This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (DHEW) memorandum regarding equal rights in terms of learning-based opportunities. The issue of language and the need to educate all children on a nationwide scale regardless of English-language fluency became the major talking point for many viewing the overall theme and subtext of this pronouncement. On May 25th,1970 the DHEW issued a special directive from the pen of J. Stanley Pottinger, Director, Office of Civil Rights featuring the subject line: “Identification of Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of National Origin.” This document cites a number of principles that confirm fairness in educational circles as the DHEW was looking at: “School Districts With More Than Five Percent National Origin-Minority Group children” in particular.
The content found here is based in specific measure on the broader Civil Rights Act of 1964 which highlights the importance that under federal law: “ . . . there will be no discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in the operation of any federally assisted programs.” This document also centers in on the Latino community in particular and respecting their linguistic tradition while also providing opportunities for training in English and other vernacular alternatives. Additional support is offered to those from abroad who wanted to take advantage of the American school system. “Title VI compliance reviews conducted in school districts with large Spanish-surnamed student populations by the Office for Civil Rights have revealed a number of common practices which have the effect of denying equality of educational opportunity to Spanish-surnamed pupils.”
Further details within this particular directive as per the aforementioned Title VI compliance obligations are outlined in the following manner . . .
- Where inability to speak and understand the English language excludes national origin-minority group children from effective participation in the educational program offered by a school district, the district must take affirmative steps to rectify the language deficiency in order to open its instructional program to these students.
- School districts must not assign national origin and minority group students to classes for the mentally retarded on the basis of criteria which essentially measure or evaluate English language skills; nor may school districts deny national origin-minority group children access to college preparatory courses on a basis directly related to the failure of the school system to inculcate English language skills.
- Any ability grouping or tracking system employed by the school system to deal with the special language skill needs of national origin-minority group children must be designed to meet such language skill needs as soon as possible and must not operate as an educational dead-end or permanent track.
- School districts have the responsibility to adequately notify national origin-minority group parents of school activities which are called to the attention of other parents. Such notice in order to be adequate may have to be provided in a language other than English.
The goal of this document was not only to outline the requirements for equality, but also to provide aid to those in need along with striving to achieve compliance in line with federal law. Additionally, all grade levels benefitted from this renewed attention to linguistic-based instruction objectives.
The value of exposure to Spanish-language instruction and resources aids the perpetuation of this essential means of communication. Since the United States overall and New Jersey in particular has a sizeable Latino community this has added importance and value to the need to preserve established vernaculars and the facilities to learn others. Seton Hall proper has played host to students from the 1850s to the present and experience with Spanish-speaking pupils from its earliest days and in the process set a beneficial precedent.
Classroom instruction began in earnest during the 1897-98 academic year when Spanish was first offered as a credit-bearing option for the Seton Hall College student. However this was facilitated on an ad hoc, elective basis at first as classes in Spanish (and Italian) were run only when the course had an adequate number of students register per term. The pedagogical approach was logical in content as the following pattern included the following instruction schedule by class level:
- Freshman Class. Study of Grammar. Reading of simple prose works. Exercises in prose composition and conversation.
- Sophomore Class. Advanced reading in prose and poetry. Exercises in prose composition and conversation.
- Junior Class. Reading of more difficult classics. Exercises in prose composition and conversation.
- Senior Class. Reading and literary study of masterpieces of prose and poetry. Exercises in prose composition and conversation. Second term: Reading of scientific works and articles: reading of German periodicals.
Spanish was an optional Modern Language-centered selection well into the next century. By the 1920s, standard entrance requirements for an incoming student to Seton Hall included two units of a foreign language along with three in English which provided a starter background for post-secondary study.
During the late 1930s, the Modern Language requirement became an official part of the core curriculum at Seton Hall. A total of six credit hours were needed to graduate regardless of major and by 1942 a major in Spanish (or another Modern Language such as French, German, or Italian for instance) was approved by the college academic board in time for those attending school during the early stages of World War II. This required the student to take six elementary, three intermediate, and three advanced credits in order to fulfill all unit obligations for the program. In order to enhance the student experience and properly plan for learning Spanish in an orderly fashion. This was true especially for those who had no history of Spanish training at the secondary level as freshman would have to take elementary courses in order to keep pace with their peers. This individual also had to register as a major in Modern Language by the end of their frosh year and no later than reaching sophomore status and maintain an 80% grade point average within their major throughout their time in the classroom.
