Hmong students and allies fight for dropped classes


Noah Finco, University Government Reporter

UWL students and community packed into the UWL Student Association Senate Meeting Wednesday evening in support of UWL’s Hmong students.

An announcement was made that two modern language courses, MLG 204: Intermediate Hmong and MLG 304: Advanced Hmong, would not be offered for the Spring 2017 semester. The UWL Hmong Organization Promoting Education (HOPE) organized the demonstration in protest of this decision. The result was over fifty members of UWL and the local community attending Wednesday night’s weekly Senate Meeting in Port O’Call.

“This has done a great deal of damage to our community,” stated HOPE co-chair Linda Xiong. “For a university that prides itself in diversity and inclusive excellence, this is an embarrassment.”

The College of Liberal Studies requires that classes below the 300 level must have a minimum of 15 students and classes above the 300 level must have at least 12 students. Historically, both MLG 204 and 304 have not been able to maintain the necessary numbers.

“The low numbers of enrollment tell us that what we are teaching isn’t bringing value to our students,” explained College of Liberal Studies Dean Julia Johnson. “In Spring, we will look into ways to improve the class in hopes of increasing enrollment in the future.”

Wisconsin is home to the third largest population of Hmong people in the nation. La Crosse is home to one of the largest concentration of Hmong people in the state. UWL is home to around 200 Hmong students.

Mai Chao a UWL alumni and local K-12 teacher spoke in support of the protesting students. Chao previously took the now removed courses while at UWL.

“These classes provide a space for students to feel like they belong” she stated “Hmong students are able to talk about issues facing their culture in their own language and learn about themselves.”

Johnson and Modern Language Department Chair Marie Moeller stated that following the uproar students will be offering the classes in Spring 2017 in a collaborative effort with UW Stout. Through the UW System’s Distance Learning program, students will be able to attend classes with UW Stout students and will be taught by a professor via video call.

Students were dissatisfied with the alternative.

“Hmong is a very unique language that is very unlike English” explained HOPE co-chair Ntxawm Xyooj “You need an instructor there, in person, to truly understand and learn it.”

A resolution coauthored by Cecilia Moreno and HOPE Senator Chevana Vang was presented to the UWL Student Association. In it, it requested that “Student Senate fully supports indigenous Hmong language and cultural learning” and for it to “advocate to reinstate these classes to promote diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence on campus.”

There will be an open forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, room 340 of Cartwright Center to further discuss the issue and to promote understanding between UWL and its Hmong students.

“It was great to see so many students and community members come out in support,” proclaimed Xiong, “The only way things will get better is if people from all backgrounds stand up to injustices such as this.”

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