Letter to the Editor
As a concerned student who speaks multiple languages, I attended Dr. Bruce Horner’s presentation on the afternoon of January 20. Many of the questions that students asked were interesting because some were actually concerned about the change that they can create on campus. I was especially struck by SGA President Joseph Gearon’s question about how student organizations can raise awareness of multilinguality as a norm on campus. Since that moment, I’ve been wondering the same thing.
We can start by approaching students from underserved communities—such as second-language learners, out-of-state students, students from rural backgrounds, students of color, international students, and first- generation students—by building into our student life and academic programs acknowledgement of issues directly affecting these groups. For example, at one three-day leadership training, conducted last fall for student leaders across campus, strategies for responding to microagressions, gender bias, and cultural insensitivity—including language discrimination— were not addressed. How can student leaders lead without the coaching necessary to acknowledge that these behaviors occur inside and outside our organizations and to interrupt these behaviors? What message does forgetting these important aspects of training suggest about our institutional attitude toward the issues and those students most at risk?
While students and our leaders can begin to work together to create change, the fact remains, as Dr. Horner said, that most of the push has to come from the top—from the administration. How are we increasing faculty and staff attention on multilinguality? We’re not. Why? This isn’t about budgets, but about doing the right thing to help lots of students from diverse backgrounds—and all students.
There needs to be a full-time advocate that will be able to guide the conversation between the student and the professor when the student needs time for an assignment. There has to be training for professors, so they can know how to handle situations where the international student feels comfortable enough to talk to the professor about his/her concerns. There has to be a way where the professors acknowledge that each student has a different background and a complex understanding of the English language whether or not it is their first language. Each culture teaches English differently and each person learns it differently. This makes English a language always in translation. There cannot be one right way but multiple, always-changing ways.
What’s at stake? If we do not do these things how can we expect to create a diverse campus? Creating a diverse campus benefits us all because it allows students to learn not just about their own culture but others as well. This will give everyone on campus a sense of belonging whether they are from a diverse background or not. I encourage faculty and students to consider this option.