American Sign Language petitions for new minor at Penn
A proposal for the minor was deferred last semester due to a lack of standing faculty
January 24, 2012, 11:48 pm·
A new petition is asking students not to sign with pens, but rather with their fingers.
Penn In Hand — a student-run group for people interested in learning how to sign — is asking students to fingerspell their names in sign language and video record their signature for a petition for the approval of a new American Sign Language and Deaf Studies minor.
The minor, which would be housed in the College of Arts and Science’s Linguistics Department, would consist of five required core courses and one elective.
The core courses would be made up of several linguistics classes on deaf culture and sociolinguistics, as well as an academically based community service course that will require students to be involved with a native deaf community.
“It is an interdisciplinary minor centered around language, culture, linguistics and academically based community service that allows students to integrate engaging locally and globally in a research-based way,” said Jami Fisher, a linguistics professor and the ASL program coordinator. “It also asks of students to contribute significant amounts of their own personal interests to what they get out of ASL.”
A proposal for the ASL minor was initially presented to the College’s curriculum committee last semester, but was deferred upon further review due to “the lack of standing faculty” teaching the proposed courses, College Dean Dennis DeTurck said.
DeTurck added that the committee also questioned whether the minor could be “sustainable on the backs of people who are not standing faculty.”
The minor will be up for re-approval when the curriculum committee meets again in February, Fisher said.
College senior and Penn in Hand President Arielle Spellun is optimistic that the minor will be approved this time around, since the petition that is currently circulating “has the student voices represented and shows that there is a lot of student interest.”
Penn in Hand’s video petition has seen participation from more than 50 students. Another e-petition has gathered more than 170 signatures as well.
“It’s very important for the committee to see that students want it,” Fisher said. “The students took it upon themselves to show that they are interested.”
College sophomore Connor Bartholomew, a Penn in Hand board member and the creator of both petitions, added that while there is no specific number of signatures desired, the group’s goal is to get as many as possible.
“It’s important to show that people outside of the College and the ASL program are interested, too,” said Nursing senior Lauren Olsen, Penn in Hand’s events coordinator.
Olsen, who has taken every ASL course available at Penn, added that her ASL classes have “opened my eyes to a completely different culture and way of life.”
“Though I won’t get the chance to have the minor [as a senior], I hope that future years, and especially future freshmen have the opportunity to enroll,” she said.