Students fight for continuation of Tagalog
Students given assurances by dean, remain wary of language
By Allison Lefkowitz
Daily Bruin Staff
Pilipino American students have taken what they called a small
step in the right direction in their fight to save courses on
Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines.
In the midst of Pilipino American History Month, members of the
Committee for Pilipino Studies met Tuesday with Dean of Humanities
Pauline Yu to discuss Tagalog’s status.
A three-year grant for the class, funded by the Office of
Instructional Development, will expire at the end of this year, and
students have been working to ensure the language’s instruction
will continue at UCLA.
Yu said the students came to her at Tuesday’s meeting asking for
a written commitment that Tagalog be funded on a permanent basis.
But she said she could not give them this commitment because no
elementary language classes are funded permanently, and the funding
is allocated on a year-to-year basis.
"I expressed my agreement that Tagalog is an important part of
the curriculum," Yu said. "We will do our best to ensure that it
will continue after the Office of Instructional Development funding
Yu said she could not promise funding for the 1995-96 year
because it is still too early in the year to make such decisions
about the budget. The budget is usually finalized in the spring,
though there have been occasions where it has not been finalized
until fall, she said.
Although Yu was unable to make a concrete promise regarding
Tagalog, students who attended Tuesday’s meeting spoke positively
about it and about working with her to keep Tagalog in the
"It will take a little while for things to sink in," said Jay
Mendoza, coordinator of the Committee for Pilipino Studies and a
graduate student in Ethnomusicology. "The meeting really solidified
what Yu will do for us because she funded other languages."
Through the Humanities division, funding for Thai, Hindi and
Vietnamese Â known as Less Commonly Taught Languages Â
was found earlier this year and the languages will continue to be
In a letter addressed to College of Letters & Science
Provost Brian Copenhaver, Mendoza wrote "because of (Yu’s)
receptiveness and dedication to offering Thai, Hindi and
Vietnamese, we are confident that Tagalog courses are no longer in
danger of being discontinued."
"We are taking her word that she will find funding for
(Tagalog)," said fifth-year history student Arnold Serrano, one of
about 10 students on the Committee for Pilipino Studies.
In their work to continue Tagalog’s instruction, members of the
committee and the Pilipino American community circulated a petition
signed by over 900 people and researched Tagalog instruction at
colleges including Cornell University, University of Michigan and
the University of Wisconsin.
Instruction of Tagalog as a pilot program provided an
opportunity for the university to see if it should be integrated
into the curriculum, said David Wilson, assistant Dean of
"It has been clear to myself and Dean Yu that this has been a
successful experiment and we should make it a high priority to come
up with a way to continue it," Wilson said. "We intend to find a
way to make it happen."
But despite Tuesday’s meeting with Yu, some students expressed
skepticism about Tagalog’s future.
"I’m hoping everything will work out," said Dawn Mabalon,
director of the Samahang Pilipino Education and Retention project.
"But we can’t be complacent and expect to get everything we ask
Mabalon said the administration before Yu came in was not
working with the Pilipino American community, and students often
met dead ends. But she added Yu has done more for the students and
she hopes there will continue to be a good working relationship
"Skepticism has a definite role in the campaign for Tagalog,"
Mendoza said. "It keeps us on our toes and without it we wouldn’t
ask critical questions."
Mendoza said skepticism stems from the fact that in past
movements the administration has made promises to students without
"But we are really trying to have a good working relationship
(with Yu)," Mendoza added.
Serrano said that although the university has been receptive, he
also wants administrators to understand that Tagalog is only one
aspect of the larger curricular reform issue.
"Hopefully, the success of the Tagalog campaign this week is a
sign that other administrators will be receptive to the idea of a
Southeast Asian minor," Mendoza said.
In an effort to educate the Pilipino American community and the
UCLA community, seven Pilipino student groups came together and
planned Pilipino American History Month for October. Events
included a forum on AIDS in the Pilipino American community, a
poetry reading, film festival and an exhibit in the Kerckhoff Art
Gallery. The month will conclude with a rally on Oct. 27 in
Schoenberg Plaza to address the issue of Tagalog and curricular
Serrano said the rally was initially planned as a fight to save
Tagalog, though it will now focus more on curricular issues
including a Southeast Asian minor and a Pilipino Studies
"The rally will be a celebration of student power that we can
make changes not only for the Pilipino students, but for the whole
campus," Serrano said.