Associated Press Aug. 6, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana University is working to find alternative ways to fund foreign language instruction after a $1.7 million decrease in federal funds, even as its president urges Congress to restore funding for such programs.
Congress has cut $50 million from the Department of Education's HEA-Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs that support foreign culture and language training.
IU has one of the highest concentrations of Title VI programs in the country. President Michael McRobbie says the programs have helped train foreign language scholars, military personnel and public service leaders for generations. He says restoring Title VI funding to 2010 levels is essential to continuing that work.
McRobbie is one of more than 80 college and university presidents who signed a letter urging Congress to restore the funds.
The presidents argue that foreign languages and culture education are important to national security and say that cutting the funds would weaken the expertise and knowledge needed to meet U.S. economic, global and security challenges.
IU offers courses in more than 80 foreign languages. Its programs gathered steam during World War II. In 1942, then-President Herman B Wells called for IU to teach Russian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Serbo-Croatian and Finnish languages as part of a program designed to meet the needs of the Army during wartime.
Alumni who've benefited from the Title VI programs include former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia James Collins.
Jim Capshew, a professor in the department of the history and philosophy of science and a scholar of IU history, said Wells recognized that the funding generated by Cold War national security concerns could expand the depth of the university well into the future.
“Wells invested a lot in the humanities and arts, because all you needed was the personnel, the scholars and the students, and a good library,” he said. “You didn't need the big expensive laboratories and equipment you do in some of the sciences.”
That work earned Wells a 1969 nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Though he didn't get it, Capshew said, the nomination focused on his effort to expand international understanding through language instruction and other programs.