Save Chinese and Arabic Programs at St. Edward's University

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Although there has been no official announcement, the St. Edward’s University Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures is considering removing the Chinese and Arabic language programs. This disappointing news comes after the SEU Teacher Education Major/Minor, entire Music Department/Music Minor, and 6 NCAA sports programs were cut, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the university decides to remove these two languages, many more students will be impacted by the decreasing number of academic programs and opportunities. Chinese and Arabic are the 1st and 4th most spoken languages in the world, with 1.2 billion speakers and 221 million speakers respectively. Availability of language classes is already extremely limited to the Romance languages in middle school and high school. Therefore, as a university that prides itself in promoting inclusivity and diversity, internationally relevant languages like Chinese and Arabic should be offered. Enrollment for both programs has decreased this year, possibly because both languages require immense focus and are difficult to learn online/remotely. SEU should not cut these programs because enrollment will likely increase when in-person classes resume. The purpose of this petition is to promote the continuation of St. Edward’s University’s Chinese and Arabic language programs, while discussions are being held at the department level.  

More About Chinese Courses and Chinese Club: 

Students enrolled in Chinese class not only study the language, but also get immersed in the culture. For example, students watch Chinese dramas for some homework assignments to aid with comprehension and real-life conversations. The current professor makes an effort to work with students 1 on 1, which allows students to have quality support and guidance. The language professor also moderates the SEU Chinese Club, which provides cultural experiences for the university community. From celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival to Dumpling Making Lessons and “Chopstick Olympics,” the SEU Chinese Club has created a welcoming space for all students to learn about Chinese culture. The club is also known for its annual Lunar New Year celebration in the Mabee Ballrooms, which has attracted 80+ attendees with traditional dance/singing performances, educational skits / presentations by SEU Chinese class students, and catered Chinese food. Discontinuing the Chinese language program, and indirectly the Chinese Club, would be a disservice to the diverse and global environment that SEU promotes. 

More About Arabic Courses: 

Learning Arabic with Dr. Aman is more than learning how to say “as salamu ‘alaykum” when you are greeting others, or “shukran” to show appreciation and/or gratitude. In Arabic class, students also learn about the values that matter to the Arabs, values such as hospitality, dignity and honor. Arabic is one of the languages that is in high demand with businesses, secret services in the U.S. intelligence, foreign services and policies, education, and journalism. Moreover, a part of SEU’s mission is to “encourage individuals to confront the critical issues of seek justice and peace…[and to know one’s] responsibility to the world community.” It is no secret that like many minority groups in the U.S, the Arabs have been discriminated against, especially after 9/11. The fact that this language is offered shows that SEU is moving in the direction that suggests a change in mentality and a need for unity that the world needs. Thus, removing the Arabic language program would take away a gateway to learning about how to solve societal issues, promoting tolerance, and developing a clear understanding of Arab culture.

Written by: Jojo Kong, Antonio Cueva, Deborah Karpeh