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SGA pushes to qualify ASL courses for Ball State’s foreign language requirements

Silence, absolute silence. 

Some, such as Jeff Choates, Ball State American Sign Language (ASL) adjunct professor, are born into a silent world, into a deaf community.  He, his parents and his brother are all deaf. 

Choate said ASL is the way his family communicates. Now, he wants “everyone to understand ASL as a language.”

While ASL is the sixth most-used language in the U.S., according to Gallaudet University,  courses in the language  cannot be taken to fulfill Ball State’s foreign language requirements for a Bachelor of Arts degree.

“Why is ASL not offered as a foreign language,” Choate said. “ASL is the true language of the deaf. The deaf communicate with each other using it.

“More and more deaf people become active in the hearing society, participating in any activities that most are in … We now live in a multicultural country embracing people of different languages and culture.”

Ball State students can currently take Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latin or Spanish to earn at least the three credits of foreign language courses Ball State requires for a Bachelor of Arts degree or for University Core Curriculum (UCC).

Student Government Association (SGA) senator Marcus Jennings co-authored a SGA resolution promoting ASL courses at Ball State. He said the resolution is the first step for the inclusion of sign language courses in the university’s requirements.

“This resolution is supporting the steps to allow this. This is a foundation,” Jennings said. “I hope to increase the number of students that take the course. Then, there is an increase in the number of students who can communicate effectively.”

Currently, students at both Purdue University and Indiana University can take ASL courses to fulfill foreign language requirements. Ball State ASL courses, however, are offered to all students with limited space due to a lack of resources, said David McIntosh, chairperson of the department of special education.

McIntosh said the department only has Choate teaching ASL courses and because of this, there are only one or two courses offered a semester. 

“We are in support of making it fulfill foreign language requirements,” McIntosh said. “However, we have to be able to provide a quality program and find faculty to teach it.”