On July 1, the department formerly known as Foreign Languages and Literatures officially adopted its new moniker, marking a significant step in the College’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiative to provide a welcoming and safe environment for all students, staff, and faculty. Read more.
As of July 1, 2022, the department formerly known as Foreign Languages and Literatures (FLL) was officially renamed the Department of Languages and Literary Studies (LLS). The name change was an initiative that was considered in the past, and was again relaunched in recent years. Its official approval and implementation this summer mark a significant step in Lafayette’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative to provide a welcoming and safe environment for all students, faculty, and staff.
“It’s a great achievement for us and for the College,” says Olga Anna Duhl, Oliver E. Williams Professor of Languages and LLS department head, who took the lead on the effort in spring 2022 and helped secure its approval. Other faculty members who led the initiative in the past include former department heads Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci and Sidney Donnell, professors of languages and literary studies.
Duhl explains that one of the crucial adjustments made to the department’s moniker was the removal of the word “foreign,” which carries a negative connotation and does not reflect the mission of the department and the College to advance diversity in its many manifestations, including (but not limited to) race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and place of origin.
“The word itself is exclusionary,” Duhl says. “Here in the United States and at Lafayette, there are many communities that speak different languages, and saying that these are foreign languages means we are excluding these communities and do not represent them in the department, which is wrong. Getting rid of the word ‘foreign’ is consistent with the DEI pedagogical principles that the College is in the process of implementing.”
Another key modification, Duhl adds, was the replacement of the term “literatures” with “literary studies,” as the latter more accurately reflects the wide variety of materials, resources, and mediums that are studied and utilized by professors and students within the department.
“We study many materials, such as films, visuals, cultural artifacts, songs, comic books, and all kinds of things that are not strictly literary documents,” Duhl says. The new name also is consistent with the mission of the Languages and Literary Studies Resource Center, which is a full-service multimedia facility that fosters a dialogue between cultures through the appropriate use of educational technology.
A subcommittee of fellow faculty members worked to see the departmental name change through. Committee members included Lindsay Ceballos, assistant professor of Russian and East European studies; Dennis Johannβen, assistant professor of German; and Mathieu Perrot, assistant professor of French. The subcommittee conducted extensive research on the topic and how it has been addressed at other higher education institutions, and compiled a list of several potential new names, which was ultimately voted on by the department.