Starting next semester, Stony Brook University will no longer offer courses in speech and language pathology (SLP).
The SLP courses were designed for linguistics students interested in studying communication diseases and disorders. According to an email from Linguistics Undergraduate Program Director, José Elías-Ulloa, 29 of the 126 undergraduate linguistics majors were on the unofficial SLP track.
On March 27, Linguistics Department Chair Richard Larson received a letter from the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Sacha Kopp informing him that Visiting Assistant Professor Joseph Hoffman — the only professor in the program qualified to teach SLP courses — would not be reappointed at the end of his contract in August.
“There was no prior discussion of it, there was no consultation of the department, there was no, ‘what can we do for your students?’ They just said ‘no more,’” Larson said.
Hoffman was informed by his chair the next day.
“My first thought was how can they be doing this to the students in this department?” he said.
“I’ve had other opportunities to teach at other universities but Stony Brook has really been my home since 2012. The student interest and the quality of the student work and just their drive for this field is so amazing. To kind of create this program from the ground up and see what the students have done with it have been amazing.”
Although these courses are not required for linguistics majors, students interested in pursuing a career in SLP need the classes in order to fulfill requirements for graduate programs in the field.
“I do know that already my students have spoken about seeking transferring to other universities,” Hoffman said.
Students who decide to stay will need to enroll in post-baccalaureate programs in order to fulfill the requirements needed for graduate school.
“Not only is it a financial burden, but it also changes the course of their lives,” Hoffman said.
This is the case for senior linguistics major and health, medicine, and society minor Irene Constantinidis, who is set to graduate in the fall.
“I was staying here for these classes. I was done with the major,” Constantinidis said. “The fact that they’re going to terminate this particular professor when he’s the only one who can help us in this area is kind of harsh and they’re not even looking to replace him.”
With the support of her department, Constantinidis started an online petition, which currently has around 1,200 signatures and several comments.
“Prof. Hoffman was pivotal in my education as a Stony Brook student. His passion is inspiring, his genuine care of students and the knowledge, experience, and advice offered to students is irreplaceable,” Cara Behar, a former Stony Brook student, wrote.
Larson included some of the comments from the petition in a letter he wrote to Provost Michael Bernstein, asking him to reconsider the College of Arts and Sciences’ decision.
“When you have accomplished teachers who have a really really good record of research, you don’t usually do this to them, you try to reward it,” Larson said. “But that doesn’t seem to be the current thinking in the college of Arts and Sciences right now. They’re very very money focused. Their sights are about five inches down the road and not five miles.”