Hey CHASS, about your language requirement

Courtesy of Columbia University
Courtesy of Columbia University

As a former CHASS student, there’s one requirement I wished the college changed before I finished up my last class in winter quarter — a requirement that was nothing but a source of frustration for many students.

Folks, I’m talking about CHASS’s four quarters of a foreign language requirement.

Currently, UCR has a campaign called “Finish in Four,” advocating for students to complete their undergraduate education in four years despite the fact that only 19 percent of full-time students do so according to a 2014 study by Complete College America.

CHASS, do you know how hard it is to finish in four (and, as the campaign argues, with my diverse group of friends and exciting success) when I have to finish a series of classes that I can’t sign up for until I first take a placement test that I must pay for and is only available intermittently during the academic year, depending on the language? That, after I take the test, I may have to wait a quarter or two before I can finally start my language classes, because I may be a freshman with a crappy enrollment date and that first-level Spanish class I needed was already filled? And, for impacted languages like Spanish, my luck with enrollment may falter again even when I get to the higher language levels? Did you consider I may not be able to sign up for my other classes, because the Japanese class I need takes up four hours on four separate days, easily conflicting with other classes I could take?

Also, sorry not sorry for all the metaphorical questions. But they’re questions that at one time or another have been asked by CHASS students, especially when they’re frustrated that the only reason their graduation date is delayed is because they couldn’t complete the last level of their language requirement.

Look CHASS, I get it. You want to show that your students “are gaining knowledge and developing skills that prepare them for the increasing globalization of the world.” Learning another language is a great way to do so as it increases communication between various people.

Yet, there are other ways to have your students commit to a globalized education.

Instead of putting a stress on languages, have students take more classes where they can learn about the world or create cultural exchange programs with international students to supplement the language requirement. It’s hard to become globalized when the class that is trying to foster those aforementioned “skills” only results in you trying to cram everything, because you don’t have time to consistently study for the four-times-a-week class along with your upper division courses. In addition, learning a language does not necessarily mean you are gaining a global perspective. It’s how one uses the language, such as through interactions with people who speak it, that enables one to gain such a perspective, which language classes are not always able to incorporate.

Realistically, creating more classes while taking away the language requirement is not a viable option due to the time and planning the creation of new classes would require. Instead, lowering the language requirement to three quarters instead of four would be the best course of action CHASS could take.

With other UC campuses like UC Davis’ College of Letters and Science and UC Los Angeles’ College of Letters and Science already requiring students to take only three quarters of a language, this change would not be radical. If anything, it may help alleviate enrollment issues for students. With lecturers or professors not having to teach as many fourth-level classes, they can focus on adding more lower level language classes to meet the high demand.

If UCR is going to keep toting campaigns with hashtags like “#finishin4,” then they better consider more options beyond telling students to go to the Academic Resource Center or meet with their advisors. They need to reconsider the requirements that are delaying students’ graduation — and CHASS’s time-consuming language requirement is a start.

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