AATSEEL/ASEEES Joint Letter to West Virginia University

Published August 15, 2023

The American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) sent the following joint letter to West Virginia University's administration to protest its decision to close the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. You can read more about this issue here and here

You can also sign this petition.

E. Gordon Gee, President
Maryanne Reed, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
West Virginia University
Stewart Hall
1500 University Avenue
Morgantown, WV 26506-6203

Dear President Gee and Provost Reed:

As members of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), we strongly protest the closure of the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics at West Virginia University, and against the elimination of its faculty.

This short-sighted decision will mean the end of instruction in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and TESOL, as well as linguistics. This deprives students at West Virginia University of the opportunity to learn these languages and cultures in-person as part of their education at WVU. No other state flagship university has made cuts of this scope that deprive its students of education in languages. This decision will close windows of opportunity for WVU students: 

  • to become global citizens, with a deeper understanding of the world, and of the United States, where all of these languages are spoken; 

  • to become teachers who can pass on their knowledge of languages and cultures to students in West Virginia’s schools;

  • to engage in international business, and in cutting-edge developments throughout the world in science, technology, energy sectors, healthcare, and other spheres vital to West Virginia’s economic development; 

  • to engage in federal service in a variety of spheres, military and civilian, where knowledge of languages and cultures is vital, and to participate in the defense of U.S. national security at a time when such knowledge is essential.

As teachers of Slavic and East European languages, literatures, and cultures as well as cognate fields in the humanities and social sciences, we understand not only the vital importance of language and culture learning at a tremendously volatile time; we understand the importance of providing such opportunities for students to learn languages and cultures in person, under the guidance of outstanding faculty at WVU, and with that to engage with the global community in business, diplomacy, technology, and a multitude of other spheres. We understand that WVU plans to offer students the opportunity to study languages online at other institutions, but this is not an adequate substitute for in-person education on campus, under the guidance and mentorship of WVU faculty. To close this department in the hope of providing students equally valid learning opportunities through online instruction at other universities is to disadvantage students who will be competing with their peers at other institutions for employment in federal service, international business, research and technology. West Virginia University will be doing its students, and the state of West Virginia, a profound disservice.

We therefore call on West Virginia University’s administration to consider the future of students at WVU and to maintain pathways for WVU graduates to participate in the future of our nation by being able to engage with the world in their chosen profession.


Karen Evans-Romaine, President, AATSEEL
William J. Comer, President-Elect, AATSEEL
Gabriella Safran, Past President, AATSEEL
AATSEEL Executive Council
Elizabeth Durst, Executive Director, AATSEEL

Juliet Johnson, President, ASEEES
Vitaly Chernetsky, President-Elect/Vice President, ASEEES
Joan Neuberger, Immediate Past President, ASEEES
ASEEES Executive Committee
Lynda Park, Executive Director, ASEEES

cc:       Valerie Lopez, Special Assistant to the Board of Governors
           Amy Thompson, Chair, Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics