A Students’ Association (SA) Government initiative to create multilingual maps, campus tours, and other admissions materials cleared a major hurdle Wednesday when it gained the support of the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.
The initiative is being spearheaded by Campus Services Committee Chair and senior senator Daniel Matthews. He is joined by fellow sophomore senators Jin Kim and Beatriz Gil Gonzalez and legislative aides on the committee.
“We want to make it more accessible to families who don’t have English as their first language,” Matthews said, referring to the University. “You need a base understanding of English to come to UR, but if [international students’] families come over, we want this information to be easily and readily available to them.”
Matthews noted that in addition to maps, admissions materials, and campus tours, he is hoping that UR will also implement multilingual convocation and commencement materials and orientation events. Currently, UR provides prospective students with the opportunity to take a virtual campus tour in English, Arabic, French, Mandarin, Spanish, Korean, and Portuguese.
The Meridian Society, which gives campus tours in foreign languages upon request, had not heard of the initiative, but emphasized the importance of showcasing the diversity of UR.
“One of the most important priorities for the Meridian Society is to emphasize the importance of diversity at our university,” Meridian Society leaders senior Suneet Waghmarae and sophomore Rochelle Sun said in an email. “We currently have several Meridians that can speak multiple languages and […] this semester alone we have had Meridians give campus tours in Hebrew, Chinese, and ASL.”
Matthews added: “We’re working with the Modern Languages and Cultures Undergraduate Council.”
He also explained that there was no current cost estimate on implementation since he expected the bulk of the translations to be done by student volunteers.
Following Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick’s recommendation, the Campus Services Committee will be putting out a survey in the coming weeks to gauge student interest and support for the initiative.
The method of distribution, however, is still in question, due to a desire to reach as many international students as possible. The survey also will provide the committee with insight into which languages students feel are of highest priority to implement.
Students interviewed in Wilson Commons and Gleason Library this week signalled support for the initiative, though several expressed some concerns over its implementation, primarily because of how many languages UR students speak.
“I think it’s beneficial to make our community more accommodating,” sophomore Kabir Al-Tariq said. “But it’s a question of if […] it can be pragmatic. It comes down to how many languages you will have to work with and if you can accommodate them all.”
Several international students, however, were excited by the initiative.
Freshman Yifei Lin’s face lit up as the initiative was explained to her.
“I’m lucky since my parents know English, but some of my friends’ […] parents don’t know English, and they have to translate [materials], which may not translate exactly,” Lin—an international student from China—excitedly said. “Our families want to learn about our lives [at UR]. These materials will gives parents an idea of what their children’s life is like at school. This can expand knowledge of this university beyond parents.”
Matthews said he hopes to have the initiative implemented in part by Commencement.
He noted, however, that the volunteer-based nature of the project and the large amount of coordination necessary means it may carry into fall semester.
Matthews, who graduates in May, expressed confidence that the Campus Services Committee would be able to successfully see the project through.