June 20, 1996 * Vol . 6, No. 4
Senate approves end to Spanish and Latin American studies department
Senate voted at its June meeting to dissolve the department of Spanish and
Latin American studies (SLAS) as a way of resolving chronic tensions between
faculty members with divergent interests.
The proposed dissolution now goes to the university's board of governors
for final consideration.
Given dissolution, a new program in Latin American studies would be established,
while Spanish language acquisition and literature courses would be moved
to the division of interdisciplinary studies.
Dean of arts Evan Alderson told Simon Fraser News following senate's decision
that graduate and undergraduate students can be confident that their programs
will continue. "With board approval, this will mean a new academic
structure, but we will continue to offer the same programs of study,"
The proposed effective date for dissolution is Sept. 1. The plan requires
separate committees to review both units one year after the break-up of
SLAS to determine whether further changes are required.
Admissions to the graduate program would be frozen for one year to allow
changes and to better serve existing graduate students.
In documentation presented to senate, Alderson wrote: "I believe that
there is virtually no dispute by those close to the department about the
need to dismantle the department of Spanish and Latin American studies as
it currently exists...(it) has not worked well in practice and is presently
unable to act as a single coherent unit."
Since the department was created in 1989, tension has developed between
Latin American specialists and faculty focused on Spanish literature. The
Latin Americanists perceive Spanish literature as having unwelcome colonialist
The dispute has a long history. In the fall of 1994 Alderson appointed an
ad hoc committee to review the department's operations and directions. When
the department subsequently could not agree on the appointment of a chair,
Alderson set up a second committee to recommend an alternative organization.
Alderson eventually held departmental and faculty-wide referenda on the
dissolution question and subsequent structures. In the votes, dissolution
of SLAS was almost universally approved, but there was some disagreement
about what would emerge afterwards. In particular, the Latin Americanists
wanted separate departmental status.
Alderson eventually rejected departmental status for Latin American studies
because of budgetary constraints. "I am not in a position to guarantee
new resources or even the maintenance of resources recently available to
the department (SLAS)," he explained.
Spanish literature and language courses have been taught at Simon Fraser
since the university opened in 1965, originally through a department of
modern languages. Latin American studies were first formally listed in the
calendar in 1972.
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