Club addresses linguistic concerns

With the goal in mind of giving one voice to the various language students on campus, a group of students recently launched the Language Club. According to Patty Cho ’10 and Dae Selcer ’10, founders of the club, there is a need for a sense of community among language students, as well as a need for a group to advocate for increasing language offerings and other related concerns.

The mission statement of the newly-founded club outlines its dual purposes, which are to “establish a vibrant community of both student and faculty language-learners and scholars” and to “establish an organization that represents the interests of both student and faculty language-learners and scholars to the administration and broader campus.”

Petya Miteva ’10, currently the only linguistics major at the College, explained that she joined the club due to her interest in linguistics and language, and also because of the sense of community the club provides. She spoke of the difficulty in making changes to language programs with the support of only a few others. “In the past, John Withers [’10] and I have tried to do something to expand the Italian program . . . but it was very hard work for two people only,” Miteva said. “The Language Club can provide support for projects like this one because it unites all people who are interested in languages and linguistics at Williams.”

Other students suggest that there is something special about being a language major. David Blitzer ’10, a Russian and English major, said that he valued the intimacy of the Russian department due to its size. “There are only about 20 of us, but you certainly get more acquainted with the people in your classes since taking Russian is not your run-of-the-mill endeavor,” Blitzer said. “There’s a kind of group solidarity borne out of that experience that is not common in other classes.”

The recent tenure denial of the College’s only linguistics professor, Nathan Sanders, inspired Cho and Selcer to form the club. According to the Language Club’s program statement, Sanders’ tenure denial “was a severe blow not only to those pursuing a contract major in linguistics but also to the entire language-learning community at Williams.” One of the purposes of the club is to urge the College to hire another visiting linguistics professor or to strengthen the program through some other means.

Sanders’ tenure denial has provided the club with a large-scale project for the semester that includes sponsoring a linguistics petition outlining the importance of offering linguistics courses at the College. The petition proposes that the College hire a visiting professor or arrange for an outside professor to teach students in virtual classrooms. “We hope to work with – not against – the administration to find creative solutions that take into account both the College’s financial situation and students’ academic needs,” Selcer said.

Cho and Selcer’s voices haven’t been the only efforts striving to bring language majors and learners together; on Oct. 31 the College featured a conference entitled “Many Voices” that gave senior language majors an opportunity to present their research to the community.

Although the Language Club is independent from the Center of Foreign Languages and the various foreign language departments, its members are committed to working with faculty and staff. Chengjia Jin ’12, the club’s publicity director, explained that another major project of the Language Club is putting together a mentor program where upper-level language students will offer tutoring assistance to less experienced students.

Selcer added that the mentoring program will include curriculum advising, major building and connecting students with the rest of the language-learning community. Additionally, the club is trying to organize some crash language courses for the Free University series held over Winter Study.

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