As we all know, Eastern Kentucky University’s Board of Regents have recently made the decision to suspend several academic programs. One of those included the deaf studies B.A. program.
This decision was personally upsetting for me because I am currently enrolled in the deaf studies program. Although, I am allowed to be taught-out and am certainly grateful for that, I am still concerned for all the prospective students who want to get involved with Deaf culture and learn American Sign Language (ASL). I am also concerned of what this means for the Deaf community at Eastern.
Among the people involved with the American Sign Language and Interpreter Education (ASLIE) department, this suspension feels like an oppression. It feels as if the university is disregarding an important culture and language. The Deaf, in fact, have their own culture and language, and this needs to be acknowledged by the university.
The deaf studies major is also just as important as other culture and language studies still being taught at this university, like the African and African-American studies minor, the Asian studies minor and certificate; and language studies like French, German, Japanese, Spanish and classical Latin that also involve learning about those cultures.
It has also come to my attention that there is no real budget value in cutting the deaf studies program. The Interpreter Training Program (ITP) in the ASLIE department will continue, which, of course, is vital for this university. With the Interpreter Training Program being preserved, the suspension of deaf studies makes no sense. All courses, but one, in the deaf studies program lineup with the courses required in the ITP, so all American Sign Language classes and courses teaching about Deaf culture are all still being taught after the suspension.
Part of the decision to cut this program seemed to be the thought that the deaf studies program was taking students away from the Interpreter Training Program, but this is not the case. Students wanting to be an interpreter need to have prerequisites, apply and get accepted into the ITP; and deaf studies actually provides students, still thinking about becoming an interpreter, with a chance to prepare for their ITP application.
There are also many students from out of state who apply to EKU’s Interpreter Training Program. Furthermore, the ASLIE department can only accept a set amount of students into the program. It is very important for only the best students to be accepted so the deaf can have the best interpreter accessibility.
Also, some students just don’t want to be an interpreter but still want to learn about the Deaf culture and language. And I am sure that there are also future Deaf students that would love to learn more about their culture and language, especially if they had not grown up with the chance to be immersed in it.
With the deaf studies program, students can take advantage of these opportunities and use what they learn in any field they choose to work. This is why I chose the deaf studies program as a second major. And although ASL and Deaf culture classes are still being taught, it is troubling that prospective students can only credit these toward a deaf education or interpreting degree when they may not be interested in becoming a teacher or interpreter.
I have fallen in love with the Deaf culture and American Sign Language, especially after being taught and mentored by both hearing and Deaf faculty and staff. I want other students who desire to learn ASL and desire to be involved with the Deaf community to have the same chance as I did.
Unfortunately, this was the only university in the state to provide a deaf studies program, which is why I chose to attend this university in the first place. After cutting this program, the university is most likely going to lose future students because they have taken away something vital. This decision was clearly not in the best interest for the future of this university.