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Dr. Yolanda "Yoli" Carter spoke on higher education diversity issues in Ransdell Chapel recently to about 300 Campbellsville University faculty and staff members.
She was there at the invitation of the university's diversity committee.
The 212 international students, representing 34 nations, make CU the largest international population at any of Kentucky's private colleges.
An in depth discussion on this topic followed her presentation in an interview with John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president.
The weekly educational show "Dialogue on Public Issues" featuring Carter will air on TV-4, Cable channel 10, on Sunday, May 11 at 8 am.; Monday, May 12 at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.; and on Wednesday, May 14 at 1:30 and 7:30 pm.
"There is no need to succumb to the brown scare (the term describing Americans' mounting fears about record numbers of Hispanics coming into the country)," Carter said, "in fact new immigrants are losing their first language at a faster rate than at any other time in this nation's history. School age new immigrants in particular are trying to assimilate quickly since this is what is encouraged in most school systems nationwide. Naturally, their desire is to become what mainstream society deems as 'competent members of American society' just as fast as they can, up to and even splitting off from their own family members who do not speak standard American English or who may not be familiar with American norms or ways of being."
She explained that typically the individuals considered to be the "most competent members of society" are male, Caucasian, well dressed, well educated and speakers of standard American English, preferably with no accent. Those who do not meet the criteria are at a disadvantage, according to Carter.
"Speaking English is an emotional issue - most believe that speaking standard American English implies strong patriotism - one nation, one language, one identity," Carter said. "It is actually taken as an affront if English is not used. The problem is, we give immigrants a very limited time to become proficient in English. For example, only one year is given to students in schools who are non-English speakers before they are given the same high stakes assessments as their native English speaking peers. Since it takes three years from birth to even begin to use language successfully at a conversational level for any of us, how can we expect any less from immigrants having to learn to speak English?"__
In speaking about her experiences as a second generation American, Carter said, "It's easy to say 'I'm not an immigrant,' yet most of us are not Native Americans. Most of us have ancestors who came here for many of the same reasons immigrants come here today."
Bill Holmes, CU director of international education, said, "Every time I hear a discussion like this it makes me proud to be an American, and proud to be part of CU's strong international education program. We go out of our way to give the best American experience students can have while also keeping their unique identity."
Carter is assistant professor and associate dean of undergraduate education at Georgetown College. She is a consultant on diversity (race, ethnicity, class, gender) and issues related to second language acquisition.
She is married to Dr. Eric Carter and is the daughter-in-law of CU president Dr. Michael V. Carter, who gave her introduction.
She said, "Over the years, we have spent a good deal of time visiting the campus and have come to love Campbellsville University and what she stands for."
Her advice to CU faculty and staff was to keep up the dialogue, keep reading and remember always that we come to an understanding of each other on a one-to-one basis.
- Linda Waggener is assistant director of university communications at Campbellsville University.