The Louisiana Classicist

June 8, 2010

pro lingua latina III

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ann E. M. Ostrom @ 1:34 pm
Tags: , ,

The letter I mailed to Chancellor Martin et al. last week:

Latin, the study of Latin, the love of Latin (and all the other languages too) will not die out because Louisiana State University no longer supports such things. But Louisiana State University will certainly be poorer when its presence is reduced. I write this not especially as a Latin teacher with a vested interest in keeping my job at LSU (although it is true), but as a lover of Latin and humanities. Why does Latin matter? Because it binds us in the chains of history, carrying us back in time to a culture and a people who influenced Western Europe for centuries.

The study of Latin is not just a grammatical and vocabulary exercise; the real study of Latin is the exploration of a truly foreign culture, its political and moral philosophies, its art, its religion, its literature. Some may see Latin as an ancillary to those other disciplines, but without Latin, without being able to engage the original texts of Cicero, Tacitus, or Ovid, what do we have left? Without Latin, we also cannot engage studies from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: where would we be without Newton’s Principia Mathematica, Descartes’ Meditationes, or physician William Harvey’s De Motu Cordis?

If there is no Latin major at LSU, where will Louisiana students go to earn such a degree? Louisiana’s Latin students, who are educated in roughly thirty-five middle and high schools across the state, will have nowhere in Louisiana to pursue a major in Latin. What is the flagship university for, but to offer courses that meet the needs of all its citizens. How will we replace our high school teachers in the future? Talented Latin students — who also like to study history, law, and medicine — will have to go out of state, to places like the University of Texas at Austin, or the University of Georgia. Long have local media, businesses, and politicians loudly decried the “brain drain” that Louisiana is suffering. How much worse will that drain be now? How secure is our Flagship status?

Programs like Latin and German; centers that preserve Louisiana citizens’ unique heritage and history like the United States Civil War Center, the Center for French and Francophone Studies, the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History; departments that are not duplicated anywhere like Scientific Glassblowing Facility; they all deserve a place on LSU’s campus. While eliminating them now seems like a financial relief, the savings are just a drop in the bucket, and in a short time, if these proposals are carried, their loss will be felt, like a grandparent who dies, taking family stories and history to the grave, never to be recovered.

Admittedly, I do not know anything about running a university or its overall budget, but I do have a few ideas about what action we could take instead of doing away with these several departments: the University could transition to a four-day work and school week, with ten-hour work days for office and support staff. The classroom and office buildings could then be powered down for an extra day each week — especially helpful in the hottest months of the year. Or instead, maybe the air conditioning system could be regulated better, so that classrooms and offices are only cool instead of freezing cold (exceptions of course for the Library, museums and computer and scientific equipment).

I apologize for the length and choppiness of this letter, and hope that what it lacks in eloquence it makes up for in spirit, and that you take its spirit to heart.

Sincerest regards,

Ann E. M. Ostrom
Instructor, Classics, LSU

Adviser, Alpha Omega chapter (LSU)
Eta Sigma Phi (Latin and Greek honor fraternity)

Blog Administrator
Louisiana Classical Association

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