TCU Senate proposes Korean classes

Isaac Kim, the first generation community senator who leads the effort to bring Korean class at Tufts, is pictured here in Tisch Library on Nov. 8. (Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily)

A new Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate initiative hopes to introduce Korean language classes at Tufts, a proposal led by First Generation Community Senator and Korean Students Association (KSA) member Isaac Kim.

Kim, a sophomore, was inspired to pursue a Korean language class pilot program so students would be able to take a language not currently offered at Tufts. He recalls coming to Tufts excited to learn Korean and engage with his Korean background but not being able to.

“I was disappointed that Korean wasn’t offered here, as I wanted to come to college as a freshman and learn my language, which I didn’t have the opportunity to do as a child,” Kim said.

Kim believes that there is reason for students to be interested in Korean language classes.

“Students here are interested in learning Korean as it is a very practical skill to have. Many people speak it at Tufts and at home,” Kim said.

Kim is working on the project with Philip Miller, TCU Senate Education Committee chair. Miller, a sophomore, said that with the growing economic prosperity of South Korea and heightened tension with North Korea, having a Korean class option is a necessity.

“It’s crazy that Tufts, a school with a large focus on languages and international relations, doesn’t yet offer Korean classes,” he said.

Kim and Miller say they hope to have a Korean class option available by fall 2018. Miller told the Daily that it would likely be run through the Experimental College (ExCollege).

“New classes usually start through the ExCollege,” Miller said. “TCU Senate Education Committee projects help set up these ideas and then these projects go through the ExCollege.”

According to a 2007 Daily article, TCU Senate tried to offer Korean classes through the ExCollege 10 years ago.

ExCollege Director Howard Woolf and Assistant Director Amy Goldstein have both expressed support for the introduction of Korean courses at the college. The ExCollege is an ideal platform for bringing new language programs to Tufts, according to Woolf. He cited the success of past efforts.

“The ExCollege has been an incubator for a number of languages offered at Tufts, such as Hebrew,” he said. “Some languages have gone on to became majors and minors in other departments such as the International Literary and Cultural Studies Department.”

Woolf said that the job of the ExCollege is to respond to student needs and ideas.

“The ExCollege has always been an empty vessel, meaning we’re filled up with what’s going on in student culture,” he said. “We don’t a have a particular agenda nor do we go looking for particular courses. We’re responding to what happens out there in student culture and in larger culture.”

Goldstein said that a Korean language class would follow the model set by past ExCollege language programs, including current Hindi-Urdu classes.

“The initial idea is to have a Korean language offered similarly to how we started the Hindi class [this] year,” Goldstein said.

Woolf and Goldstein mentioned that in order for the Korean program to work, Kim and Miller must demonstrate that there is ample student interest.

Kim posted a survey to the Tufts University Class of 2020 Facebook page on Oct. 25. Miller says that the survey was very well received and that it suggested that many students are interested in taking Korean.

“We received over 120 responses on the survey, 100 of which said they were very willing to take the class,” Miller said. “We realize there may be survey bias, but many filled out the survey and put their contact info in the class pages and 70 to 80 people want updates on the program.”

But the initiative has a long way to go before it can take off. Kim and Miller said they still need to determine who would teach the Korean class and are currently exploring options.

“There’s quite a bit of interest from Korean speakers on campus that could potentially be teachers,” Kim said. “But it could be taught by professor or student, pass/fail or graded — it’s all up in the air.”

Still, Kim and Miller said they have high hopes for the program going forward. Over time, Kim said that he hopes the program might evolve into a permanent facet of Tufts’ language landscape.

“My long-term goal is for Tufts to offer Korean majors and minors, and as a larger note be a more welcoming place for Koreans to come,” Kim said.

But for now, Kim is excited about the possibility of getting a Korean language program started.

“I probably will be the first one signing up for the class when it comes out,” Kim said.