The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate earlier this month passed a resolution (19-1-2) encouraging the administration to add Hindi courses to the Department of German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literatures.
Community Representative for the Asian-American Center William Huang submitted the resolution as a response to the fall 2011 Senate survey results, which showed that 20 percent of over 1,100 respondents would take Hindi or Urdu if available as a foreign language.
Clauses in the resolution recognize Hindi as the most widely spoken language in South Asia, a region of increasing security and economic interest, and cite the Tufts Vision Statement to “cultivate in our students an understanding of the citizens and cultures of the world.”
“We realized there was a lack of South Asian language representation,” Huang, a senior, said. “Tufts prides itself on being a school of international relations, and we offer a South Asian and Middle East sub-concentration, but the only way to fill a language requirement in that sub-concentration is taking Arabic. I didn’t think it was fair because it’s South Asia and the Middle East. So for equal representation and to satisfy the student interest, we should offer Hindi.”
Though Hindi has previously been offered in the Experimental College (ExCollege), Huang feels that the Hindi course is not offered on a regular enough basis.
Conversational Hindi was taught last spring at the ExCollege by visiting professor Harriotte Hurie Ranvig. Prior to that, Hindi was last offered in the ExCollege in the fall of 2005. Hindi is not offered this semester.
Sophomore Senator Joe Thibodeau, chair of the Culture, Ethnicity, and Community Affairs Committee, believes that Hindi is an important language and that many Tufts students want to learn it.
“It’s something that a lot of people in the Asian-American community have been organizing around and asking for a while,” Thibodeau said. “We asked [in the survey] about other languages as well — Korean, Farsi and a couple others — but Hindi got the most results.”
Senior Senator Jonathan Danzig believes Hindi would be a valuable addition to the course offerings at Tufts but abstained from voting due to concerns about logistics and funding.
“There was no discussion of how many faculty would be hired, how much money would go into this program, where in Olin [Hall] it would fit,” Danzig said.
Senior Senator Tim Lesinski, the only vote against the resolution, had similar concerns.
“I didn’t want to vote for anything that would raise tuition for the students,” Lesinski said. “Another concern that wasn’t really addressed was with the logistics of it.”
Lesinski believes Hindi is not currently offered because there is not sufficient space in Olin, and offering Hindi through the ExCollege would pose less of a burden to the administration.
Courses offered at the ExCollege are first proposed by someone outside the Tufts community before undergoing a complicated evaluative process, according to Director of the Experimental College Robyn Gittleman.
“We wait for a course to be proposed, and then we vote on it if it gets good reviews from both the traditional departments and the interviewing committee,” she said.
Forty-one students showed up to the first meeting of the ExCollege Conversational Hindi course offered last spring, which was later capped at 21 students.
According to Huang, student demand was the reason the resolution passed by such a large margin.
Huang believes Tufts students have a significant interest in Indian culture, pointing to the popularity of Indian dance groups such as Tufts Garba and Tufts Bhangra.
Lesinski believes the response of the administration moving forward depends on the feasibility of the proposal and the amount of student support for it.
Huang looks to the Africana studies movement as an example of what he hopes will be accomplished with Hindi.
“The Africana studies movement has been going on a long time,” he said. “Then Senate passed a resolution, and momentum built up for that.”
Thibodeau also believes the next step for the administration is to become involved and evaluate what language courses are offered at Tufts.
“It is the job of the Senate to continuously reiterate that we passed this resolution and that this is something the student body wants,” he said. “I think that the combined efforts of the Senate and the grassroots-organized students can be something that’s really powerful.”