Fall marks end of Sign Language offerings; students start petition

Baldwin Wallace University prides itself on including all walks of life and being a diverse community. If it was not so steadfast on including all regardless of who they are, the break with the Methodist Church would not have taken place. There is another break that BW is in charge of, and it has many people questioning why and a petition being passed around for signatures.

Fall 2019 is the last semester BW will offer any sign language courses. Both CSD 134- Sign Language and CSD 334-American Sign Language are being eliminated from the course catalog without much notice.

“They cut the ASL program, and they did it without telling us…We didn’t even know because we were enrolled in it. We had it planned because you could still plan it in Blackboard, but there was no section,” said sophomore Hallie Devault, who is in the sign language course currently.

According to Devault, administration said the classes simply are “not needed anymore” and the decision was made in August.

There is a petition going around the BW community with over 150 signatures from students who are in the class, who have taken the class or who are wanting to take the class.

“It is great to see this passion from our students, but the actual enrollment numbers do not reflect the support that the petition has received. The Provost is meeting with the student organizers of the petition to discuss the course and the reasons for its discontinuation,” said Christie Needham, chair of the communications and science disorders department.

“We want to get the word out because a lot of people don’t know that it was cut already. They already made the decision. We [kind of] found out about it after they made the decision, and we’re upset about it,” said senior Melissa Cornell.

Devault said that she and Cornell are working to show administration that the sign language courses fulfill core requirements such as diversity, humanities and language.

According to Devault, the sign language course at BW do not involve just learning the language, they involve a great deal of learning about deaf culture and thee signing culture. That stems from the professor, Dr. Charles Williams, and his story of losing his hearing when he was young.

Needham said the department and school are grateful for what Professor Williams has brought to the classroom, but there are more factors involved in deciding to discontinue the sign language courses including degree requirements, input from industry leaders and even license and certification needs.

Cornell and Devault are asking the university to take a second look at the courses to see the need for them both personally and professionally. Deaf people and people who need to use sign language to communicate on a daily basis are all around from the classroom to the theatre.

Nathaniel Benson, a barista at the Starbucks on Front St., uses his ability to sign to communicate with customers.

“I think they shouldn’t get rid of sign language because it’s a part of communication. We get plenty signed people who come in here, and it’s very useful to know the language,” he said.

Even at the Great Lakes Theater production of The Music Man—which starred several Baldwin Wallace students, sign interpreters were utilized so everyone could enjoy the performance.

“Getting rid of it it’s like taking away an option for interaction,” said Benson. Sign language is used by many for communicating on a professional level and a personal level.

Instead of making the signing community come to those who do not need to use sign language out of necessity by using technology or just keeping them in the dark, the pressure BW is facing from its number one customer and advocate, the students, may make them think twice about cutting these two courses; or, the numerous factors Needham cited may be the stronger force.