Over the last several months a coalition of students has joined together to advocate the creation of a Middle Eastern and Asian studies program.
This is not the first time such an effort has been attempted, but it is the first time that the major effort has come from the students with a leading role being played by Student Government [SG].
“This is specifically a program that was based on demand from other students,” Mike Levine, College of Arts and Sciences senator, said. “We really feel that there is a wide range of people that this [program] would service.”
Levine, who is chairman of the SG Senate Academic Affairs Committee, first became aware of student demand for the program through Naveen Bellam, former president of the Indian Students Association [ISA].
“After we met a couple of times, we sat down and drafted a resolution for a Hindi language class,” Levine said. “The resolution passed unanimously and then we sent off the resolution and student signature pages to the administration.”
The proposed program is quickly becoming a popular endeavor.
Paula Georg, junior class senator, cited the program as her main reason for joining the Academic Affair Committee.
“Knowing more about the culture of the Middle East and Asia works in our benefit,” Georg said. “We can’t seclude ourselves from Eastern culture any longer.”
Georg feels the program would serve to dispel many of the inaccuracies inherent in mainstream media coverage of the Middle East and Asia.
“The more I learned about the subject, the more I realized I was making uninformed decisions,” Georg said. “With this program we wouldn’t need to rely just on the media.”
Georg focuses on gaining the support of the Greek community and in assisting the development of the Asian studies portion of the curriculum with other students and faculty.
Arjun Parasher, College of Arts and Sciences senator and ISA member, is one of the students working with Georg.
“I think this program is important not only for us to learn about our own culture and heritage,” Parasher said. “The Middle East and South Asia are becoming increasingly important to the lives and way of life of every American.”
Parasher added that the regional importance of these areas is not only related to terrorism and war, but is primarily economic.
“In the future this region is the new budding area for corporations,” Parasher said. “Any American economic and political relations are going to have to deal with that.”
Support for the program among the general student body seems almost universal.
“Regardless of whether this is going to be your major field of study, it’s important to study it,” Jacki Waksman, junior, said. “Cultural awareness is beneficial so as to understand people’s differences and avoid clashes in the future.”
Senior Mike Garcia agreed.
“Any time you have the opportunity to blend in different points of view of the different cultures into one curriculum it’s a big plus for everybody,” Garcia said.
SG is currently working to gather student signatures and more support for the program, after which the discussion will be taken to the administrative level. Administration was unavailable for comment.
>> For more information, email Mike Levine at SGA-Ssenator2@miami.edu or visit www.miami.edu/studorgs/sg.
Scott Wacholtz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.