Undergraduate senators pass resolution to reinstate Cantonese course offerings

April 26, 2021, 9:48 p.m.

The Undergraduate Senate passed a resolution to restore Stanford’s Cantonese Language Program and enable its courses to fulfill the University Language Requirement during Monday’s meeting.

The resolution comes after the University cut the only salaried Cantonese lectureship in December. After substantial student pressure, including a petition created by Save Cantonese that garnered over 4,000 signatories, the University agreed to substitute the lectureship with two courses taught by a part-time lecturer.

Before senators voted on the resolution, Shawn Lee ’16 M.S. ’17 M.S. ’17, a member of Save Cantonese, advocated for its passage. He argued that the University has ethical obligations, both to the many Cantonese workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad that has played an important role in Stanford’s history, as well as to Asian communities that have historically been marginalized and continue to face violence and oppression in America today. 

Lee added that Cantonese is a useful language to know, with Cantonese being spoken by 70% of the Chinese-speaking population in San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward; 60% of the Chinese-speaking population in the Bay Area and 48% of the Chinese-speaking population in California, according to Lee. He also said that statistics demonstrate consistent student demand for the Cantonese Language Program, with an average of 78 enrollments per year over 20 years.

Senators also reviewed a resolution advocating for a fully test-optional admissions process, which would institutionalize a policy adopted by the University in response to COVID-19 that made the reporting of SAT or ACT scores optional in the college admissions process.

While the resolution seeks to promote equity in the admissions process, Senator Lenny DeFoe ’21 voiced concerns about “unintended consequences” that having a test-optional policy might impose. He said that with an application pool that is already so large, there may be an unintended incentive to provide a test score in order for an applicant to stand out.

Ultimately, the senators decided to table the resolution. Senator Alain Perez ’23 said that he will take the concerns about equity to the Graduate Student Council (GSC) on Wednesday, and he will report back to the Undergraduate Senate about the GSC’s comments at the next Undergraduate Senate meeting.

At the next meeting, senators will also vote on a resolution to make Carta an Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) service organization, allowing the tool to operate under the ASSU budget instead of applying for funding on its own and to once again report on class grade distributions.

The senators look now to transition from the 22nd to the 23rd Undergraduate Senate as the election takes place this week.

This article has been updated to reflect that Shawn Lee spoke of Cantonese railroad workers as opposed to Cantonese-speaking railroad workers. It has also been corrected to reflect that the Cantonese Language Program saw an average of 78 enrollments per year over 20 years. The Daily regrets these errors.

Alexa Gold '22 is a Video Roundup anchor, deputy copy editor and staff writer in the sports section. She is a senior from New York City studying communication and political science. Contact her at agold 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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