A Call to Action: International Students Fight for ESL Resources at Furman

Written by Christy Litz, Anna Zhang, Ada Zhao

***We acknowledge that not all international students are ESL students, yet most ESL students are internationals. We would use the words “ESL students” and “international students” interchangeably for the ease of expression. 

How many hours do you spend writing a five-page paper? Two, five, ten hours? 

But how long would it take you to write it in a non-native language? Four, ten, twenty hours? 

Think back to when you started college– you might have been in a new state, probably made some new friends, and ideally, learned some new things. Now imagine doing all of that, but in a new country, while learning and using a new language. Wouldn’t it be a relief to have a trusted person to assist you with the academic hurdle? 

One aspect that many internationals consider when applying for college is the academic support system provided. Currently, this system at Furman University is lacking an essential component. 

Recently, unbeknownst to the faculty and international student community, Furman University dismissed its only English as Second Language (ESL) specialist. This dismissal disappointed many at Furman because it eliminated the already scarce ESL resources, presumably impeding students’ academic growth and potential. 

American students might find public speaking difficult, but for an international student, the task is daunting and, at times, seemingly insurmountable. Many ESL students face challenges with their academics, such as spending at least twice as much time doing readings compared to native English speakers, devoting time and energy writing down and remembering every sentence they plan to say in class, and struggling to clarify and express their ideas during writing. The struggle of applying a foreign language to student life does not end when you leave the classroom, unlike the relief you get at the end of a typical 50-minute language class. 

Hopefully, at this point, you can empathize with some of what your international friends experience daily. Now it is imperative to understand the urgency and reasoning for hiring a new writing specialist. 

When one financially commits to a university, inherently, a contract has been formed. The student has agreed to pay a set amount for a particular set of services. At Furman, one of the fundamental academic services students pay for is the Center for Academic Success, and thus, access to a professional writing specialist. 

In addition to the ethical obligation of upholding the contract between student and university, there is also a pragmatic argument for why Furman should rehire an ESL specialist: Compared to 30 other similar liberal art colleges, which ranked from No. 25 to No. 55 on “U.S. News Best 

Liberal Art College Ranking,” Furman University (ranked No. 46) is one of only two colleges that does not have an available ESL resource (the other one ranked No. 43). If Furman wishes to move in a better direction, it should look to the top schools, because that is where we are going in the future. 

According to their website, the mission of the Center for Academic Success (CAS) is to ““support all students in achieving their academic potential and goals through individual and campus-wide initiatives that foster self-regulation and self-advocacy in academic and personal growth.” With the removal of ESL resources, the CAS does not support all Furman students, especially those who need it most. 

Filling the position would not only fulfill Furman’s institutional statement, but also contribute to students’ intellectual development. Everyone benefits from being a good writer and deserves to have the necessary resources to fulfill their academic goals and personal growth. This specialist would not just proofread and check for grammatical mistakes, but also cultivate and inspire students’ writing abilities, which eventually prepare them for “lives of purpose and accelerated career and community impact—demonstrating in concrete terms the value of a Furman education,” as the Furman Advantage promises. 

The current situation, in every respect, is directly opposed to the CAS’ mission statement and Furman University’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and academic excellence. Now, after seven weeks of advocacy to bring back ESL support, there is still no affirmative answer as to whether or not, or when, the university will hire another ESL specialist. 

We challenge Furman University– its students, faculty, staff, and administration– to honor the agreement between students and the university and rise up to the impeccable standard of academia it claims to hold. Show your support for all of Furman’s students by signing the petition.

https://www.change.org/p/furman-university-bring-back-furman-s-esl-resource

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