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Student demand prompts renewal of Swahili course

Reversing a decision that drew heated criticism, the University has reinstated an introductory Swahili course that it had previously announced would not be offered again in the fall.

The disclosure by Associate Dean of the College Hank Dobin in an interview yesterday that the class would make an encore appearance next year follows weeks of protest by outraged students against the University's initial decision to stop offering the class.


Dobin previously cited lack of funding as the reason for canceling the course, which was offered for the first time this year. But he said yesterday that additional funds from the Provost's office would enable the University to offer the course for a second time.

"We found the resources and there seemed to be student demand," he said. "With the additional funds, there was really no reason not to do it."

Religion professor Ephraim Isaac, who teaches the Swahili course, said he was pleased with the University's final decision. He explained that students were primarily concerned about the message discontinuation of the African language course would send to others.

"It is important that we have some sort of respectful attitude to [African] cultures. Otherwise it might seem we are disrespectful of them," Isaac said. "Princeton can become a greater institution only when its door is open to African cultures as well as other cultures."

"If African languages were left out of the menu, how would that be considered?" he asked.


The University's decision indicates the administration is receptive to student interests, Isaac said.


"I respect their willingness to listen. This is very important because it shows they have respect for exchange of ideas," he said. "It is easy to be close-minded, but we should listen to each other."

Dobin said the University was glad to have found the money to fund the program for another year.

"It's not what we originally planned, but it represented a matter for us to respond positively," Dobin noted. "The key issue was that it was an expensive thing to do because we're paying for an additional salary."

The course will be administered under the African studies program next fall as a one-time course rather than as a student-initiated seminar. Fourteen students have expressed interest in taking the class next year.

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"Student-initiated courses are only supposed to be for a year. Once something is repeatable and has a popular demand, we try to find a department or program for it," Dobin said. "In this case, the African studies program fits the course."

Moving the course into the African studies program leaves open the option of making the class a permanent offering. But Dobin and Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel declined to speculate if the course would eventually be incorporated into the University's regular curriculum.

"We're talking about next year only. I can't even speculate about [the following year]," Malkiel said.

"The Provost has really only agreed for a single year," Dobin said. "We're not looking beyond this year right now."

While four or five students who took the class this year have said they would like to take an intermediate Swahili course, funding from the Provost's office will provide only enough money to run an introductory class.

Regardless of whether funding is found for an intermediate course, Isaac said he would continue teaching interested students.

"If they want I will be willing to help them, with or without the course," he said.