Thursday, November 18, 2010

SMU considers language requirement

By Emma Stenzel
Cardinal Staff

Saint Mary’s University’s General Education Curriculum Committee (GECC) is currently researching the possibility of incorporating a language requirement into the school’s general education curriculum.

Dr. Roger Kugel, chair of the Chemistry Department, initially proposed that GECC look into the addition of a language requirement at a faculty meeting in August.

The faculty approved his proposal, and GECC began its process of researching a language requirement early in September.

Kugel said he had been curious as to why SMU is one of the two private colleges in Minnesota that does not require its students to study a language, which he considers to be a valuable experience.

“We live in an increasingly shrinking world, and we are expected to communicate with others,” said Kugel.

GECC, which is, according to the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota College Faculty Handbook, a faculty committee that “works to provide a high quality liberal education experience for students,” has already made great progress in its research. Dr. Scott Sorvaag, chair of GECC, said the committee has received information from a variety of sources, including the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, the Department of Admissions, SMU freshmen surveys and other Minnesota private colleges and institutions.

Sorvaag said that although GECC has not yet determined if SMU should add a language requirement, the committee has noted that such a requirement is related to a wider general education reform. GECC decided to further its study by combining the research conducted for the possible language requirement with that for general education revision, said Sorvaag.

Sorvaag and Kugel emphasized that student opinion is very important to consider before any changes to the curriculum are made. SMU students can offer helpful input on whether or not a language should be required, as they would represent both the positive and negative aspects of requiring students to study a language.

“The change would directly affect the students, so we need their input before voting,” said Kugel.
Ali Kremer, president of Student Senate, feels it is important to become a cultured member of the world, but worries how a language requirement would affect the rest of the general education curriculum.

“Some people’s schedules are already crammed in with all the other general requirements, so adding a language requirement could hinder them even more,” said Kremer.

Dr. Dorothy Diehl, chair of the Language Department, agrees that adding another course requirement to the curriculum could hold some students back, but still feels language is too valuable a skill to ignore.

“The general education program is quite extensive, and we don’t want to put too much on [the students] by adding language, but if we think it will benefit students in the future, it is something we need to do,” said Diehl.

Student Senate’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, Cullen Gibbons, said he is not concerned about the effects of an additional language course and is in favor of adding the requirement to the curriculum.

“It would be a good idea because it’s in line with the university, as it is a liberal arts school,” said Gibbons. “A language requirement would call people to a greater knowledge of the world,” he said.

“We would be doing the students a disservice if we don’t require they study a language,” said Diehl. “We want students to become members of the global community, and we need to give them the opportunity to not only learn another language, but learn about different cultures and different perspectives.”

SMU offers several courses that would fulfill the possible language requirement, including Spanish, French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. However, Kugel said that American Sign Language, Java Computer Language, Semaphore and Symbolic Logic could also fulfill the requirement. He added that students who have taken a language course during high school would be able to test out of taking a language course at SMU.

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