SAS pushes for major

The Yale South Asian Society is spearheading an effort to create a South Asian studies major at the University, which the society’s members said is trailing peer institutions in the field.

The students are working closely with professor Phyllis Granoff, chair of the Council on South Asian Studies, to establish the program, SAS President Tarana Shivdasani ’08 said. Past efforts by individual students to create the major have failed, leading interested students to pursue special divisional majors in the field. Fifteen current students have expressed interest in pursuing a major in South Asian Studies.

“I think the time is right for a South Asian studies major,” Granoff said in an e-mail. “South Asia is a vital area of the world, and Yale is an ideal place for serious work on the region, with all the faculty and resources that we have.”

Deputy Provost Charles Long said he thinks the creation of a South Asian studies major is feasible if there is enough faculty support.

“It’s a plausible idea,” said Long, whose office deals with the budgeting of new majors. “The question is, are there enough faculty here to sustain the major?”

SAS Social and Academic Chair Suyog Bhandari ’09 said he thinks the resources are in place for the proposed major.

“We have the faculty, we have the classes, and we have the student interest,” Bhandari said. “Now it’s time to go ahead with the major.”

In March, a group of students proposed the creation of a modern Middle East studies major. The proposal is still being examined by the Yale College Committee on Majors.

Although Yale students interested in South Asian studies can currently apply to pursue a special divisional major that allows them to study this field, Shivdasani said she does not think the University offers enough support for students interested in South Asian studies. Students currently have to go to Columbia University in order to take language proficiency tests in Urdu, she said.

Harvard, Brown and Cornell universities all offer concentrations in South Asian studies. While it does not offer a major in South Asian studies, Columbia has a large library of resources available on South Asia. Stanford and Princeton do not offer majors in South Asian studies.

By generating interest in the major, SAS hopes to increase interest in South Asian studies in general among Yalies.

“There are a lot of South Asians who haven’t been able to learn about where they’re from,” Shivdasani said. “That’s a part of college.”

Still, not all students would support allocating more resources to a new major.

“There are things lacking in the East Asian Studies Department, and I think the school should strengthen that major by dedicating more resources to it,” Katrina Landeta ’10 said. “Rather than create a new major, include new and improved courses to the already existing one.”

The South Asian Studies Council will host Ashok Khosla, founder of Development Alternatives, from Oct. 2-4. Khosla will discuss social enterprises in India and South Asian approaches to sustainable development.

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