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German Department Prematurely Publicizes Potential Joint Concentration

Although the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has yet to approve a proposed special joint concentration with Germanic Languages and Literatures, the German department has been aggressively publicizing the initiative, often “jumping the gun” and referring to the proposal as a done deal, according to German Department Chair John T. Hamilton.

On March 7, days after The Crimson published an article on the proposed joint concentration, German Department Administrator Sean M. McCreery sent an email linking to the article to a German department list-serv with the subject line “GLL Joint Concentration featured in The Crimson!”

“[The article] is a wonderful explanation of how the joint concentration scheme [with SEAS] will work and demonstrates how eager students are for it!” read the email.

Days later, another email was sent to students enrolled in German from McCreery’s account. This time signed by Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies Nicole A. Sütterlin, the email publicized an Advising Fortnight event titled “How to get a job in Germany, Europe and Beyond.”

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In the email, Sütterlin described the event as an “info session on the new Special Joint Concentration in German... specially designed for Students in Engineering and the Applied Sciences.”

In addition to the email blast, Sütterlin visited introductory German classes to publicize the event and hand out special flyers again advertising the “special joint concentration in German for students in Engineering and Applied Sciences.”

After the Advising Fortnight event last Wednesday, Hamilton called this bevy of advertising for a yet-to-be-approved concentration a mistake.

“It was just a complete misunderstanding. If anything, it’s a signal of the enthusiasm on our side to make [the joint concentration] happen,” Hamilton said. “We don’t want the faculty at SEAS to think that things are being done without consulting them.”

In an email after the event, Sütterlin also said the joint concentration had been advertised mistakenly, calling the communications “an unfortunate error on my part.”

“I had misunderstood and believed the ratification process already to be completed, when in fact it is currently in its final stages,” Sütterlin wrote.

The miscommunication comes at a time of high growth for SEAS, and faltering enrollment in the humanities. While SEAS has enjoyed skyrocketing enrollment and capital-campaign prestige in recent years, German consistently has “around ten” concentrators, according to Hamilton, who noted that the department had over 100 students enrolled in the department’s language program.

As of now, the proposed joint concentration, which Hamilton pioneered last semester, would consist of a full SEAS degree, five higher-level German courses, and a “guided reading” course completed in conjunction with a summer engineering or applied sciences fellowship in Germany.

Hamilton added that the proposal was subject to change based on SEAS’s comments.

With just five German courses, Hamilton says the German requirements in the proposed joint concentration would be “pretty much a secondary field, but enhanced by the internship abroad.”

Leib I. Celnik ’18, who is currently earning a secondary in German, said he “wouldn’t be surprised that [GLL] would want to grow the concentration,” adding that he thought the proposed joint concentration was a good idea.

“There’s no real negative to having an interdivisional program like this,” said Celnik, who is the editor-in-chief of Simplicissimus, the College’s journal of Germanic studies. “It could open up some of the guidelines for other concentrations that want to cross the divisions,” he added.

According to an email from Hamilton, the German department will soon present a draft of the proposal to SEAS Dean Francis J. Doyle III. Ultimately, the SEAS faculty must vote on whether to approve the joint concentration proposal.

“We're all hoping that the faculty discussion and vote can still take place before this semester is over,” Hamilton said.

SEAS’s executive dean for education and research Fawwaz Habbal did not respond to request for comment on SEAS’s deliberations on the proposal.

—Staff writer C. Ramsey Fahs can be reached at ramsey.fahs@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @ramseyfahs.

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