About this: should we rethink the language requirement? Here is why I ask: the options, for action on the “adjunct crisis,” appear to be cutting the number of students allowed to finish graduate programs, so as to reduce the alleged overproduction of Ph.D.s, or making sure people who do the Ph.D. are also trained for nonacademic jobs (that still use the Ph.D.-based knowledge and skills). What about insisting that all jobs be tenure track, rather than continue to hire so many contingent people?
In my program we do not have adjuncts or T.A.s, so we are not as exploitative as some, but instructors with M.A.s outnumber research faculty with Ph.D.s two to one. Now we are asked to hire yet another of these instructors; I want an assistant professor, but it is said that our greatest need lies in service to the language requirement. What is right and wrong with this picture?
The student credit hours the language requirement produces for our department does fund the graduate program and apparently some other things, so we have an economic incentive to maintain it; it is also a state requirement for a liberal arts degree. But most students who fulfill this requirement do it with great resentment, and it is nearly impossible to get them to learn anything, and there are other problems with the language courses. One of the best ways to improve the quality of these courses would be to release from them those students who are simply sitting through them, finding ways to pass with a D.
If we redefined the requirement, such that students would still take it in our department but could fulfill it with some language courses but also culture and literature and even linguistics courses given largely in English, so long as they were all centered on the same language, we might be able to justify hiring more Ph.D.s and fewer M.A.s. Quality could rise, people might suffer less, and more Ph.D.s would get jobs.