By CELIA BROCKER
There are several different language minors at Drake University; the Department of World Language & Culture offers Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish as options to minor in. However, there is one language absent from the program that Drake students want. The Deaf Culture Representation at Drake University club is sending around a petition to include American Sign Language (ASL) as a minor.
The initial goal of the group was to get more ASL classes offered at Drake. There are currently three courses available; American Sign Language, American Sign Language II and Deaf Culture, all of which are in high demand. For many Drake students, this is not enough.
“We have so many languages already that I feel like we should just add this on to it,” said Kim Bates, one of the leaders of the campaign. “What’s the point in having two classes regarding the language if you can’t go all the way and use it in your everyday life?”
According to the World Health Organization, in 2015 360 million people – 5 percent of the world’s population – reported having disabling hearing loss. In the U.S., ASL is the sixth most used language. With so many people who rely on sign language to communicate, many argue that ASL would be a viable language to study.
“Drake is not a deaf culture friendly campus,” Bates said. “We’re very accepting, yeah, but there are certain accommodations our campus can do to make it easier for deaf people, and to bring in more deaf culture, to get more classes.”
Marc Pinheiro-Cadd, the director of the World Languages and Cultures Department at Drake, says it would be a fantastic idea since a lot of people are interested in ASL and Drake has a well-qualified instructor.
“It’s really not offered anywhere else in the metro area,” Pinheiro-Cadd said. “Since a lot of people from the community come to take it, it really generates revenue for Drake.”
The movement started in December, but took a break over the winter holidays. Now that everyone is back on campus, the group is picking up back up. The petition has around 400 signatures at the moment, and Bates feels confident they will be able to get the approval they need.
“We have a teacher who is willing to teach and students who are willing to learn,” Bates said. “The administration has to listen to us because there is such a high demand.”
Future goals for the Deaf Culture Representation club include becoming more involved with the deaf community in Des Moines outside of classes, and to raise awareness about the deaf community.
“I’m a firm believer that in order for our world to be more educated peaceful and positive all cultures should be in touch,” Bates said. “[ASL] is just a really beautiful language, and by being able to speak it or at least understanding the culture, you’re opening yourself up to another culture.”
To follow the movement and sign the petition, there is a Facebook page (Deaf Culture Representation at Drake University) and an Instagram (@drakedeafculture).
Photo of ASL students