When students voiced concerns about Marquette's limited language offerings at last week's forum with University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild, we experienced déjà vu.
Reviewing comments made at previous forums confirmed our suspicion that we have heard much of this before. Language course offerings were discussed in detail at the spring 2007 forum, and last year the Marquette Student Government Senate made a recommendation to the administration that the university offer Mandarin Chinese and Arabic language courses.
At the forum, Wild said the administration has made progress on the recommendation, citing a meeting with one professor who could teach Mandarin Chinese as evidence of a serious effort.
It is time the university actually moves forward on an issue that is clearly important to students. Marquette's language offerings are lacking. Language is an increasingly necessary asset in order to ensure students are competitive hires after graduation. Monster Jobs calls learning a second language a "first-rate investment," and Mandarin Chinese and Arabic are among the world's most commonly spoken languages.
Specific Arabic and Chinese courses are listed in the 2008-'09 bulletin, and two sections of Chinese 1: Elementary Chinese are currently being offered. But officials in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature have said the university is still searching for professors to teach Arabic language classes. The university needs to be clear about what courses are available to students. Listing courses that don't currently exist confuses students and makes Marquette's language curriculum appear more robust than it is.
Students who turn elsewhere for language courses have scant opportunity. While Arabic and Mandarin Chinese are both offered at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, they come with a hefty price tag. An introductory Arabic or Chinese course costs $3,387 for out-of-state students.
Marquette should pursue a partnership with UW-Milwaukee that would allow students to take language courses there, while offering students from UW-Milwaukee access to courses in Catholic theology or others that Marquette offers. Such an arrangement currently exists between Marquette and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design for art and history classes.
While we wish we could claim this idea as our own, the administration actually brought up the plan back in spring 2007. Former Provost Madeline Wake assured students at the forum that year that plans were in the works to collaborate with other universities to give Marquette students more opportunities to study language. She also suggested video conferencing with distant universities to expand these opportunities.
Lack of language courses is something that has been talked about a great deal. It is time the university recognizes students' concerns and truly moves forward on this important issue. Bilingualism is vital for young professionals. By failing to provide these opportunities to students, Marquette is making its students — and the university — less competitive.