SGA statement on world language requirement

Guest Column by Alexis ZhitomiSGA President


Alexis Zhitomi, junior, and SGA President

Dear SCSU Community,

The Student Government Association is the official representative body and the voice of SCSU’s 7,000 plus undergraduate students and is entrusted to represent the best interests of their constituencies. SGA acts as a liaison between students, SCSU’s administration and
faculty, while serving as a channel for conveying the communal values and needs of an increasingly broad range of students. For years, we have consistently heard from students about issues regarding the Liberal Education Program (LEP) and how it impacts
their success. We have been working diligently to insert ourselves into conversations with faculty and staff to express those concerns. In talking with students, one issue that is consistently raised is the overreaching world language requirement. After comprehensive research and many indepth conversations with faculty, staff and students, we have concluded that we are advocating for the world language tier requirement to be modified to: three years of the same language in high school with a grade of C or better; or level 101 at SCSU.

Rationale: WORLD LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT: SGA has spent the better part of two years talking about the language requirement, conducting our assessment of its impact on student success, and benchmarking requirements of other institutions. SGA’s boards have completed in-depth research about our sister institutions’ policies regarding the world language requirement, and found that they have similar requirements to each other, which greatly differs from ours.

At our sister CSU’s, the current policy is a requirement of at least three years of the same language in high school with a C average or better, or two semesters of the same language in college.

In the fall of 2017, Southern modified the world language requirement for transfer students, which allowed transfer students coming in with 60 or more transfer credits or an associate’s degree, to be exempt from this requirement. We know this is helping transfer students tremendously, but this opens the conversation on why transfer students are not held to the same standards as our native students. We are aware that the New England Commission of Higher Education considers the rationale behind university academic decisions. In light of this, SGA requests a copy of the data and rationale that will be submitted to NECHE to justify the change for transfer students, or any documentation/minutes of the conversations that occurred in the Undergraduate Curriculum Forum (UCF) or Faculty Senate in this regard.

GRADUATION AND RETENTION: SGA has significant concerns on how the language requirement may impact our graduation and retention rates. We have heard personal stories of students who chose not to come to Southern, students who have not returned, and students that were forced to extend their time at the university specifically because of the language requirement. We researched the six-year graduation rates of the three other CSU’s and the results are disheartening:
• Central- 54%
• Eastern- 52%
• Southern- 48%
• Western- 44%
As you can see, we rank third out of the four sister universities, which is not a place that we want to see our university. Since we have heard directly from students that the language requirement is a part of the problem, we ask for a copy of the data or research that shows how the language requirement is working and aiding in student success.

STUDENT FORUM: Student Government held a forum on March 6th focused on asking whether students felt the language requirement and LEP is an issue worth advocating for. Here are highlights of what students said:
• If students aren’t using their language, they are simply losing it.
• The requirements are “holding everybody back from graduating”.
• The language requirement feels like a “money-making scheme” If I already know a second language, I have to pay to prove that I know it by taking the STAMP test or paying for the classes.
• Students don’t need three levels of a language, we just need basic communication- ex: “Hello, how are you?”
• The material doesn’t correlate from the 100, 101, to 200 level courses.
• The language requirement is not valuable to my major, mastering a language is only important for certain majors/ disciplines.
• Our requirements are higher than many other universities, especially other CSUs.
• Language courses fill up too quickly.
• The class times for language courses are difficult to build a schedule around.

We believe that the overall sentiment from the forum is what SGA has been advocating for; the world language requirement is impeding student success the way it stands.

We believe that it is not our responsibility to collect data to show whether a program is working. It is your role as faculty and administrators to do that. Our role is to share stories, advocate for our academic rights, and promote success to graduation. We understand that there are no quick solutions to these issues, but we are discouraged that the conversations around the world language requirement have seemed to stop. We ask that this issue become one of the top priorities for LEPC and UCF to address. SGA prides itself on our great relationship with faculty, staff and administration and we hope that you will be partners with us to find solutions to ultimately achieve our common goal of making Southern an even better institution.

Thank you very much for listening to your student’s voices and concerns. Please feel free to reach out to Student Government if there are any questions or comments. We appreciate your help as we work to provide the best Southern experience to each one of our students.

Sincerely, Alexis Zhitomi

Photo Credit: August Pelliccio

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