Statement Following Faculty Senate Meeting

For Immediate Release

Save Cantonese at Stanford Press Statement

On the Presentation of the Joint Resolution to Restore the Cantonese Language Program at Stanford and enable its courses to fulfill the Language Requirement without additional examination at the May 20th Meeting of the Fifty-Third Senate of the Academic Council

May 20, 2021 - Stanford, Calif. Save Cantonese at Stanford thanks the Faculty Senate for the time it dedicated to discussing the Resolution to Restore the Cantonese Language Program that passed both legislative bodies of the ASSU unanimously, ASSU President Christian Giadolor for reading the statement, and Dean Debra Satz for her response. However, the Dean perpetuated common “errors of fact” about the Resolution’s proposals, which underlines the importance of continuing to educate our partners in the Administration and on the Faculty. 

Dean Satz stated,“no program was eliminated, and no program was ever slated to be eliminated. What we did was to cut Cantonese from four courses a quarter to two courses a quarter.” In reality, the Administration originally proposed cutting the Cantonese program to zero classes per quarter – Cantonese would be listed as “not offered,” which is tantamount to elimination – and relented to guarantee two courses per quarter only under significant student pressure. The full-time, benefits-eligible position remains eliminated. Without this position’s continuity, the program’s unique institutional knowledge and support for programs like the Asian Liver Center in the School of Medicine, the Market Street Chinatown project in the Department of Archaeology and the Bing Overseas Studies Program in Hong Kong. 

We emphasize again that in Fall 2020, Cantonese had the highest enrollment of any regular language course taught by a single lecturer, despite the fact that none of its courses fulfilled the undergraduate language requirement. Lisa Surwillo stated that while the ASSU claims “Stanford is not allowing Cantonese to fulfill the language requirement, and I just want to assure everyone that Cantonese does fulfill the language requirement. The two unit courses that were cut, that were narrowed down do not, but we have a whole range of courses.” Unfortunately, Professor Surwillo misled the Senate into thinking that currently offered Cantonese courses fulfill the Language Requirement. They do not. The ASSU Resolution clearly requests that “Stanford should allow Cantonese courses to fulfill the University Language Requirement without any additional tests or petitions by including the teaching of reading and writing in its regular Cantonese language courses.”

The University did not acknowledge its failure to include affected communities in decision-making, and has not committed to do so going forward. We are comforted by the Administration’s statement that they are “not going to turn away [donations] and have been looking into raising additional funds for courses” and look forward to working with them to find and express the necessary donor support. However, the University’s decision to offer heritage language courses and classes that serve minority students should not be contingent on its ability to secure additional donors. Requiring donors to purchase a voice and seat at the table for courses like Cantonese is inconsistent with Stanford’s stated goal of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in a Learning Environment. 

Cover photo: The Stanford Daily

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