Campus Emily Henderson Feature March 25, 2019 Uncategorized

Bringing sign language to campus


Alma offers a small variety of foreign language classes, and it’s required that each student take at least four credits in a language course, as well as four credits in a global.

Many students find languages such as Spanish, French and German interesting, while others may find them bland or hard to learn.

One class the college has yet to offer is American Sign Language, or ASL. While it may not be found on this campus, many online colleges as well as CMU offer various ASL courses.

Two students, Bailey Frank (‘21) and Jillian Weber (‘21), are proposing to add an ASL course to Alma’s campus.

Frank and Weber both feel as though adding ASL to campus would be beneficial to many people. “[It] would help other students have the opportunity to learn sign language as their language rather than doing Spanish or something if they have speech issues,” said Weber.

Frank and Weber have been working on this proposition this semester, and they will soon be presenting their idea in front of President Abernathy. “We have to talk to the foreign language professors here to see about the competition and how much they make so we can make a rough [budget] estimate for President Abernathy,” said Frank.

While adding a class may seem easy to do, there is a lot that go into a decision like this. “It would be expensive to go through a hiring process for an adjunct professor to teach it here,” said Dana Aspinall, assistant professor of English.

Not only would it be a big financial investment to add a course like this, the college must decide whether or not enough students would take such a course.

“We’re very cost-conscious at the college because all higher education is sort of in an economic crisis right now and we’re not immune from that,” said Aspinall. “We’re just trying to be very careful with our money.”

Although cost is a big factor in decisions like this, some students feel as though the benefit outweighs the cost.

“I think it would be a big benefit to campus because I really think it could bring in students who would feel more comfortable [here]. If they were deaf they could come to this college and there would be people they could communicate with,” said Kimber Buzzard (‘21).

Buzzard is a student who decided to take her ASL courses online and transfer the credits to Alma’s campus. As of right now, students that want to take ASL can take it for their foreign language requirement, but it will need to be either online or via commute to a campus such as CMU. Professors in the language department do allow ASL credits to count for the foreign language distributive.

Frank and Weber have been getting in contact with other campuses that offer this course, trying to determine what it would take to have it here. On top of the option of an ASL course being added, it will also need to be determined whether or not it will be credited as a foreign language, humanities course, global, or in the communications.

While not currently being offered here, some remain very positive about the probability of finding such a course at Alma in the near future. “So far we’ve had about 120 people answer our questionnaire. Of that 120 there [were] about six that did not want to [add this course]. That means there are about 114 Alma College students that would take it if it was offered,” said Frank.

Either way, Aspinall is very proud of his students this semester. “I’m very proud of the honors program students, this year in particular, for coming up with these ideas. Some of them are just fabulous, and I know that some of them are going to be put into place,” said Aspinall.

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