EDITORIAL: Liberal arts restrictions on international issues questionable

Herald Staff

The issue: Saudi Arabian students aren’t funded through their national government for most humanities-based majors. 

Our stance: It isn’t up to us to decide what any student’s major should or shouldn’t be, but we question the integrity of being partnered with an organization who limits student choice and education.

We acknowledge the terms that come with being a university with international reach. It means adapting and negotiating to find a way to integrate different cultures. We also realize the religious, cultural and political values some countries hold may differ from our own here in the United States. However, we question whether WKU should partner with organizations that inhibit students receiving scholarships for certain courses, such as the case with Saudi students and theatre and religion courses. 

To us, it seems as if WKU is contributing, by association, to the limitations on educational freedom. In a 2013 Report on International Religion Freedom by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Saudi Arabia is one of several countries standing out for its prohibition of religious freedom, noting that it “is neither recognized nor protected under the law.”

Laura DeLancey, Academic Quality Committee chair, said in an April 13 Herald story that the conversation may continue if someone asks for further investigation regarding Saudi Arabian students’ academic freedom. She added that if someone on Faculty Senate or the Senate Executive Committee decided to broaden the conversation, then the committee would investigate. 

If we aim to be a university with international reach, this is a conversation that should continue, not only within the scope of Saudi Arabian students, but with all other countries or cultures participating in the WKU community. 

We saw a similar situation earlier in the semester—the implementation of a building for the Confucius Institute—and we’re slightly apprehensive about what all this means for our students and our university. 

If the students that are coming to WKU can’t participate in all facets of culture and education, are they receiving the full experience promised by our institution? Or is it simply that our university is a kind of facilitator, reinforcing the limitations imposed on education, failing to find a solution that will allow educational freedom for its entire student population?

When it comes to basic human rights, freedom of religion and education are among the count. It is our hope for the university to actively pursue avenues that will allow students of any background to delve into any field they desire.