Students fight to make ASL classes count as foreign language credit

Austin sophomore Tanner Wright introduces Billings Montana sophomore Bailey Hassler to the ASL Petition. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Holly Luttrell | Reporter

Several Baylor students have joined together to create a petition for American Sign Language to be offered as a foreign language for every student on campus.

American Sign Language classes are offered through the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences under the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. The classes do not count for modern foreign language credits for students who do not belong to this department.

“The reasoning, to my understanding, is largely based on the belief that ASL is not a foreign language since it is spoken in America,” said junior class senator Paige Hardy.

According to Hardy, the petition is being drafted by individual senators within student government, particularly from within the Academic Affairs Committee. The petition will be brought to the Senate, who will approach Baylor administration with the issue. A bill would be formed and sent to the student body president and the director of student life to be signed before being sent to the appropriate deans for implementation.

“Myself and others have been working closely with students and faculty throughout campus in order to make ASL a foreign language here at Baylor,” said Tanner Wright, academic affairs committee chair and Senate chaplain.

Students in the Senate and the Academic Affairs Committee see American Sign Language classes as an opportunity for Baylor students to connect with a large amount of the community that has been under-served.

“Waco has the fourth largest deaf population in the state. There’s more deaf people in Waco than there are in the entire city of San Antonio. Our efforts have been focused on making ASL a class that can be offered as a foreign language for all students of Baylor,” Wright said.

By making American Sign Language available to all students as a foreign language credit, Wright hopes to improve communication in the Waco community and on campus. Both Wright and his older brother Tyler are deaf, and have felt the impact of the lack of ASL education on campus. Tanner and Tyler Wright were both denied access to ASL classes for foreign language credit.

“It’s difficult enough for us to understand in English with our implants, let alone trying to learn a foreign language,” Wright said. “We are going to make sure that Baylor students in the future will not be stuck in the same situation as us.”

Wright explained that there was a petition similar to this that was passed around Baylor 10 years ago. While the petition got approximately 10 thousand signatures, no change was enacted.

“Students have been asking for this for years and have been largely ignored,” Hardy said. “The hope is that presenting a petition to administration in addition to our bill, we will show overwhelming support for this.

By offering ASL as a foreign language credit, Baylor students would be able to earn credit for the courses in the same way they could earn credit for Spanish, French, German or any other modern foreign language course.

“We need to stop treating the deaf community and their language as if it is simplistic and not worth a Baylor student’s time. Every student would be able to use it in their future,” Hardy said.

The students responsible for the petition are still collecting signatures. The petitions are being passed around campus through classes and at university events as hard copy documents.

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