A growing number of students are studying Arabic, which is offered through the African American & African Studies Program. For a course many students take interest in, it’s a bit odd that there is no Arabic program.
Arabic is spoken more than German, French, Russian, Hebrew, Italian, Scandinavian languages and Finnish, all of which have programs with major degrees offered through the University.
In general, there appears to be a disregard for studies in Arabic, the Middle East and Islam.
The University offers many regional studies, but students wanting to study the Middle East only can select the region as a thematic focus under cultural studies and comparative literature or global studies. Both studies are great, but that’s not to say there should be no Middle Eastern studies department. The first step is perhaps an Arabic studies program. There is a necessity for Arabic speakers in this country. Very few workers in the State Department speak Arabic despite the reality that there is heavy tension between the United States and the Middle East. It also would help increase diversity on campus. There is also a need for Arabic speakers in the field of journalism. Not many American journalists are educated in other languages compared with European journalists. This makes American reporters not only out of touch with the people they report on, but it also prevents them from interacting with people when they engage in foreign correspondence.
Many languages simply are taught because the University applies for grants and presents a case arguing that it really needs this language. Arguably, Arabic is needed. In light of the currently sociopolitical mess in our world, including poor diplomacy, mistranslations and poor journalism, the lack of emphasis on Arabic contributes to the misunderstanding that exists of Arabs, Middle Easterners and Muslims.
University President Bob Bruininks would be wise to include an Arabic program initiative in the realignment initiative.