SASA successfully lobbies for Hindi class at College

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November 18, 2008

1:05 AM

The College of William and Mary will soon take the first step toward bringing a new language to campus: Hindi.

Pending a vote tonight by the Student Assembly senate to provide the final $500 necessary, there will be a Hindi course taught at the College this spring. The funding, when added to grants from the Charles Center, the dean of Arts and Sciences office and the Office of Student Volunteer Services, will allow Sunita Sharma, a professor from Virginia Commonwealth University, to teach a primer course at the College on Hindi linguistics, alphabet and culture. Upon passage, the class will be posted on Banner this week.

The College already offers a variety of courses that focus on different cultures and languages. Students can concentrate in African, East Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, European or Russian studies. There is a strong movement to add South Asian studies to that list.

The long process of starting a course in Hindi began when the South Asian Students Association assessed the potential of such a program at the College.

“Arabic, for example, is a wildly popular program here, which just shows that there is a huge interest in cultural learning,” SA Sen. Brittany Fallon ’11 said.

The SA has been working closely with SASA to finance the undertaking. Fallon also noted the popularity of SASA-sponsored events.

SASA Vice President Sravya Yeleswarapu ’10 agreed.

“Basically we had a lot of students wondering if we could open up a South Asian major, and there have always been a lot of people wanting to study abroad in India,” Yeleswarapu said. “We started there, but there was no language or cultural class to complement it.”

The process of introducing a new course, however, is not simple.

“In order to go ahead and really convince the administration that this was necessary, we had to look around for a structure that was possible and feasible,” Yeleswarapu said.

Although it was suggested that the subject be taught in a club or organizational setting, the association wanted to start something sustainable that could be taken over by the administration once the current executive board of SASA graduated.

Yeleswarapu explained that this is due to their long-term plan, which is to have a complete South Asian studies program.

SASA believes that more exposure to South Asian studies would benefit the College community. The University of Virginia, James Madison University and Georgetown University all currently offer South Asian studies classes.

“Other colleges and universities have a Hindi program to make sure students are as competitive as they can be when they go into [the] job market or go abroad,” Yeleswarapu said. “The State Department has named Hindi as one of the critical languages to learn, and it is applicable no matter what field you are in.”
Fallon believes that at the base of the program, however, is the goal of promoting unity and awareness at the College.

“This would be a wonderful way for William and Mary to increase its diversity, not only in understanding cultures that are well established, but in embracing ones that are still expanding as well,” Fallon said.

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