Push for ASL to fill language requirement revived
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 09:03
A resolution recommending that American Sign Language (ASL) count towards the first part of the School of Arts and Sciences foreign language requirement passed in the The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate last week, reviving a perennial push for a revision to the requirement.
The resolution will now pass to the Arts and Sciences Curricula Committee for review, according to TCU President Wyatt Cadley, after which the school’s faculty will vote on whether to put it into effect.
The Arts and Sciences faculty in 2008 voted down a proposal from the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development to allow ASL to fulfill the first part of the language requirement.
Cadley, a senior, submitted the resolution with junior Shaylagh McCole and Committee on Student Life student representative Kumar Ramanathan, a sophomore. McCole said Ramanathan approached her about the resolution several months ago because McCole had already helped lobby the department for to establish an ASL minor, a proposal that is still under consideration by the department.
ASL courses can be used to fulfill the second half of the foreign language foundation requirement, but the resolution calls for ASL to be officially considered a language so that it can fulfill either part, McCole said.
The Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development currently offers three ASL classes, which, if the proposal is approved by the School of Arts and Sciences, would count for either half of the requirement, according to McCole.
“I’m hoping that this will be the first step in getting more ASL at Tufts, because not recognizing it as a language makes it very difficult to expand the program,” she said.
The resolution was passed as the department itself is in the process of reviewing its ASL courses and considering holding them three times a week instead of two, as they do now. Many language classes at Tufts are held classes three times a week, which is more conducive to language learning, according to McCole.
If the proposal is passed by the faculty, it would likely go into effect next fall, Cadley said.
“I’m hoping that, if ... this does pass, that it will increase the demand for students who want to take American Sign Language,” he said.
Cadley said American Sign Language is already considered a high-demand course, adding that the proposal may lead to the expansion of ASL offerings in the department.
ASL Lecturer Terrell Clark explained that she has seen a constant demand for ASL during the years that she has taught these courses at Tufts.
“There have been many students over the years who have shown a particular interest in sign language and have taken themselves further than what Tufts is offering, which I think is a sort of enduring tribute for the interest that many students have had,” Clark said.
Students who studied ASL at Tufts have gone on to other universities to take higher-level courses or incorporated ASL into their eventual careers, Clark said.
“I think the biggest thing that it changes is that ... Tufts will finally be giving American Sign Language the recognition that it deserves for the discipline,” Cadley said. “I think that is first and foremost what really matters.”
Senate support of the resolution has helped to show support for the cause of ASL advocates as they continue to make their case to Arts and Sciences faculty, McCole said.
“This entire process kind of plays into the notion that when Senate says yes, it’s
helping causes which students are already working on,” Cadley said. “I think that’s what we were able to do with this resolution.”