Vietnamese history, language programs cut

    Due to the recent state budget crisis and the subsequent cancellation of all Vietnamese programs at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, IR/PS recently resorted to canceling all future Vietnamese history and language programs, due to the lack of adequate funding and the small number of enrollment in the classes that were offered at the school.

    Previous to the cancellation, two Vietnamese courses per quarter, consisting mostly of undergraduate enrollment, were offered at IR/PS.

    In order to retain Vietnamese programs for UCSD students, the Vietnamese Student Association has been working alongside the Linguistics Language Program in order to keep afloat the currently scheduled Vietnamese heritage language program being offered to students for Fall 2003.

    According to the Linguistics and Language Department, offering heritage language courses to undergraduate students is essential.

    “”With heritage speakers, it’s known that the earlier you start, the better you’re likely to improve your native language, and that is crucial,”” said Maria Polinsky, chair of the Linguistics Language Program.

    According to Polinsky, additional funding, beyond what comes from grants given to the program, will need to be allocated by other means in order to sustain future Vietnamese courses at UCSD.

    To this aim, the VSA has been organizing numerous fund-raising activities. Beyond getting 300 students who are interested in the offered Vietnamese courses to petition, $40,000 is needed to fully guarantee such a program in the linguistics department.

    “”Students really want to keep this program for next year. They’ve gone out to the community by appearing in radio shows, they’ve sat in front of stores, and the response is just really positive,”” said Thuy Vo, a graduate student of ethnic studies. “”They definitely think it’s worth fighting for.””

    According to Vo, funds must be raised by Jan. 1, 2004 for the program to pull through. One hundred percent of the funds would be given to the staff teaching the courses.

    A fund-raising banquet is scheduled for May 30, where the VSA plans on gathering the majority of their donated funds.

    Members of the VSA emphasized the importance of such programs to future students and the significance of learning the language of their heritage.

    “”I feel like I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to take these classes and learn about who I really am,”” said VSA member Vung Do. “”Somehow it makes me closer to the Vietnamese community. Now the opportunity is taken away for the incoming students. We as the VSA have the responsibility to provide the classes and keep the opportunity alive.””

    According to the linguistics program and VSA members, the IR/PS language department discontinued the Vietnamese program primarily because the student demand for such programs was low. However, some students disagreed.

    “”There is a general sense that Vietnamese programs for students are not in high demand when that is not the case,”” Vo said. “”I realized the importance of taking it because the classes were always filled to capacity.””

    According to Polinsky, offering heritage language courses for students is important for undergraduates because it allows students to attend courses of their native language as early as possible, rather than being forced to wait until they can take language courses from a graduate school.

    Currently, other heritage language programs such as Arabic, Armenian and Tagalog are available to students. Vietnamese as well as Korean heritage programs will be offered for the first time next fall, but are not uniquely burdened by the lack of funds.

    “”The problem is happening across the board. There aren’t enough funds for Arabic, and there aren’t enough for Tagalog,”” Vo said.

    As of right now, raising funds for the tentatively offered Fall 2003 Vietnamese language courses is the principal aim of the VSA.

    “”The $40,000 is being raised to jump-start the program,”” said VSA member Frank Vuong. “”As long as enrollment in these classes stays up, the program will stay up.””

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