For many years now the Middle East has been misunderstood. And the cultural and religious stereotypes were worsened by the attacks of September 11. To many Americans, it lived up to its fame as a “nesting ground” for terrorists.
I assume that if we walk around the UC and ask a random UM student where In Yemen is located, he or she would probably no clue. I’m sure some student out there will probably be offended by this remark, but even my best friend tells me she thinks “Arabs are scary.”
In her inaugural speech, President Shalala stated the University of Miami is committed to “excellence” and will seek to be a center of “international citizenship dedicated to breaking bonds of intolerance and building bonds of friendship.”
But how can this be pursued if students lack the courses and the faculty resources to do so?
Since announcing the transfer of School of International Studies into the College of Arts and Sciences, the administration has pledged it is committed to improving the curriculum. Part of this improvement should be to create a Middle Eastern studies program.
We have no professors or courses on Middle East in the department of history. Likewise, the department of religion does not have a permanent faculty corps teaching anything on Islam. Once the university establishes the program, it should hire tenure-track professors.
There is not a center for Middle Eastern studies anywhere in Florida, and no Florida university has the reputation of having a variety of great international programs. The administration needs to strengthen the international studies curriculum and integrate cultural programs into these departments to boost the prestige of this university.
I am not an Arab, I am Puerto Rican, a woman, and a Christian in search of more knowledge about other cultures so that I may be one of the few who know not to stereotype, discriminate, or generalize on the Arab culture and Islam.
The administration has said it decided to dissolve the School of International Studies to improve the programs and has pledged its commitment to the students and faculty members to those programs.
Let us hold them to their promise and make sure that they are the best in the state of Florida. Heck, let’s make them the best in the nation.
Mariluz Mayorga is a junior majoring in political science.