The ExCollege, formerly The Alumni House, which will house Hindi-Urdi classes, is pictured on Jan 1, 2000. (The Tufts Daily Archive)

Tufts to offer Hindi-Urdu classes in ExCollege

After student support and lobbying by Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate, Tufts will offer Hindi-Urdu classes next semester as part of the Experimental College. Both Hindi-Urdu 1 and 3 will be offered, and the 15-person Hindi-Urdu 1 section is currently full, according to the Student Information System (SIS).

Dean of Academic Affairs for the School of Arts and Sciences Joseph Auner said the idea for Hindi-Urdu classes was initially brought to him by members of the South Asian Political Action Committee (SAPAC). The group brought to Auner’s attention a survey showing a high level of student interest in seeing Hindi-Urdu language courses offered at Tufts. In addition, TCU Senate unanimously passed a resolution in March 2016 calling for Hindi-Urdu classes, according to a 2016 Daily article.

This is not the first time that the ExCollege has offered classes in Hindi. Most recently, the ExCollege offered a conversational Hindi class in Spring 2011. Auner explained that, while Tufts attempted to pilot Hindi-Urdu classes in the past, he and his colleagues have now approved a two-year pilot program that will offer the language consistently.

Hershel Tamboli, a member of SAPAC, said that the group initially proposed a Hindi-Urdu program because Tufts offers courses about South Asia, but no classes for languages in the region.  Tamboli explained that SAPAC hopes Hindi-Urdu will eventually become a full program, and that coursework on South Asia will expand generally.

“Offering Hindi-Urdu strengthens the university’s curriculum and sets Tufts apart from many of its competing schools,” Tamboli, a junior, said. “Factoring in student demand and the fact that Hindi-Urdu is the fourth most spoken language on the planet, I think it’s more appropriate than ever to offer it now.”

Auner said that the purpose of the pilot is to gauge student interest in taking Hindi-Urdu classes before considering a full program for the language. Auner said that creating the program at Tufts would be a significant investment.

“In a time of financial constraints and many new demands across the School of Arts and Sciences, we have to be careful and strategic concerning the allocation of limited resources, but as the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world, Hindi-Urdu obviously merits serious consideration,” Auner told the Daily in an email.

Auner added that students can count the Hindi-Urdu classes toward the language requirement. In addition, Auner explained that because language programs at Tufts integrate both language and culture courses, require a variety of faculty and are offered in multiple sections, creating a new program requires a lot of work and investment.

“That said, the language curriculum has evolved over the decades; as with many parts of the curriculum, the Ex-College has played an important role in determining possible future directions,” Auner wrote.

Due to the results of the SAPAC survey, which showed interest from more than 200 students and many faculty members, Auner explained that offering Hindi-Urdu courses at this time is particularly important.

ExCollege Director Howard Woolf said that, as of right now, the ExCollege is in the process of choosing applicants to teach the Hindi-Urdu class.

Rati Srinivasan, TCU Senate’s historian and one of the authors of the resolution supporting the Hindi-Urdu program, told the Daily in an email that she hopes to see many students register for the class. 

Nesi Altaras, the chair of TCU Senate’s Education Committee, predicted that the language’s second level will be offered next spring if it is popular next semester.

“If [a Spring 2018 section] also fills up, the HindiUrdu program has a strong chance of becoming a real language program and branch out of the ExCollege and into Olin,” Altaras told the Daily in an email.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comments from Hershel Tamboli from the South Asian Political Action Committee.

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