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Students propose Hindi seminar for fall semester

University students next fall may have the opportunity to study a foreign language not found in the course offerings catalogue.

Smitha Dante '03 is organizing a student-initiated seminar in introductory Hindi for the 2001-02 academic year, modeled after one that was offered in 1998-99.


Student-initiated seminars, regulated by Associate Dean of the College Hank Dobin, focus on subjects of student interest that are not offered in the University curriculum.

According to Dobin, for a student-initiated seminar to be funded, 12 students have to show interest in it and a qualified professor must be available to teach it.

Though student-initiated seminars cover a broad spectrum of topics, a language seminar is a rare circumstance, Dante said.

The proposed Hindi seminar will not fulfill any distribution or foreign language requirements. It is unlikely that the introductory seminar will be followed by an intermediate-level course in upcoming years, so students wishing to continue with the language will not have the opportunity to do so at the University.

Though Dante noted that these factors might cause some students to decide that the seminar is "not worth the time and effort for only one year of language," students in the past have reacted positively to such classes.

A student-initiated seminar in Swahili was offered last year and was well-attended. The original 1998-99 Hindi seminar was also popular, according to Dante. She said she hopes that her proposed seminar will follow a similar path.


After deciding to organize a seminar in Hindi, Dante sent out e-mails to members of the South Asian Students Association and Princeton South Asian Theatrics to gauge the level of student interest on campus.

"Within 48 hours, I had about 20 responses," she said — more than enough to meet Dobin's minimum student requirement.

Dante envisions a "year-long course in the Hindi language" that will cover introductory speaking, reading and writing skills. She acknowledged, however, that it will be "difficult to find qualified instructors" in the Hindi language. The 1998-99 seminar was taught by Anjana Sangar, a Hindi language poet and writer.

With so much demonstrated student interest on campus, many wonder why the University does not offer a program in Hindi and other South Asian studies as part of its curriculum.

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"There's no specific department we fall under," Dante said, "and there aren't a lot of professors familiar with the topic."

SASA president Savraj Dhanjal '03 said in an e-mail, "Interest for more South Asian courses exists, we just need to prove it to the administration."

"There aren't many South Asian courses at Princeton," Dhanjal said, "but the few that we have are quite successful."