Korean FSP proposal rejected

by Maura Henninger | 10/30/97 6:00am

The Humanities Division Council voted down a proposal to offer Korean classes at Dartmouth and to create a Korean Language Study Abroad program at a meeting earlier this term, though plans are currently in the works to try to develop a new Korean language program.

The original proposal had provided for a visiting professor to teach at the College during a Winter term, followed by a Language Study Abroad program in Korea during the Spring.

But Humanities Council Chair Barry Scherr said the program was voted down at the Sept. 24 meeting because it did not fit into the College's normal pattern of language study. Scherr said members of the Council had called into question the quality of such a program.

Hua-yuan Li Mowry, the chair of the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures -- under which the Korean program would fall -- said that the problem was not the lack of administrative support for the proposal. Rather, both faculty and administrators felt that the program, if undertaken, should be done correctly and researched thoroughly, Mowry said.

But this was little consolation to many, especially students who believed the program was close to being approved.

The process was so far along that two College professors even traveled to Korea over the summer to establish a relationship with a university there.

James Yu '99, the president of the Korean-American Students Association, described the disappointment and surprise of the College's Korean-American community when the initial proposal was voted down in September.

KASA, he said, had told its members during the summer of the distinct probability that a Korean language program would be available in the winter. Students were changing their Dartmouth Plans and first-year students were planning on enrolling in Korean.

"I'm pretty disappointed. But if they're strengthening the program, postponing it probably the best decision," said Richard Baek '01, who entered the College expecting to take Korean.

Other students, especially upperclassmen, reacted more vehemently to the decision.

"To put it nicely, it's ridiculous that they can't get it started. They keep saying that they want it, but string us along without showing us any results," said one junior -- speaking on the condition of anonymity -- who withdrew from a Spanish LSA in anticipation of going to Korea in the spring.

"It's outrageous," added Steve Oh '99.

Despite the fact Korean students comprise the largest minority group on campus, the College is the only school in the Ivy League which does not offer Korean language study.

But Yu points out that administration and faculty are working hard for the establishment of a program and are receiving the full support of KASA and the student-led Korean Language Task Force -- a branch of KASA which has worked with faculty and administration to implement a Korean language program.

"Sure there are roadblocks with something like this. We just don't want them to get caught up in the logistics of the situation and forget there are real students waiting," Yu said.

Though the first proposal was shot down, DAMELL is currently drafting a new proposal that would create a new three-year program starting next fall.

The new program would install a visiting professor, but would not feature an LSA. Such a program, according to Scherr, would run on a trial basis and gauge student interest before a more permanent program is established.

At one of the two upcoming meetings of the Humanities Divisional Council, in November and December, the new proposal will be evaluated. If it passes at that level, the Committee on Instruction would have to give the program its final seal of approval.

KASA Vice President Yoona Park '99, one of a number of students who met with Scherr last Friday to discuss the new proposal, said that while Scherr has lent much support to the effort, he stressed that different departments have different needs in creating a new program.

"There's a lot of concern about the quality of such a program. For example, while the administration might approve a more temporary program, DAMELL might not because it wants to preserve its programs' reputation," Park said.

The main concern for students in the KLTF, as well as in KASA, is to let the faculty and administration know that there is a demand for the program, and not just from Korean students.

Students aren't the only ones concerned about the future of the program. Several faculty have voiced their opinions on the issue.

Government Professor David Kang, one of the program's major proponents, stressed the importance of Korea due to the economic growth now centered in Asia where a third of U.S. trade goes.

English Professor Josna Rege said the Korean language is a starting point for delving deeper into Korean literature and culture -- especially for Korean-American students for whom it is important to learn the language in order to understand their backgrounds.

"For a number of Asian students I've worked with, they've said there is a large gap between them and their parents in terms of language and a loss of culture," Rege said.

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