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Ohio State language, classics, science departments receive name changes

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The new names of several academic departments and degrees on campus add some clarity to the programs they describe, but some officials said the changes weren’t what they wanted.
Ohio State’s Board of Trustees approved the name changes April 6. The Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures will be called the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures. The Department of Greek and Latin will be referred to as the Department of Classics. Academic degrees formerly awarded by the School of Earth Sciences for geological sciences will be in earth sciences.
Helena Goscilo, professor and department chair in Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, said the name change in her department reflects the new direction of courses in the semester system.
“We’re developing more culture classes and literature is part of culture,” Goscilo said. “The label better reflects what we teach. It’s more accurate of what we do.”
Course changes for the semester system will also demonstrate an increased interest in working with other departments, she said.
Goscilo estimated that half of the semester courses have been revised and half are new.
Aside from reflecting programming changes within the department, the name change will make students more marketable, Goscilo said.
“People with Ph.D.s will be better candidates for jobs,” Goscilo said. “Employers like to see that they studied film, gender, cultures and so on. They needed a degree from a department that registers the fact they studied culture.”
The new name was decided by a majority vote, but Goscilo said she is not fully satisfied with the name.
“It’s too long. Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures is a mouthful, and I think it’s a bad choice,” she said. “I wanted Slavic Languages and Cultures.”
Brittany Cotrell, a graduate student in Slavic and East European Studies at OSU, obtained her undergraduate degree in Russian from the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures. She said the name change was needed in that department and is appropriate in length.
“It’s obnoxious to say, but it really is necessary to have all that,” Cotrell said. “This is what we do. This is what we’re good at … I think it’s good for perspective students because OSU offers more than language and literature.”
Working on the name change for two years at what Goscilo called a “snail” pace has been frustrating but worth the wait, she said.
“This is excellent. It’s taken too long, but it’s excellent in terms of accuracy,” Goscilo said.
The board’s decision to make the Department of Greek and Latin the Classics department marks a return to an old name. It was called the Department of Classics until 1996 when a Modern Greek program was added to the school and the department name changed to Greek and Latin, said Benjamin Acosta-Hughes, professor and chair of the department.
He said the name has needed changed since the mid-1990s.
“It wasn’t a final resolution – Greek and Latin is not a good name,” Acosta-Hughes said. “It sounds like Greek and Latin in high school. But we don’t do languages. It’s not accurate.”
Acosta-Hughes credited the consolidation of all languages to Hagerty Hall last summer as the impetus for changing back to Classics. He said that when the languages were brought together, faculty in his department realized their department did not fit and should make that clear.
The department name is more accurate, though Acosta-Hughes said it is not ideal, as Classics leaves out Modern Greek, leading to what he said was a “problem of categories” in how to include it.
He said the new name clarifies any confusion about the department’s focus on history, ancient science, mathematics and theater.
“We were the only school in the country with Greek and Latin. People would think there must be something missing in our department,” Acosta-Hughes said. “It’s an important PR change because it addresses issues of applicants from elsewhere asking if this is a language department or not.”
Acosta-Hughes said degrees have not changed, nor has much else.
“Nothing changes really,” he said. “This is not a change with a very large effect.”
The School of Earth Sciences, which emerged from the School of Geological Sciences, was established by the board on July 2006. Degrees that used to reflect the name of the old department will all reflect the new one, said Berry Lyons, professor and director of the department.
Lyons said faculty in the department waited until the quarter-to-semester conversion to change the name.
He said the new name is a more accurate description of course offerings.
“It more reflects the diversity of our activities,” Lyons said. “It’s an advantage in that regard. We have people studying oceans, satellites, looking at fossils, hydrology … There’s a wide breath of what we do.”
Students will see the new degree name on diplomas and transcripts, but Lyons said there are no major effects of the change. He also mirrored other department chairs in noting that the monetary cost to change names is minimal.


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