TCU Senate Education Committee looks to initiate new language minors

After conducting a survey earlier this month to gauge student interest in major and minor programs, the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate Education Committee is working to use survey results to advocate for the creation of new major and minor programs for undergraduate students.

According to Rati Srinivasan, chair of the Education Committee, areas emphasized in the 268 survey responses were language minor programs, the Cognitive and Brain Studies and Linguistics minor programs and the creation of a new urban studies major. 

TCU Senator Chris Leaverton has been leading the push for the creation of minors in both Spanish and French, which he said survey respondents emphasized as an academic priority.

The Department of Romance Languages does not currently offer minors in either Spanish or French for students in the School of Arts and Sciences. Special minor programs are available, however, for students in the School of Engineering, according to the department website. 

“I understand there would have to be some kinks worked out, but how I see it is that if you offer this, it would be a more viable option for some students who can’t maybe major in Spanish or can’t study abroad to get all those classes but still be able to get a Spanish or French component,” Leaverton, a first-year, said.

Srinivasan, a sophomore,
 noted that the committee has encountered more resistance than expected throughout the process of recommending these changes.

“It would seem that something that increases a student’s educational opportunities, while not seeming to be that much of a burden to particular departments, should be something that is much more easily accepted, but as we’ve figured out we’ve been met with a lot of pushback,” she said.

Pedro Ángel Palou, chair of the Department of Romance Languages, said that the department is open to working with the Education Committee on its initiatives.

Palou emphasized that he and the faculty of the Department of Romance Languages are willing to listen to what the Education Committee and what students are requesting.

“We work very close to student projects and student initiatives, and we are willing to hear and to work towards one of those initiatives, and if it’s the minor we will obviously start talking and thinking what will be the benefits, and the pros and the cons, because sometimes you don’t know the cons you just think, ‘I just want the minor,’ but you don’t know the cons,” he said.

Palou explained that a key first step is figuring out and defining what a minor program would look like in order to ensure that it has the necessary components of both culture and language. He outlined further steps he would like to take place if the committee continues to push for the creation of these minors.

“[Looking forward], we can see the creation first of a survey really trying to study if it’s just the interest of a group of students or the entire community, then [we need to ask] what does a minor involve and what type of minor will be suitable to a Tufts language-based education,” he said.

Palou explained that he believes the majors in Spanish and French are more worthwhile and a better path for students to take.

“I’m not discouraging the minor but I am trying to make a case now that you just need four more courses and you will be majoring and…it involves some intellectual effort [but] it’s just four courses more,” he said. “Then you will have a major, something that is really potent and strong from Tufts.”

While Palou encourages majoring in language programs, he noted that the discussion for minors is not off the table.

“I think that the most important path will be studying a major, but we’re willing to study and make a survey, for example, [to gauge interest in minors], but we need to do it on a larger scale, not because of the interest of two or three students,” he said.

For this reason, Srinivasan spoke about the importance of student feedback in getting these initiatives created.

“We’re still very much working on all of these things and gaining as much student feedback as possible,” Srinivasan said. “It’s very helpful for any students that respond to the ‘Two-Minute Thursday’ surveys because that data is very much looked at by us and very much presented to the administration when we have these meetings.”

She emphasized the significance in having students reaching out, commenting and speaking about their desires for possible minors.

“As senators, we are meant to speak on behalf of the student body and find educational opportunities that the student body wants,” she said. “So by using exactly their quotes and their voices along with all the selections they made, it’s a much better representation then just us going in and saying what we think.”

Leaverton also explained the importance of the student body voice in creating change.

“In defense of the various departments, they don’t know that things should be changed in the minds of the students unless students talk about it,” Leaverton said. “The more and more that [students speak up] the more that the faculty will be open to the idea. But if no one’s demanding it, then there’s no point.”