ELsewhere – Politicians consider law against hard-to-understand teachers

By Tali Yahalom

Daily Pennsylvanian (U. Penn)

(U-WIRE) PHILADELPHIA-University of Pennsylvania engineering junior Jonathan Lehr thinks he knows why he did poorly in an introductory chemistry lab he took freshman year: He could barely understand his foreign teaching assistant.

Lehr said that the course, which is a requirement for most Engineering students, was predominantly taught by foreign students who are not native English speakers.

But this type of problem is not unique to Lehr, or even to the Chemistry Department. It’s not even unique to Penn.

Students across the country are issuing loud and often formal complaints that they are failing courses and losing scholarship opportunities because they literally can’t understand a word their professors are saying. And the complaints have even reached some state governments.

Minnesota State Rep. Bud Heidgerken (R-Freeport) introduced a bill earlier this month that would force the University of Minnesota to make English fluency a bigger factor in hiring decisions.

People have been complaining about the problem for 25 years, said Heidgerken, who said he was told by Minnesota students that they could send him “busloads of students with similar complaints.”