When it came to individual class details, each course carried six credits. The register of classes that was in place during the mid-century included the following sequence:
- Elementary Spanish. Fundamentals of Spanish grammar with special emphasis on reading Drill in writing and speaking is part of the course.
- Intermediate Spanish. Rapid review of the fundamentals of grammar. Emphasis upon reading and composition increases in importance through the course. An increasing use of Spanish as the language of the class.
- Advanced Spanish. Review of Spanish grammar with emphasis upon reading and upon composition. The reading in this class is such as to acquaint the student with the Hispanic-American countries, their peoples, their sociology and their economics.
- Spanish Composition. Review of advanced Spanish grammar and syntax through composition and exercises. Elementary ideas of stylistics.
- Oral Spanish. The pronunciation and intonation of Spanish taught through readings, recitations and original work.
- Trends in Spanish Literature. A survey of currents and their development in the literature of Spanish Readings, reports and lectures.
- Hispanic-American Literature. A survey of the main currents and backgrounds of Hispanic-American literature. Lectures, readings, discussions and reports. The secondary aim of this course is the understanding and appreciation of the South American peoples.
- Modernistic Movement. Readings, discussion and term papers concerning this important movement in Hispanic-American letters. Influence of French schools and development of poetic autonomy.
- Novel in Hispanic America. Development of this, the most typical and indigenous form of Hispanic-American literature. Lectures, reports, collateral reading and term papers.
By the late 1940s-early 1950s with the large influx of World War II veterans, each of the aforementioned class choices had two sections apiece and were joined by the following course:
- Hispanic-American Literature I and II. A survey of the main currents and backgrounds of Hispanic-American literature. Lectures, readings, discussions and reports. The secondary aim of this course is the understanding and appreciation of South American peoples.
Along with the curricular status quo, by the mid-1950s, the Department of Modern Languages added the personal preference for a minor in this field of study for another language or those who were enrolled in a totally different major altogether. The Seton Hall University Bulletin for 1955-56 noted that those striving for their Bachelor of Arts Degree could embark on the following plan: “On the undergraduate level, it strives to develop in the general student the ability to use the language of his choice as a means of written and oral communication, and to read professional and commercial literature in other fields.” This was also highlighted by the introduction of the following specialized class offerings . . .
- Classical Spanish Literature and Culture I and II. A student and interpretation of the cultural life and literature of Spain; the history of the country; characteristics and epochs of Spanish literature: the Golden Age, the theatre, the novel; the fine arts.
- Modern Hispanic Literature and Culture I and II. A study and interpretation of Hispanic thought and ideas; Spain and the New World; characteristics of Spanish Romanticism; the novel, contemporary Hispanic music and art, . . . and literature.
A decade prior to the introduction of the DHEW document, Seton Hall continued to have a strong Modern Languages program with many undergraduates availing themselves of this course of study. A specialized Language Laboratory was constructed during the early 1960s which allowed students the opportunity to test their oral competency in the vernacular(s) being study along with various study aids to help sharpen and hone skills. Added to the program description is the following addendum that profiled the seriousness applied to the work being undertaken by the Department of Modern Languages on behalf of the student experience: “Subsequent courses in the literature of the country stress the intensive reding and appreciation of the major literary masterpieces.” In addition, three new course selections were added to the registration catalog during the mid-1960s and included: Spanish Literature of the Generation of 1898 I and II, Spanish Literature of the Golden Age I and II, and Advanced Spanish Composition and Conversation I and II.
Seton Hall was therefore in the vanguard when it came to endorsing and proliferating the rise of exposure and enrollment in Spanish-language classes while part of the campus-community on the dawn of the 1970s. For example, the Class Outlines found in the Seton Hall University Bulletins published between 1970-72 in particular provides a well-detailed review of study options. This included a minimal 30 credit completion level of Spanish-centered courses above the elementary level alone. In addition, by this time a Master’s Level diploma could be attained in Spanish at Seton Hall. Along with many of the aforementioned class descriptions another addition was the highest level course offered at the school to that date entitled the: “Language Seminar” in which the student explored the principles of literary criticism that also required a semester-ending term paper to complete.
