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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

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February 20, 2024
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February 12, 2024

Elementary Language Proficiency exam frustrates Haitian Americans on campus

Last week, students shared their concerns about the difficulty in meeting the Elementary Language Proficiency requirement. Their concern was not because they could not communicate in their native language, but rather because, according to them, the University of Massachusetts Boston does not have an adequate testing system including lacking a place where students can go to prove their proficiency.
The Elementary Language Proficiency exam is for undergraduate students seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree, as described on the university website. The exam is a medium for students to fulfill the university’s foreign language requirement.  
Two students who voiced their concerns were Haitian Americans Marcus Jean-Baptiste and Linda Jean. Both are in their junior year, majoring in psychology and political science, and neither of them have taken the exam yet.
“It is totally fine with me to take the exam,” said Jean-Baptiste. “The problem is there is nowhere at UMass [Boston] I can take it.” He explained that the university can’t refer him to any specific testing location and the department of modern language does not offer any courses for Haitian languages.
Jean mentioned how Massachusetts is the third-largest Haitian community in the United States, with an estimated 200,000 Haitians. She also noted that a large portion of this estimated number live in the surrounding area of Mattapan, Roxbury and Dorchester.
UMass Boston is in the heart of Dorchester, “so not having Haitian language and cultural studies is impractical,” she said. “The lack of a program is a betrayal to UMass Boston; [which] tends to pride itself on urban and global engagement.’”
“The bank of diversity cannot and should not be bankrupt when it comes to serving the largest part of this diversity: the Haitian community,” she stated.
There are plenty of college institutions throughout the United States with a fewer number of Haitian American students and members of the Haitian American community that are more committed to Haitian languages and cultural studies. Such is the case with Harvard University, Columbia University, and Brown University — just to name a few.
Jean-Baptiste and Jean are asking for UMass Boston to incorporate more Haitian languages and cultural studies and provide students with better access to meeting the requirements of the Language Proficiency exam. They feel that this will allow UMass Boston to be true to its ideology and principle of diversity.