Though it looks like Georgetown will soon be setting up shop in the Middle East, the University is not making new progress on the home campus in the Arabic Department. Employer demand and student interest in Arabic are both high, but the department is barely treading water and doesn't have enough funding to keep up with demand. The University should be sure to support the Department in every way it can.
According to the Modern Language Association, national enrollment in Arabic language courses nearly doubled between 1998 and 2002, and enrollment in Arabic at Georgetown is higher than at other institutions, up 300 percent from 2001. This national increase is, of course, largely in reaction to the events of Sept. 11, the war on terror and the critical shortage of Americans fluent in Arabic, but it is especially noticeable at Georgetown because of our emphasis on international affairs.
We are already known as one of the top institutions for international relations and diplomacy. Strengthening the Arabic Department would enhance this image and allow more students to become proficient in an increasingly important language. Georgetown has the potential to become one of the leading institutions in this new trend, if only it would capitalize on this opportunity.
According to Campus Watch, a website which monitors Middle Eastern studies programs, Georgetown is the only university in the nation's capital that offers a major in Arabic, let alone a masters or a doctorate. This is why the Center for Advanced Proficiency in Arabic, the first year-long intensive Arabic program in the United States, is located at Georgetown. Though CAPA is supported by the National Security Initiative Education Program, not the University itself, and is separate from the Arabic Department, the addition of CAPA to the campus increases Georgetown's investment in Arabic academics. Georgetown should foster this image and do what it can to increase its funding.
No one questions that the University does not have all of the funding that it would like, nor its concern or dedication to the Arabic Department. This is evidenced by its recent authorization of the search for a new Arabic professor and the supportive comments of Department Chair Ahmed Dallal. Additionally, recent increases in funding should allow the Arabic department to maintain current levels of enrollment. Arabic is becoming a language central to international affairs and the need for fluent speakers will undoubtedly continue to grow. The University should to take whatever steps are necessary to insure that the Arabic Department is as strong as possible. Georgetown should seize this opportunity to increase its already strong leadership in an important field.