Cover of the Puerto Rican Institute Inauguration Program – October 17, 1974
The community need for Spanish language exposure was clearly evident from the dawn of the establishment of the Puerto Rican Institute (today known as the Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute at Seton Hall University) during the mid-1970s. For example, the Commemorative Program for the Institute held on October 17, 1974 in the Student Center, the guest speakers included those who dealt with dialectic issues on a regular basis for years including not only University President, Msgr. Thomas Fahy and first director of the Puerto Rican Institute, Ms. Milagros Collazo, but also a national perspective was added via Mr. Philip Garcia, Director of the Office for Spanish Surnamed Americans (Washington, D.C.) and the state represented by Mr. Diego Castellanos, Director of Bilingual Education for the New Jersey State Department of Education (Trenton) among others.
From this point, the Institute created a Center for Supportive Services. The promotional literature for the era highlighted the following approach to the potential student. “Have you ever needed help in understanding something? Have you ever felt “lost”? What can help me once I graduate, to find a job or to seek entry into a post-graduate program? These are obviously many of the questions which plague many college students. Because we also posted these questions, we offer the following services to students:
- Tutoring: Bilingual tutors are available to assist in drafting term papers, in completing other written and oral assignments, etc.
- Counseling: We provide individual and group counseling to students who wish assistance in working personal conflicts and in becoming more self aware.
- Academic Advisement: “Registration,” “add drop” “requisites”, etc. are terms which are very familiar to the weathered college students. Our office stands ready to assist you in selecting your courses, in meeting your general requirements and in extracting as much as possible from departmental offerings.
- Placement: Puerto Rican graduates of this University will be assisted in locating employment in their major areas. They will also be assisted in their pursuing post-graduate studies at this University or in obtaining another program of post-graduate studies in another university of their choice.
They can then utilize this knowledge in effect positive changes both on the island and mainland. This Institute will also serve to provide educational and cultural services to the community.” In addition, special courses that required at least some Spanish-language detail included Puerto Rican Literature, Introduction to Puerto Rican Culture, and the Peoples’ of Puerto Rico History Past and Present among others.
Within the 2020-21 Academic Calendar, each of these precedents from elementary to advanced level instruction has led to the creation of a Spanish major within the larger Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures program remain active under the banner of the College of Arts & Sciences. Those who study the language also have the option of doing inter-disciplinary study with other programs within Latino/Latina Studies along with a dedicated focus upon bilingual/heritage speakers and those who would enter the world of business or diplomacy-based translation among others offered across campus.
In looking retrospectively at the 1970 document along with historical and subsequent Spanish-language works that cover dialectic development within the United States, but is varied applications and value. The University Libraries – http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/results?vid=0&sid=a48ed579-f901-4566-be41-0709b6a4d8ba%40pdc-v-sessmgr04&bquery=spanish%2blanguage%2band%2bthe%2bunited%2bstates&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPXNzbyZ0eXBlPTAmc2VhcmNoTW9kZT1BbmQmc2l0ZT1lZHMtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d
Primary source materials on unique subjects including information on the historical development of the Modern Languages Department in general and the Spanish-language major in particular at Seton Hall University can be examined further via resources found in the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center. For more introductory resource leads please feel free to consult the following link for more details regarding Spanish-language resources in particular . . .
Additional data points on Spanish-themed resources and the overall scope of Central and South American life can be found within the following information page dedicated to this region and the overall Latino experience which is updated by Professor Lisa DeLuca, Professor Brooke Duffy, and Professor Lisa Rose-Wiles which provides relevant information leads along with other subject librarians in relation to the Seton Hall University community and general public alike . . .
Latin American Research Guide – https://library.shu.edu/latam
For more details about the history of the Spanish-language experience at Seton Hall University and other aspects of Latin America please feel free to consult the Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute at Seton Hall University via the following link – https://www.shu.edu/latino-institute/ or contact Ms. Ana Campoverde, Executive Director by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: (973) 761-9422. Additional aspects about the history of Latino and their contributions to Seton Hall can be researched via the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center. Please feel free to consult our website at: https://library.shu.edu/archives or contact Alan Delozier, University Archivist by e-mail: Alan.Delozier@shu.edu or phone: (973) 275-2378.