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From the President

A Message from MLA President Sidonie Smith

Dear Colleagues,

As the 2010 president of the Modern Language Association, I welcome you to the MLA Web site.

Whether a member of the association or visitor to the site, you might be interested in knowing something about this professional organization. With over thirty thousand members, the MLA is a diverse and geographically dispersed organization. While most of our members are from the United States and Canada, we have members from over a hundred countries. We work at different kinds of institutions. Our scholarly and teaching interests are varied, as is evident from the hundreds of sessions at our annual convention. And our concerns are varied as well. This heterogeneity enlivens our debates and clarifies our purposes.

As faculty members, graduate students, and independent scholars, we face formidable challenges. Our colleges and universities are reeling from the severity of budget cuts. Our members have seen reductions in support. Some of us have been placed on furloughs. Others of us have been let go as colleges and universities contract faculty ranks. We are deeply concerned about the future of the tenure system; the declining job prospects for graduate students; the shifting balance of tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members; the working conditions for contingent faculty members; and the on-again, off-again commitment of our institutions to language programs. We are also challenged by new opportunities and trends, especially the explosion in digital humanities.

The economic crisis and the erosion of state and private support for higher education threaten our professional work and the international reputation our institutions have for excellence, accessibility, and a diversity of programs. In these times the MLA has much work to do. We know that the reports we produce have a significant impact on higher education and public debate. Last year we published an online tool kit with information and recommendations related to staffing patterns to assist members advocating better working conditions for contingent faculty members and an optimal balance of non-tenure-track and tenured or tenure-track faculty members. We also issued a report providing data on the associate professor rank. As chair of a task force on the associate professor rank in the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts at the University of Michigan, I benefited from that report as soon as it came off the press. In the years ahead, the MLA will focus on advocacy for language programs and on graduate education at the master’s and doctoral levels. And there is always more to do. We must redouble our efforts to connect with teachers in K–12 institutions and our colleagues in tribal and community colleges. An active membership is vital to meeting these commitments.

My hope is that you’ll regularly check this Web site. Link up. Order a book. Get advice from a tool kit. Read up on convention news. Keep informed about developments in and perspectives on our profession. Signal your interest in serving on one of the MLA's many committees.

As MLA president, I need your guidance and advice during the year. This Web site is the central place where our conversation will take place. I invite you to contribute to the comment section following each of the presidential Newsletter columns. Or you can reach me at sasmith@mla.org or by mail at the Modern Language Association, 26 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10004-1789.

Join me here.

Best,
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President, Modern Language Association, 2010
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Sidonie Smith
2010–11 MLA President Sidonie Smith
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© 2014 Modern Language Association. Last updated 02/12/2014.