The Tulane Hullabaloo

Recently introduced Arabic minor in need of revision

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

The Department of French and Italian announced that its new minor in Arabic program will start this semester due to student demand for more courses associated with the Middle East. While it is essential for Tulane University to increase opportunities for its students in Middle Eastern studies, the new minor fails to meet basic academic standards.

There are hardly any Arabic instructors at Tulane, and likewise only a few Arabic classes. Currently, the Department of French and Italian has two extremely qualified Arabic teachers: one senior professor of practice, who teaches three courses per semester, and one adjunct instructor, who teaches two courses per semester. Together, they offer courses in modern standard Arabic, Masri Arabic, known as Egyptian, and Shami Arabic, known as Levantine Arabic. These courses span four semesters, at the A1 to B1+ levels, and occasionally also at the B2 level, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages scale. For a foreign language minor at Tulane, this isn’t enough. 

This standard scale ranks language ability per class. A1 is ‘first semester’, or the very basics of a language. B1 implies some familiarity, but not yet proficiency. C1 is characterized as non-native fluency. To offer a language minor only up to the B1 and sporadically the B2 level is simply not sufficient. Even Tulane’s Jewish studies majors are required to have a B1 level in Hebrew and the focus of their major is not even a foreign language. 

To remedy these issues, Tulane should keep its current senior professor of practice of Arabic but change the current adjunct instructor of Arabic to a full-time, tenure-track assistant professor of Arabic. Tulane should also hire an additional tenure-track assistant professor of Arabic. These hiring changes would allow Tulane to offer Arabic courses that span six semesters and fully cover the A1 to B2 language levels.  

Not all the problems with Tulane’s Arabic program are related to hiring. There are also many other details that should be addressed. For example, the Arabic minor should have an online website that details all of the minor’s requirements, which semesters the classes will be offered and sample syllabi for the courses. 

Additionally, a Department of Middle Eastern Studies should be founded by some of Tulane’s renowned professors of the Middle East, notably Russian and Jewish Studies Professor Brian Horowitz, Political Science Professor Louis Campomenosi, Arabic Language Professor Khedidja Boudaba and History Professor Yigit Akin. This department would be able to house majors and minors in Arabic language and literature, Middle Eastern studies and Jewish studies.

These simple modifications will surely place Tulane as one of the world’s best institutions for studying these disciplines.  

Kevin is a senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
Recently introduced Arabic minor in need of revision