As of November 2021, UNLV’s Filipinx American Student Association (FASA) has been working diligently to propose a Tagalog course on the UNLV campus. From their very first attempt, in which their proposal was rejected by the Department of World Languages and Culture due to lack of funds, FASA has continued to prosper through their second opportunity. The Scarlet and Gray Free Press were able to speak with FASA’s president and one of the co-leads of Operation Salita, Jacques Millan, to provide further information about its significance.
“Operation Salita is a student-led public education to essentially get a Tagalog course on UNLV campus. Tagalog, a language native to the Philippines, is the 2nd most spoken foreign language, behind Spanish, in Nevada. There is a large Filipino-American population in the valley and at UNLV, yet there is no inclusion of a Tagalog language course. Operation Salita is a campaign aimed towards educating the community on language inclusivity, as well as spreading cultural awareness, competency and reconnecting with your cultural roots,” stated Millan.
UNLV is well known for its diverse community, and Operation Salita’s efforts are being presented as another form to promote the school’s inclusivity. Not only is the Tagalog language a way for students to connect with one another, but it allows for cultural identity to grow rather than be lost to history. Millan further claims, “Just from connecting with students, it’s evident that losing one’s cultural roots and native language is a common theme throughout many first-generation college students and immigrants. By being civically engaged and participating in the survey and petition, it would help us strengthen our campaign.”
Since the Scarlet and Gray Free Press’s last interview with Millan from March of this year, Operation Salita has grown tremendously.
“First, we were featured on Las Vegas local news on Channel 8. Second, we partnered with Istorya, a community-driven, experiential pop-up restaurant in Las Vegas, focusing on storytelling and the exploration of Filipino cuisine. We were able to share our campaign with the community through storytelling. Third, we are proud to announce we are launching a Tagalog Pilot Program, where students and the community can learn Tagalog, while we are still working towards proposing an official Tagalog course to UNLV,” Millan explains.
Alongside their active participation with the Las Vegas community, FASA has increased their team and has created individual committees in order to expand their campaign. Their committees include Admin, Finance, Marketing, Communications, Outreach and Events. They have also continued to strengthen their campaign through their social media presence. To follow FASA’s journey to install a Tagalog course, follow them on Instagram under the account name @operation._salita or go on their website www.operationsalita.org. Their petition and survey for Operation Salita can be found on the website as well as donating options to help FASA reach their $3000 goal.
“Through this campaign, we also hope to open more opportunities for language inclusivity. In the Philippines, there are over 100+ languages and dialects that are also worth learning about. In the future, I would hope there are more languages available at UNLV that aren’t as represented because it is through language, that line of communication and understanding, that keeps a community together,” says Millan. FASA’s Operation Salita aligns with the organization’s goals of creating a safe environment for cultural expression and representation for all students. Millan alongside his co-lead Leora Dumanlang have continued to emphasize the power of community and look forward to seeing how UNLV can move forward with their initiative.