Letter To The Editor: Save The English Language Learning Program

Ally Runnion | Loyola Phoenix

Linda Rousos is a part-time instructor and a retired member of ESL faculty

Loyola will turn its back on its current and prospective international students if its Administration closes the English Language Learning Program (ELLP) June 30. In March, the Loyola administration stunned ELLP faculty and staff by notifying them the program “will be eliminated effective June 30” and their contracts won’t be renewed for 2019-20. 

The ELLP provides full-time intensive and part-time English language programs prepare international students to study at Loyola. The decision, and its aftermath, are signs of poor leadership and management at the highest levels of Loyola administration. The Loyola community should be concerned.

The Loyola administration evidently failed to consider the many ramifications of its decision and has yet to present any plan for international students who are impacted. International students currently studying English full-time and hoping to enter Loyola degree programs will need to leave the U.S. or apply to other universities offering English language courses. 

International students already admitted to Loyola degree programs on the condition they pass English courses through the ELLP will no longer be able to take the required English courses, and their status at Loyola will be in jeopardy. If ELLP faculty are dismissed, there will be no faculty qualified to assess and advise as to English language proficiency requirements and readiness of incoming international students to study in Loyola degree programs.

ELLP students weren’t informed of the closure by the administration. In fact, faculty and staff were discouraged from informing students because there was no plan in place for post-June 30. More than 35 days after the decision, no plan has been communicated to faculty, staff or students. Nearing the end of the term, with no information forthcoming from administration, ELLP faculty recently notified students of the closure; staff is now advising students as to their options at this late date. 

International students must plan their finances, school applications, visas applications and international travel far in advance; ELLP students should have been advised of the decision long ago. For the Loyola administration to make this decision without providing a plan or timely information to affected students is unacceptable. It’s appalling that this Administration has demonstrated such an unapologetic disregard for our students.

The decision to eliminate the ELLP is a choice, not a necessity. In notifying faculty of non-renewal of their contracts, administration suggested that low enrollment is the rationale for the decision, but that in itself does not necessitate program closure. The ELLP is self-sustaining and has continued to be profitable for Loyola. 

In the over 45 years that intensive English programs (IEPs) have operated at U.S. universities, there have been major fluctuations in enrollment due to global political and economic conditions. Like other educational entities, IEPs have adapted their programs, staffing and recruitment strategies to changing enrollment. Loyola should be doing the same in the case of the ELLP. 

It must also be noted that low enrollment in no way indicates poor performance or inferior quality of instruction. The ELLP has provided effective English language instruction, in good standing w`ith the University and College Consortium of Intensive English Programs and the American Association of Intensive English Programs. ELLP faculty hold masters and PhDs in the areas of linguistics, second language acquisition, language pedagogy and teaching English as a second language. They are current in theory and practice and active in local, state and national professional associations. The fact that many of our students have gone on to study in degree programs at Loyola speaks to the success of the program.

Why, at a time when the country is led by a president who’s closing off the U.S. from the world and betraying America’s dearest values, would Loyola choose to eliminate programs that welcome internationals into the Loyola community? Why close a program that has connected Loyola’s local and global communities through English language instruction, service learning, language exchange and special events in accordance with the 2020 strategic plan? No person or thing will benefit from the elimination of the ELLP — Loyola’s students, faculty, local/international partners, enrollment, revenue, reputation or the Jesuit educational principle of global awareness. Does the administration not value any of the above?

In the long term, elimination of the ELLP will result in lower international student enrollment and, intentional or not, discrimination against non-native speakers of English who wish to complete degree programs at Loyola. That will be the case unless the Administration continues to offer English language assessment and course work for those students. It is not too late for Loyola Administration to reconsider its decision. Administration should work with ELLP faculty, staff and partners to ensure that English language assessment and courses are available to international students and other non-native speakers of English, including immigrant and refugee students.

I would urge President Jo Ann Rooney and Acting Provost Margaret Callahan to adopt a transparent, collaborative, values-based approach to leadership; to work collaboratively with the ELLP faculty, staff, and partners; to continue providing English language assessment and instruction; and, in doing so, to honor Loyola’s commitment to Jesuit educational principles of values-based leadership, social justice and global awareness.

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