January 13, 2006

Randel meets with university presidents at national conference

President Don Randel attended the U.S. University Presidents Summit on International Education on January 5 and 6. Hoping to encourage foreign language study, study abroad, and the acceptance of international students, the U.S. Departments of State and Education expressed the government’s commitment to international education.

A high profile event, the summit boasted speakers including President George Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling. Over 130 University presidents attended.

At the summit, the Bush administration introduced the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), in an effort to drastically increase the number of Americans who can speak “critical-need foreign languages.” The category includes Arabic, Farsi, Chinese, Russian, and Hindi.

Developed by the director of national intelligence, the secretary of state, the secretary of education, and the secretary of defense, the NSLI plans on expanding language study from kindergarten, through university-level, and even into the workforce. Officials want to raise the number of advanced foreign language speakers and foreign language teachers. President Bush hopes to spend over $100 million for this plan.

Participants at the summit also discussed current issues concerning foreign students, including the State Department’s commitment to shortening delays for visas.

While hopeful about the opportunities this new focus would provide, Randel pointed out that the new and expanded programs may never be fully funded or even realized.

“This can’t just be about the military and intelligence gathering but also about increasing our understanding of other people,” Randel said. However, the summit’s speakers stressed that only a small proportion of the those involved in the Defense Department’s involvement in the language initiative would be expected to serve in the military.

“[The summit meeting and the NSLI] is potentially worthwhile. That they demonstrated the level of commitment that they did, bringing the people that they did, is a good sign. But we’ll have to wait and see,” Randel said.