Eliminating MA in ESL will reduce diversity

Fewer international students will have the help they need for college.

by Cassandra Sundaram

Diversity can be measured in numerous ways: economic backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc. The University of Minnesota is no different from other Big Ten schools in proclaiming diversity a priority, but with the recent cancellation of the MasterâÄôs in ESL program, are we taking a step backward? A Dec. 2 New York Times article noted the Obama administrationâÄôs push for diversity in public colleges and universities. The administration advocates âÄúcreativityâÄù in selecting applicants and, unlike the Bush-era interpretations of affirmative action, offers looser guidelines and more âÄúwiggle roomâÄù about factors âÄî including race âÄî in the selection process. If the White House is advising innovation in recruiting a more diverse student body, why are we cutting programs that will inherently constrain the ability of international students to succeed at our institution? Eliminating this program will create a shortage of teachers trained to teach English as a second language at the university level. Given that graduates of this program âÄî the only program statewide that prepared graduates to teach college level English âÄî often end up teaching in Minnesota, this issue affects the entire state. On Nov. 23, the Minnesota Daily reported that without the educational benefit these teachers provide to international students, many of them will find academic achievement much more challenging and time to graduation would likely increase. Cutting this program conflicts not only with guidelines the Obama administration has proposed, but also contradicts our institutional goals. According to the admissions webpage, âÄúEnrolling an academically qualified, diverse student body is essential to the University of MinnesotaâÄôs mission. The academic and social environment of our campus is greatly enhanced by diversity.âÄù The abandonment of the ESL program was not a âÄúcreativeâÄù choice; instead, it shows the administration is only paying lip-service to diversity.