MCLS opens American Sign Language courses to non-majors

Kelly Tunney

The Modern and Classical Language Studies Department announced it will open Elementary and Intermediate American Sign Language courses to a limited number of non-ASL students in the fall.

Earlier in the semester, MCLS restricted ASL courses to only majors and minors on Kent State’s main campus.

Jennifer Larson, chair of the MCLS department, said in an e-mail that the change will let non-ASL students join classes not filled with ASL majors and minors.

“Once all ASL-related majors and minors have had an opportunity to register, we will open any remaining seats in these sections to foreign language requirement students,” Larson wrote.

ASL, deaf education, educational interpreting and moderate/intensive special education majors will have priority for the classes, followed by minors and language requirement students. ASL minors will begin to fill the remaining seats with special approval Aug. 1, followed by language studies requirement students Aug. 8.

Larson wrote the decision was made in order to take advantage of all possible open spaces in ASL classes.

“We don’t want to have empty seats in ASL courses when there is a continuing high demand,” she wrote.

Larson wrote students will have to wait until August to find out if they are accepted in the class because incoming freshman ASL majors will schedule in the summer during Destination Kent State.

This decision was made after the Silent Standoff rally April 14, where students protested the ASL restrictions. The students delivered a petition with more than 1,700 signatures and began to discuss a compromise with Larson and the department.

Bethany Stahler, senior ASL major and an organizer of the Silent Standoff rally, said she did not expect such an immediate and cooperative response from the department.

“Honestly, I was surprised that we got a response that quickly,” she said. “We were glad they were at least able to work with us, and we feel that it’s a good compromise, but we’re still compromising; we’re still working on stuff.”

Larson wrote that she decided to work with the students for a compromise after she realized what the program meant to them.

“Seeing that we have such dedicated students in ASL caused me to want to connect with them and discuss the situation,” she wrote.

Drew Hellebrand, senior justice studies major and a leader of the Silent Standoff rally, said he is happy with the decision but hopes to continue negotiations.

“I think that it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t everything that we were hoping for, but there always has to be some compromise.”

Contact Kelly Tunney at [email protected].