled in three years and now total over 60;
we have 35 graduate students who are among the most active in the field
and routinely get excellent job offers) or departmental problems (we
have had some tensions and conflicts over the years as any department
does but through it all remained cohesive and effective; right now we are
actually enjoying one of the more tranquil and peaceful periods in the
department's history, and the morale is quite high). Nor does it have
anything to do with our future potential -- two years ago we hired two
new excellent assistant professors in Serbo-Croatian and Polish, and in
many ways we are in the best shape ever to face the future.

The president of this university simply told us that we are no longer
"central to the university's mission" and do not belong to the core of
this university the same way as the English department does or the
sciences. This pertains not only to Slavic languages and literatures but
also to Russian and east European Program, which will be essentially
eliminated if we are gone, and Russian history, geography, economics,
etc. When pressed to explain what makes us less "central" than other
departments of languages or literatures, and whether they may be in
similar danger during the next budget cut, he refused to elaborate.
Needless to say, all this is accompanied by the university paying
constant "lip service" to "international education" and respect for other
cultures. Last year they even created a new administrative position, one
of many created for the administration while faculty positions are being
cut, that of an Assistant Provost for International Education (Joe Norman
whose "love" for international education was rekindled, we are told, by
his short trip to Mexico where he vacationed).

What I am trying to say should be obvious by now: we may be one of the
first signals that not only Slavic departments are in danger, but
humanities in general. Our science departments are yet to come to our
support, in addition to us other programs slated for elimination are in
Art, Communications and Musicology, and, what is most tragic, our local
newspapers are not expressing any outrage in their editorials. Instead
they praise our president for listening to the voters and making wise
decisions. They also choose to publish letters from the community which
blame the university for being "elitist" and suggest a blue-collar
committee to oversee what we are doing. There is a strong
anti-intellectual and xenophobic current in this country, and we appear
to be one of its first academic victims.

Some people may think that a university famous for its Jackson School of
International Relations cannot possibly wipe out the whole Russian and
East-European component of this program and thus it is a political ploy.
Please do not be fooled. We have seen definite signs that the university
is dead serious about eliminating us; they took the first step by
virtually annihilating us in their declaration of our "non-centrality"
and they will not stop there.

Please help.

Galya Diment.
"Save-the-Slavic Department" Coordinator.

P.S. Please bear in mind that I am not simply concerned for my job. As a
tenured professor I will be kept and reassigned to a different
department, most likely Comparative Literature.