Oriental Studies' faculty members, who have been under fire by minority groups for months, have agreed to change the department's name and will vote on a new title in fall, according to Ludo Rocher, the department's chairperson. The Oriental Studies department may change its name to Asian and Near Eastern Humanities, after months of criticism from students and faculty that the term "Oriental" is offensive to Asians. Rocher said the proposed title, which developed from faculty suggestions, may appease many of the department's critics, but may not meet some faculty members' approval. The broad-spanning department -- which encompasses Indo-Iranian studies, Far Eastern studies and Middle Eastern studies -- came under fire last year, with students charging that the name is outdated and ethnocentric. Critics also said the department is too broad and does not address non-western issues fully enough. Throughout the months of debate, Oriental Studies department members would not commit to changing the name because of the complexities of the curriculum which they said would make it difficult to find an alternate name. After heated controversy and increased insults, department members seem to have agreed to a change, but Graduate Chairperson Victor Mair said it will be a hard and long process. The Chinese Literature professor said all of the 60 or 70 names suggested exclude some aspect of Oriental Studies, saying the proposed name, for instance, excludes the Far Eastern and Egyptology courses. Mair also said he fears another change in social thought will make a new name obsolete. "We're afraid to pick a name that four or five years down the road the P.C. police will tell us we made a bad change," Mair said. Former United Minorities Council leader John Shu, who harshly criticized the Oriental Studies department last school year, said this week he also thinks it will be hard to find a new name, blaming it on the faculty, who are "really stiff," and on the broadness of the department. "They want to be extremely precise about what they study, and they study everything from the Middle East, to East Asia and even Africa," Shu said. "I think they should split up the department." But Shu said he doubts faculty members and University administrators will agree to alter the department. Other universities across the country have also debated the name of their Oriental Studies departments, and some, like the University of California at Berkeley, have plans to change the controversial name. But Mair insisted that the term "Oriental," while not intended to insult anyone, is still the most comprehensive. "I think the name will be changed just because people don't like to be hassled, they don't like to be subjected to accusations of discrimination when they don't feel it in their hearts," Mair added.Comments powered by Disqus
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