The Australian Society for French Studies strongly opposes the proposal from the Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka to eliminate the research component from the two remaining academic staff roles in the French area. Part of alarming broader plans to shutter multiple language programs entirely, this proposal would downgrade the French Program from a vibrant research-and-teaching team to teaching-only contracts. Under these changes, our colleagues’ workloads would no longer include time dedicated to research, and research would not be recognised in their future promotion and career progression. As a result, they would no longer be eligible for research grants or other related benefits, such as research and study leave. The ASFS greatly values our colleagues around the world who choose to pursue teaching-focused paths by choice, but resists the closure of all research in French at Victoria and the forced transition of existing research-and-teaching colleagues’ contracts.
This proposal is dismaying for the ASFS and its members across Australia, New Zealand and the world, particularly at this point in time. Just months ago, in December 2022, for the first time in history the ASFS Conference was held in Aotearoa New Zealand, thanks to the custodianship and expertise of the Te Herenga Waka French team: Dr Yuri Cerqueira dos Anjos, Dr Charles Rice-Davis and Associate Professor Jean Anderson. The brilliant ‘Movement/s’ conference brought together researchers from across the Australia-Pacific region, including keynotes from our francophone partners in the South Pacific and Victoria’s own former researcher Associate Professor Anderson. Not only has the conference directly generated high quality, peer-reviewed publications in the Australian Journal of French Studies, under the editorial leadership of Victoria’s French Studies scholars but, perhaps more importantly, the conference was an illuminating moment for many non-NZ based researchers to discover the decolonial and innovative research coming out of Aotearoa NZ universities, and the Victoria University of Wellington French Program in particular.
As so many of our members know and practice, research-led teaching is crucial to our discipline. It equips us to enrich our students’ understanding of the francophone world and their place in it, and to guide our students in their postgraduate studies and future careers. The proposed changes would not only impact our immediate colleagues’ careers and their ability to continue to contribute to our research discipline, but would greatly disadvantage Victoria University of Wellington’s current and future students. This proposal is effectively a threat to future growth of French Studies nationally and internationally.
We call on the University Executive to recognise the wide-ranging contributions of the French staff to the University’s research profile, the international discipline of French Studies and the future prospects of Te Herenga Waka students.
ASFS members wishing to voice their opposition individually can also write to TransitionHub@vuw.ac.nz or submit online feedback via this form: https://vuw.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6Ya9tYGWyfJwZsq.