Administrators at Johns Hopkins University have eliminated the school’s Russian major.
The Russian program director at Johns Hopkins, Olya Samilenko, told Inside Higher Ed that she was “blindsided” by the decision, particularly since Russia’s geopolitical ambitions have clearly been on the rise in recent years.
“This is a crazy decision based not on the merits of the program but on something we can’t even grasp,” Samilenko said. “We don’t understand it.”
Samilenko also called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a major, major player in world politics” and noted that he “has already invaded half of Ukraine.”
Johns Hopkins also conspicuously holds itself out as an elite school for the study of international affairs.
The Johns Hopkins Russian major is a joint program in Russian language, literature and culture with Goucher College. The main campuses of both schools are located in Baltimore, Maryland.
Starting this fall, students won’t be able to major — or minor — in Russian at Johns Hopkins. The nine students who have already declared Russian as a major or minor will be able to complete their degrees.
At first, Samilenko told Inside Higher Ed, administrators told her the Russian program at Johns Hopkins was going to be cut because of low enrollment.
Joel F. Schildbach, a Johns Hopkins vice dean (and also a biology professor), said the Russian program’s joint status — with Goucher College — has caused logistical and administrative problems.
School officials decided to stop offering a Russian major but instead to hire a full-time professor to “provide greater offerings in Russian language that would benefit many more of our students, including a number of our hundreds of international studies and political science majors,” Schildbach told Inside Higher Ed in an email.
“We’ll be more flexible in scheduling the language courses because the instructor(s) won’t be traveling between two schools, and be better able to add additional sections or levels of language as demand requires,” Schildbach also said.
Meanwhile, Goucher College will continue to offer a Russian major. The school is inviting any Johns Hopkins students to participate in it, Goucher spokeswoman Leslie Lewis said.
In 2015, a report by the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies revealed that new research and graduate-level instruction on Russia in American colleges and universities is depressingly low because, in a nutshell, nobody thinks the country that makes up nearly 12 percent of the earth’s landmass is important enough to study. (RELATED: Russia Is Such A Backwater Dump Nobody Wants To Study It Anymore)
The 2015 report also observes that America’s professors who are experts on Russia are retiring in droves and there are very few new experts to replace them. Thus, the study of Russia is in danger of dying off on U.S. campuses.
A single year of tuition, fees and room and board at Johns Hopkins costs $67,942.