LINGUIST List 3.423

Fri 22 May 1992

All: Closure of Linguistics at SOAS

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  1. "Jonathan Kaye 323-6362", Closing Linguistics at SOAS Call for help!!!
  2. David Stampe, SOAS ceases all publications and cancels Linguistics!
  3. ANNA MORPURGO DAVIES, Closure of famous department of linguistics

Message 1: Closing Linguistics at SOAS Call for help!!!

Date: Fri, 22 May 92 11:53:00 BSClosing Linguistics at SOAS Call for help!!!
From: "Jonathan Kaye 323-6362" <>
Subject: Closing Linguistics at SOAS Call for help!!!

 SOAS Department of Phonetics and Linguistics to be Closed in
 October 1992

 Dear Colleagues,
 On tuesday May 19, Dr David Bennett, head of
 our department, was told that we would cease functioning as
 of October of this year. We are a department of the School
 of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London.
 The members of our department are:
 Dr David Bennett
 Prof Thea Bynon
 Dr Wynn Chao
 Dr Monik Charette
 Dr Katrina Hayward
 Dr Richard Hayward*
 Dr George Hewitt**
 Dr Bruce Ingham
 Prof Jonathan Kaye
 Prof Ruth Kempson
 *Cross appointed with the Africa Department
 **Cross appointed with the Near and Middle East Department

 Our department offers degrees at the BA, MA, MPhil
 and PhD level. Approximately 60 students, mostly at
 the postgraduate level are enrolled. Many other
 students, particularly from University College, London
 (UCL) take courses with us. We run an MA-Linguistics and an
 MA-Phonetics programme jointly with UCL. We also have an MA
 in English-Arabic Applied Linguistics and Translation
 together with Birbeck College. All these programmes will of
 course be affected by this decision. The Department of
 Phonetics and Linguistics is the oldest linguistic department
 in the U.K. It was the home of the "London School" which
 received worldwide attention under the intellectual leadership
 of Prof JR Firth. His Chair, which I occupy today, was the first
 Chair of Linguistics in the U.K. Over the years our
 graduates have distinguished themselves in many areas of
 linguistics. Later postings will provide a partial list of the
 more well known SOAS graduates. It is acknowledged, even by
 the administration of SOAS, that we remain a centre of academic
 excellence in our field.
 The decision to close the SOAS Linguistics department was
 made with no consultation, no advanced warning. It was a
 result of discussions by the Governing Body of the school, the
 Finance and General Purposes Committee and the Management
 Committee. There is no linguistic representation on any of
 these bodies. The reasons given for closing the department
 are: (1) Severe budget cuts
 (2) Our low number of UNDERGRADUATE students
 (3) The "general perception" that our department is not
 well integrated into the school.
 It was stated that, among the options considered closing
 our department would cause the "least harm" to the school. No
 one was present to represent the linguistics side of the
 story. This decision will be presented to the Academic Board of
 the school on wednesday May 27. The Academic Board has an
 advisory role only but we are hoping to mobilise school opinion
 against this decision.
 Unlike similar cases in other countries, most of the
 members of our department will not be redeployed elsewhere
 in the school. Recent legislation has virtually destroyed
 the notion of tenure in the U.K. Many of us are
 facing "premature retirement", "redundancy" or some form
 of "severance" agreement. The Administration of the school
 seems to feel that we will easily find jobs and that
 terminating our employment at the school will cause us no
 undue hardships. Given the administration's figures for the
 cost of severing their relation with us, the offers that
 we are likely to receive from the school will not be very
 attractive. As of now, no statement has been forthcoming about
 our future at the school but the Director has stated that he
 will be meeting with us individually next week. We will
 keep you posted on this aspect.

 If you would like to do something to try and help us
 stop the closing of our department, please send (in order
 of preference) a fax or a letter to me at the address and
 fax number given below. If possible use your
 institution's letterhead. Please feel free to make comments
 about our department as a whole or about individual members
 with whose work or reputation you are familiar. Pass this
 message along to your colleagues and encourage them to write as
 well. If you feel so inclined, departmental resolutions
 reflecting your opinion of this event would be quite helpful.
 I hope to be able to arrive at next wednesday's meeting with
 an armful of your letters (copies of all letters will be
 sent to our Director) and your support will do a lot to
 improve our spirits. This will be a long and difficult
 struggle both for our department and for our jobs and
 careers. Thank you in advance for listening and for your
 Jonathan Kaye
 Professor of General Linguistics

 Department of Phonetics & Linguistics
 School of Oriental and African Studies
 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
 London, WC1H 0XG

 fax number: (44)+71-436-3844
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Message 2: SOAS ceases all publications and cancels Linguistics!

