UVM, bring Arabic back

Khalid AlMubarak

UVM hardly has a diverse student demographic by any measure, and that is why teaching non-European languages is critical to widen students’ perspective.

There is a great deficiency of languages being taught at the University and possibly a misunderstanding over the purpose of teaching foreign languages.

Let’s take my first language, Arabic, for instance. Arabic is the native tongue of over 200 million people living across 22 countries around the world, according to the BBC “Guide to Arabic” webpage.

By not teaching Arabic, UVM misses providing great opportunities to learn about other cultures  that are widely celebrated in novels, poetry, philosophy, art, music and films that transcend political science and economics.

It is not entirely clear why the administration’s efforts to increase diversity fail, but there is certainly a questionable approach that they have taken with non-European languages.

According to a September 2017 Cynic news article, Lilly Young reported that by the beginning of fall 2017, the Arabic program was completely shut down after professor Darius Jonathan was fired.

Jonathan rejected the part-time position stated in the new teaching contract as unfair, and said he did not feel respected as a faculty member.

That went despite a petition that was created by students to retain the program and the professor, according to the “Keep Arabic Alive at the University of Vermont” page at change.org.

By shutting down the program, the University has failed students who wish to learn the language as part of their degree and education.

There is no tenure-track position for teaching Arabic as a second language, which speaks for the University’s efforts to promote academic diversity in the languages department.

It is important to note that an apparent lack of student interest in a subject or a language is not enough of a reason to stop teaching it.

UVM must find a way to start a department for Arabic language and literature if it wants to join the ranks of world-class universities that truly understand the value of multiculturalism.


David Cabrera interviews Khalid AlMubarak in this podcast about languages at UVM. Listen here