Requesting Khmer Language and Culture Courses at the University of Washington sign now

Seattle is home to the third largest Khmer population in the United States. The University of Washington admits many Khmer students into its institution each year. As students of the University of Washington, we hope that our school reflects and represents the diversity of its students. Yet this institution does not offer courses in Khmer language and culture study.

Despite the lack of a credited language course within the university, enthusiastic students have made several successful attempts to learn the language. Dating back to early 2000, classes were taught by other students and community members completely on a volunteer basis. Students devote their own time outside of their regular schooling to learning Khmer. In addition to the volunteer Khmer language classes, there were also students actively hosting weekly Khmer conversation groups to discuss culture and current issues. In 2004, nine members of the Khmer Student Association (KhSA) at the University of Washington took the initiative to contact Frank Smith, a professor at the University of California- Berkeley, and transported him here to administer the proficiency test. After successfully completing the test their results were applied to the Foreign Language requirement. Prior to the 2004 cohort there were 12 students who participated in taking the proficiency test.

A high interest in learning Khmer continues to exist in the student community today. Since spring of 2009, when a community member approached KhSA to teach the Khmer language, classes have been held on a weekly basis. Three different levels are now offered: beginning, intermediate, and advanced and classes are offered to both students and community members. Each person who attends the classes has aspirations to create a change within their community and abroad in Cambodia. Currently, the beginning class has twelve students, intermediate has two, and advanced has six students. All of this is facilitated by students in the hopes of preserving and advancing their knowledge of the Khmer language and culture. We are committed to developing the language outside of Cambodia.

Not only do heritage students feel that it is important to maintain their identity and culture, but there has been a growing academic interest in the research and study of Khmer in recent years. Disciplines ranging from Archaeology, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, and Social Justice to Economics, Environmental Studies and the Sciences all have a stake in the study of Cambodia, of immersing oneself in the scholarship of Khmer culture. Reflected as such are other universities that have already institutionalized the language. Currently, Khmer is offered at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, University of Wisconsin-Madison in their Southeast Asia Summer Studies Institute (SEASSI), University of California- Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles (via teleconference), Ohio State University, University of Northern Illinois and Cornell University.

From the long history of students attempting to learn Khmer on their own, numbers show that they have only increased in size and will continue to expand in the future. Interest stems from students of all ethnic backgrounds. As such, we, the undersigned students of the University of Washington, along with supporting community members, request the University of Washington to offer Khmer Language courses to its students.

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Colette MorganBy:
City LifeIn:
Petition target:
The University of Washington

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