Date: Wed, 20 May 92 07:51:29 HSSOAS ceases all publications and cancels Linguistics!
From: David Stampe <stampeuhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu>
Subject: SOAS ceases all publications and cancels Linguistics!

Forwarded from INDOLOGY:

 Date: Wed, 20 May 92 14:25:06 +0100
 Reply-To: Indology discussion list <INDOLOGYLIVERPOOL.AC.UK>
 From: Dominik Wujastyk <ucgadkwUCL.AC.UK>

 On Monday this week the management committee of SOAS decided to
 close the SOAS Publications' department, and also the Department
 of Linguistics. Later the same day, all staff members connected
 with these departments were given notice that their contracts would
 terminate in September 1992.

 This means that the Bulletin of SOAS, a pillar of Indological
 publication, will disappear, along with all other book series etc.
 Discussions will be initiated with publishers like Blackwells
 and OUP to see if they want to take over BSOAS, China Forum,
 etc. But it is hard to see how any publishing company will be able
 to provide the specialized editorial functions which have until now been
 supported by SOAS.

 The loss of the complete Linguistics department is equally horrific.

 The background to this -- as far as I can gather -- is further
 cause for alarm.

 Apparently SOAS has always received an annual special funding supplement
 because the Department of Education recognised that Oriental and
 African languages are needed by the nation, but will never get the
 student numbers of other mainstream subjects. This enabled SOAS to
 have a higher staff:student ratio than other colleges of London

 This year, the University Funding Council (UFC) forgot to pay the
 special funding supplement, leaving SOAS with a financial shortfall
 of 650,000 pounds this year. But when the clerical error was discovered,
 the UFC refused to make good the amount, and furthermore decided
 that it would not reinstate the special funding in the future.
 SOAS's response to this is to save money on the most expensive
 part of their budget, namely staff salaries.

 I think INDOLOGY members will agree that the whole story is
 incredible for many reasons, but nevertheless it is true. It is
 hard to avoid the impression of farcical mismanagement by the UFC
 and a devastatingly inadequate response from SOAS itself. Perhaps
 there are mitigating facts that have not yet come to light, but if
 so, they are not known to the staff members at SOAS who have been
 sacked, nor to other staff members.

 Letters of protest should be addressed to

 Mr. Michael McWilliam,
 School of Oriental and African Studies,
 Thornhaugh Street,
 Russell Square,
 London WC1H 0XG

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Message 3: Closure of famous department of linguistics

Date: Fri, 22 May 92 0:30 BST
Subject: Closure of famous department of linguistics

We have just heard that the department of linguistics of the School
of Oriental and African Studies in London is threatened with closure.
Members of the department heard of it this week; there has
been no previous consultation. The School has had its funds
cut and decided to cut down on all its publications programme
and on its linguistics activities. The department threatened
has an illustrious history; the first ever chair of linguistics
in Britain was held in SOAS by Firth. At present the members
of the department include Dr David Bennett, Prof. Theodora Bynon,
Dr Wynn Chao, Dr Monik Charette, Dr Katrina Haywood, Dr Dick
Haywood FBA, Dr Hewitt, Dr Bruce Ingham, Prof. Jonathan Kaye,
Prof Ruth Kempson FBA, Prof. Emeritus R.H. Robins FBA.
It is useless to stress how distinguished the department
is and how much a school which has primary
responsibility for the study of Oriental and African
Languages needs to have a department of linguistics and
Letters of protest should be addressed to the
Director, School of Oriental and African Studies,
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1, England.
It would be useful to send copies to the Chairman
of the Department (Dr D. Bennett) at the same address and
to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, Senate
House, Malet Street, London WC1, England. The Fax
number of SOAS is44-71-436-3844.
 Anna Morpurgo Davies
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