Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why Saving Korean and other East Asian Languages Concerns You

At Berkeley, the flagship campus of the major university in the Pacific Rim, ethnic Asian students represent a near majority—45% out of 40,000. The Department of EALC (East Asian Languages and Cultures) currently serves a huge campus-wide need at Berkeley by offering East Asian language classes for majors and non-majors alike.

Yet, as of Fall 2008, only Letters and Science students—and likely only EALC majors and minors—will be allowed to enroll in EALC language classes. What this means is that undergraduate and graduate students in departments outside EALC will not be able to pursue Chinese, Japanese, or Korean language study at Berkeley.

Here's the breakdown of the impact on EALC as of Fall 2008:

➢ Percentage of classes to be cut from each language in EALC
o Japanese 40%
o Chinese 54%
o Korean 66%
➢ Numbers of students to be cut from next year's classes
o Chinese: 550
o Japanese: 496
o Korean: 484

The Specific Case for Korean at CAL:

Korean, which has historically been neglected at Berkeley and which accordingly sustains just a minor and no graduate program, is in danger of being decimated. Although all East Asian languages at Berkeley will be severely impacted by Schwarzenegger's education budget cuts, the majors and minors in Chinese and Japanese will, at least, be sustained.

The inception of Korean Studies at Berkeley can be traced to door-to-door fundraising in Oakland by student members of the campus organization, Sori (later the Committee for Korea Studies). Because of their grassroots efforts, the first modern Korean history class was established in 1986 at Berkeley. Yet, Korean Studies cannot continue to rely on outside community donations to keep alive. Without the institutional will to support Korean Studies, it will continue to be vulnerable in times of budget crises, even though Korean enrolls more students than Russian or Arabic and usually ranks 7th or 8th each year in terms of total enrollment on campus.

Consider, for example, UCLA as a model of Korean Studies done right: UCLA boasts a thriving Korean program and offers an extensive array of Korea-related courses. UCLA also offers a Korean major.
o UCLA (as of Fall 2008): 10 faculty (3 professors, 7 lecturers)
o Berkeley (as of Fall 2008): 3 faculty (1 professor, 2 lecturers)

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