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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

English Language Institute finds future in flux

The+English+Language+Institute+teaches+students+how+to+be+proficient+in+the+language%2C+as+well+as+other+practical+skills+about+Americanculture.
Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker

The English Language Institute teaches students how to be proficient in the language, as well as other practical skills about American

culture.

For more than 40 years, the English Language Institute has provided students with resources to become proficient in English. However, after a review from the university, ELI finds its future uncertain.
Formed in 1966, ELI has provided services ranging from English proficiency courses to courses focusing on American culture. In May of 2016, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts Pamela Matthews informed ELI she was going to close the English-intensive part of ELI.
“She gave us one year notice, so we would all be gone at the end of this May — the whole faculty,” said interim director and lecturer Mike Downey. “She said that the part that didn’t fit the university mission, as she put it, is that we have always, in order to serve university students, we’ve always had a way of paying for ourselves, by bringing in students who are taking the English language only classes.”
Downey said most of the students who take these courses are not enrolled in the university, but they are trying to be admitted, and need to pass an English proficiency test.
“They pay the same fees as university students, they have the same privileges, and once they complete our courses, they can apply to the university, and many of them do, although a lot of them end up elsewhere,” Downey said. “That’s the part the dean wants to close, and did. So that meant we are no longer essentially funding ourselves. That money paid to keep the program going.”
In an emailed statement, Matthews said despite ELI shutting down, students who need resources in English proficiency will still be serviced.
“At a time when universities, including Texas A&M, are thinking strategically about how best to serve their students, ELI had evolved into a program that provided intensive language training primarily to individuals who were not Texas A&M’s students, but were here only to study the English language,” Matthews said.
Matthews said there is work being done to find a solution that is as agreeable as possible.
“Many individuals from various offices on campus are working to find the best structure and location for language learning services to our international students. Our primary responsibility is to help them thrive as Aggies. In times of constrained resources, we must be strategic about using those resources wisely to help TAMU’s students succeed,” Matthews said.
Many students who use the services ELI offers are graduate students, who will end up teaching courses and labs. Downey said if the services they offer are cut, the quality of the instruction those graduate students can offer would suffer.
Lecturer Cathryn McIntyre said she felt they were given several vague reasons for the shutdown.
McIntyre said throughout the whole process, communication from the university was minimal at best.
“I reached out, personally. I sent two letters to [Dean Matthews], but I don’t know if she read them. My friend, who was terminated in May [2016], reached out including visits, letters to the president and the dean. She had meetings and she also felt like it was very vague,” McIntyre said. “I do not know if there is any other reason other than money for the university for shutting us down. Maybe. Facts are completely different from how you feel.”
McIntyre said the university asked ELI to propose a model for a reworked ELI.
“We have proposed it. But we have yet to hear anything back, so we don’t know if we will be around — it’s all in limbo,” McIntyre said.
Lecturer Virginia West said she sees no reason for ELI to be shut down, as it provides a much-needed service to the university.
“Our former students are doing all sorts of things, including working as government ministers in other countries and doing groundbreaking research in interesting fields,” West said. “Many faculty are shaking their heads about this — it makes no sense.  They know non-native speakers need support and undergrads need articulate speakers.”
ELI also offers classes on American culture and its laws. McIntyre recalled an instance where a student had learned when it was appropriate to dial 911 in class, and had made the life-saving call himself later on in the semester.
“It’s not research — its practical application. It can save a life,” McIntyre said. “[The student] said he woke up in pain and called 911, and they got him to the hospital. He had appendicitis, and would have died if he hadn’t called. It’s practical application of culture.”
McIntyre said the university should know about the other services, as all the information is on its website. Matthews said the program will change, but the students will still received resources.
“ELI as we have known it for 50 years will not be the same after May 2017, but our students will receive the services they need by professionals who are qualified to provide those services,” Matthews wrote. “The staff and instructors in ELI were informed approximately one year ago of all of the above.”
Downey and McIntyre both said the Office of the Provost was also involved in the closure of ELI. The Office of the Provost was unavailable to comment.
Downey said as of now, the total status and future of ELI is unknown, but hopes they are able to remain in some form.

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