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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

A sign for change

Photo by Sarah Kuhns
Ava Hart, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences started a petition for the creation of an ASL minor at Marquette.

Every Tuesday night in the basement of the Wehr Chemistry Building, students sit in a circle communicating with one another, but the room is silent. These students aren’t learning how to speak, they are instead learning how to sign.

Marquette offers Arabic, French, German, Spanish and classic languages like Greek and Latin as language minors, but not American Sign Language. Ava Hart, a student in ASLA 1002 and a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, started a petition to create an American Sign Language minor at Marquette University. 

“An ASL 1 and 2 course is not enough, I have too many students come back and say ‘I want more,’” Dana Callan-Farley, instructor of American Sign Language at Marquette, said. 

Marquette currently offers two American Sign Language courses: ASLA 1001 and ASLA 1002. Both courses are taught by Callan-Farley. 

“They’re never going to become interpreters in two semesters or even in a minor, we’re not looking for that,” Callan-Farley said. “This place is about developing community in the subjects that we’re studying and that’s more important to me than sending a few to become interpreters, because it’s about connections.”

About four miles away from Marquette, The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee offers an ASL major and an ASL minor.

“You can take all of these online classes but sitting down and signing with somebody and actually getting that face-to-face interaction is really important,” Hart said. “There’s not a Duolingo for sign language.”

Hart is also working on drafting a Marquette University Student Government resolution. Anthony Bryant, who is deaf, is a teaching assistant for ASLA 1001 and 1002. 

“I want students to know ASL so they can be involved and meet deaf people, create deaf space, be deaf-friendly, learn about the culture and the history and to know that we have experiences that are hard,” Bryant said.

The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders said approximately 15% of people aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing and one in eight people aged 12 years and older in the United States has hearing loss in both ears.

“We should be more inclusive on campus and we should validate ASL as a language as much as we’re doing it for spoken languages,” Hart said.

Hart’s petition has garnered over 300 signatures in support of an ASL minor.

“I decided to sign the petition because growing up, I had a lot of classes with people who had auditory or vocal complications, including my mom who is rapidly losing her hearing. I wish I could have been able to communicate with them and hope to be able to have conversations with my mom in the future,” Mackenna Clayton, a junior in the College of Engineering, said.

Clayton and many others who signed the petition said they are in support of an ASL minor because Marquette should be more accessible, diverse and inclusive.

“I believe that it is important to have an ASL minor at Marquette because there are so many other language minors and if the school preaches about inclusivity and diversity, I believe it is only right to include ASL as a learning opportunity,” Clayton said.

Hart and Callan-Farley said they hope to bring awareness to deaf culture and give every student the opportunity to become a part of the deaf community.

“People have, for so long, been trying to communicate and the burden’s been placed on them and I think it’s only fair that we take some of the burden and try to communicate with people when we have every ability to do it,” Hart said.

Timothy Littau contributed to this report.

This story was written by Bailey Striepling. She can be reached at [email protected].

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