Light shouldn’t be only program of its kind

Having just read about the increase in funding for the Light Fellowship (“Univ. to up Light funding,” 2/23), I’ll be frank — I am stunned and infuriated.

The conviction that students need financial support to go to a region to learn a different language well is the primary one that underlies the Light Fellowship, which supports summer and term-time language study in China (and Japan and South Korea).

I am certain that there are Yale alumni willing to sponsor programs similar to Light but for languages other than those found in East Asia. Don’t get me wrong — encouraging acquisition of Chinese (and Japanese and Korean) language skills is undoubtedly crucial to the future of our country. However, there are countries outside of this region, which are immensely important and cannot be overlooked.

As a student of Arabic at Yale, I have had meager support from this university to study my language of interest in the so-called Arab world — which spans from Morocco in western Africa to Yemen in central Asia. Whether or not one believes, as I do, that Arabic is hands-down the most important language these days for our country’s national security, there is no question that knowledge of Arabic and other languages (such as Farsi and Russian) are crucial to our country’s future. Unfortunately, as the leaders of our country screw up a war (Iraq) the ramifications of which will be felt acutely for the next generation at least, the Yale administration does nothing to encourage the study of this important language.

Although I have been very lucky in the course of my time at Yale, having received an independent fellowship to go to Amman, Jordan, to study Arabic, many others have been unable to study the Arabic language abroad. My peers in Arabic language classes at Yale cannot afford to pay for language study halfway around the world. Who among us can?

I am not suggesting that Yale encourage the study of Arabic in Iraq or Farsi in Iran anytime soon. However, there are most certainly countries in which Yale students of Arabic, Farsi, Russian and other languages can study particular languages in safety. If only the Yale administration would encourage students to spend their summers in sites like Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt or Jordan for Arabic; Tajikstan for Farsi; or Russia for Russian.

It is astonishing how much specialized programming exists between Yale and China, including the Fudan-Yale Center for Education Cooperation, Fudan-Yale Biomedical Research Center, Yale-Tsinghua Environment and Sustainable Development Leadership Program, Peking University-Yale Exchange Program, Yale-China Association, Light Fellowships, and Bulldogs in Beijing.

On the one hand, Yale’s commitment to ensuring that students learn more about Chinese and East Asian culture is wonderful. Obviously, however, China is not the only country that matters besides the United States. There is a whole world out there. The administration’s myopia, in not seeing or acting upon the reality that there isn’t just one culture out there besides our Western culture, is frustrating.

As such, I ask the Yale administration either to justify themselves in their seemingly narrow-minded support of language study in one region only, or to at long last ask donors to sponsor similar programs in other regions.

All of those individuals — students, professors and others — who believe that Yale cannot afford to focus on only one region and that there should be Light equivalents for other regions, please write me an e-mail (joshua.krug@yale.edu) with “SHARE THE WEALTH DAMMIT!” in the subject line and any information you’d like to include in the body of the e-mail.

If I get enough responses, we will have a foundation to insist that the administration stop fixating on China (and East Asia) at the expense of other regions.

Joshua Krug is a junior in Morse College.

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