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Wednesday, August 23, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 66, Issue 3 

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English department needs funds

Shaun Salnave

In its relentless pursuit of Tier I status, UH has yet again stepped on someone's toes. This time, though, it's not someone for whom I feel something on principle, but someone I in fact care very deeply about on a personal level. Me.

Until a little before 1 p.m. this Tuesday, I thought I was enrolled in an English class that met from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Upon getting to my class, however, a small, easily missed sign I happened to read because I was early and bored informed me the class had been canceled. No reason, of course, was given, although the sign did inform me that I could go upstairs to the English Department office for more information.

Upstairs I went, to wait in line -- this is one of my hobbies now, since I've decided to just accept what cannot be avoided -- and was told the class had been canceled because, despite the department's best efforts to the contrary, no teacher could be found.

A very helpful woman named Liz Frederick explained this to me patiently (which is impressive considering how many times she must have explained such things to similarly irate students), pointed me to a list of other courses that were being offered and suggested I look at them and choose one.

The list was rather meager. While there were about two dozen courses (a pathetic amount for a department I consider fairly important, because it is concerned with the language most of us speak), most of those were not options for me for one of many reasons: a.) I was unable to take a course at that time, due to scheduling conflicts; b.) those classes had, like my British Novel course, been canceled; or c.) both.

I am tempted, based on a years-long history of similar events, to think this is part of some conspiracy to keep me from graduating on time. In my less paranoid moments, however, I have decided differently.

There are not many English classes and, despite UH's efforts to the contrary, there are still a fairly large number of English majors (at least compared to the number of classes). Thus, this sort of problem will continue to occur until more English classes are offered or the situation gets bad enough that most of the English majors give up, go with the cash flow and switch to business.

None -- or very little -- of this is the English Department's fault. From what I have observed, it is for the most part valiantly trying to deal with situations as unreasonable as those it is forced to pass on to the students.

The fault, as always, seems to lie with the administration. The English Department has little funding, and the impression I've gotten is that many classes are canceled because the department can't afford enough professors to teach them all. Funding is certainly a continuous problem in HFAC, as is the canceling of courses (just ask a communication major friend).

It's not as if UH had no money. It has a lot, really -- just not much in any academic department. Athletics certainly has a healthy chunk of money. Of course, it needs more. Although we students may forget, the purpose of this University is not to educate. It is to entertain via our sports programs. Football is far more important than, say, learning to use properly the language you claim to speak. Certainly more important than reading books.

The business college does not have these problems. It, for some reason, gets immense amounts of money, often in the form of donations. It has a building that isn't falling apart. English majors must be content with the oldest building on campus. A sense of history and tradition is nice, especially at this university, but philosophical comforts have their limits when your classroom is so packed you can barely move between the desks.

Maybe the merger of the Social Sciences with HFAC will solve these problems. I suppose it's possible that two colleges with such a large number of departments and current funding problems can more easily overcome their problems when they combine them. The morbid curiosity in me would certainly like to see it.

UH wants its reputation to improve, and for this I do not blame them. I certainly regard this university more highly than most of the people I know. We have a number of excellent departments and some great classes. Our campus isn't ugly (except for a few spots like the desert plain some call the Communications Building courtyard). It might be easier to improve the reputation, though, if the University was improved.

When I can forget our problems, I'm pretty happy to be here. I just wish I could forget them more often -- or, better yet, that they didn't exist. I love my University, but I fear my administration.

Salnave, who doesn't feel like admitting he's an English 
major right now, can be reached at dccampus@mail.uh.edu.

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