Stop Deaf Discrimination at Kent State University

  • by: Brittany Snyder
  • recipient: To: Dr. Jennifer Larson, Department Chair President Lester Lefton, President University Communications and Marketing Dean Timothy Moerland, Dean

Kent State University in Ohio has one of the largest American Sign Language (ASL) programs in the country. When KSU announced they were going to save money by blocking non-sign language majors from ASL classes, the tight-knit ASL community at KSU sprang into action. Nearly 2,000 people signed a petition created by a student group, and students organized on the ground with in-person meetings, rallies and press conferences. 

After a lengthy negotiation period, student pressure forced the administration to back down. Non-sign language majors can register on the wait list for ASL classes and get any extra spots, and a member of the administration will meet regularly with a student ASL club.

"We have now opened the door to continue talks with the University about improvements to the program from a student perspective, and to continue working with them on achieving the rest of the demands in our petition," student Drew Hellebrand said.

Kent State University has one of the largest programs in American Sign Language in the nation, in one of the largest Deaf Communities. This information comes directly from the University's own website. However Kent State is discriminating against Deaf teachers, students, and the greater Deaf community by changing their rules so that studying American Sign Language at the main campus will only be open to students choosing to major or minor in the language beginning in the fall of 2011. This is a grave injustice to both the students and to the Deaf community. American Sign Language is one of the most common languages spoken in this country, second only to English and Spanish. By closing the program off to students that are not studying for a career in ASL, Kent State University is barring students from learning a valuable language that is desired throughout the country in many different fields, not just Deaf education. Class numbers have been greatly reduced. No other program in the Modern and Classical Languages Department has faced the restriction of their enrollment to students pursuing a degree in the language. The ASL program has been singled out in that aspect, and that is why we feel that this is discriminatory action against the Deaf community and culture. Join us in telling Kent State that enough is ENOUGH! Save the American Sign Language program now!

As one of the largest ASL programs in the nation, within one of the larger Deaf communities, we recognize our responsibility to our students, the Deaf community, and our students' future employers (both hearing and Deaf). ensure adequate progress and the high level of skills, self-awareness, and ethics needed for direct employment (in fields such as education, advocacy, nonprofit administration, mental health, media, and performing arts), or successful application for further study (in areas such as psychology, anthropology, linguistics, medicine, law, social services, rehabilitation and linguistics).

Quoted directly from the Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies (MCLS) Kent State website.

Kent State is not fulfilling its obligation to students to offer diverse and stimulating classes. American Sign Language (ASL), not only in foreign language education, interpreting, and deaf education, can be used in any field. Kent State is doing a disservice to the Deaf community, the Kent Community, and the Educated Community. According to the Kent State University MCLS website ASL fulfills these standards. Why is that being taken away from a vast majority of students?

A signature on this petition represents the need to save the ASL program at Kent State University Kent Campus. Recently, the Department of Modern Classical Language Studies made an unjust decision affecting a vast majority of students who want the option of taking American Sign Language at the Kent campus (non-major students will no longer be allowed to take ASL to fullfil their language requirement). KSU has been and should be the center of the ASL program. Students who are interested in ASL should not have to travel to a regional campus. This petition also urges the MCLS department to find a ASL coordinator. Though a current adviser is available we the students deserve someone who understands ASL and Deaf Culture. Limited classes equal limited learning.

We pay thousands of dollars in tuition money, room and board, books, and other school expenses. We deserve to be seen and heard.

We ask for your name, email address, year and major so that MCLS knows that every single one of us exists. There is power in numbers.
Our Demands:

1. Allow any and all students have the option to register for ASL at the Kent Campus
2. Establish a student committee consisting of Major/Minor students to give feedback on courses, professors, and other issues within the program
3. Provide a qualified Coorindator for the ASL program. (ie. someone who knows ASL and understands Deaf Culture) with Assistance.
4. Equal Deaf/ASL Representation at meetings

  • Sign Language is NOT universally the same. Most countries have their own Sign Language OR share a given Sign Language with a different dialect.

  • Sign Language is NOT JUST an alphabet where you have to sign each letter of the word you are trying to communicate. Sign Language is a complete language with a sign representing the majority of words found in written English. It's rarely required to spell a word because no sign exist. For example names and surnames are often spelled. The Sign Language Alphabet can serves as a great starting point to learn Sign Language.

  • Sign Language's grammar DIFFER totally from written English.

  • Babies CAN communicate physically 6-8 months prior to communicate verbally.

  • Sign Language does NOT ONLY consists of signs. To communicate effectively one uses:
    1. Facial expression.
    2. Body movement or (Body Language) .
    3. Hand shape. 
    4. Hand position.
    5. Hand movement.
    6. Gestures.

  • The first 6 moths are researched to be the most essential stage where a child develops his language skills.

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