Faculty and students unhappy with BGSU’s termination of sign language courses

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (WTVG) – Executives at Bowling Green State University told faculty last month that the university will no longer offer American Sign Language classes, starting in the fall of this year. And the decision shocked and upset professors and students. The announcement was sent to ASL professors in December.

“It’s disappointing because, especially during a pandemic, when communication access for deaf people is currently at an all time high.” said Kyle Parke, who teaches American Sign Language.

It’s because of the need for masks, and Parke says lip reading of someone wearing a mask is impossible.

“I had a student at ROTC and I was driving all the way to New York. He saw that a couple were stuck on the side of the road, so he stopped to help them. He didn’t know they were deaf people and he was impressed that he could contact them to change their tire.

In the email sent in December, administrators cited budget cuts as the reason for the class cuts. But Parke says it doesn’t make sense to him. He explains: “When I started here at BGSU, there were only two sections of ASL 1. One or two semesters after that, there were five. They were all full and we had a waiting list.

The waiting list applied to all levels of ASL courses. And he says these courses generate funds for the department and the students clearly want to learn.

“These things that we teach them are vital. I don’t know how the University doesn’t see this.

Harrison Carter is president of the undergraduate student body. He told 13abc that the proposal to end ASL classes at BGSU was presented to the administration in late October 2020. After a vote to reject it by the Senate executive committee, Carter said the trustees of the university had agreed to go ahead with the proposal.

Last Monday, Carter said the undergraduate student government passed a resolution asking administrators to reverse their choice. He explains: “The decision was not taken lightly. It is not something that they are happy to do as an institution, but we also know that ASL is a very vital course for many students on this campus.

Carter told 13abc that the 250 students enrolled in ASL classes were not told by the university that the classes would no longer be offered, but learned from the instructors. Either way, he says that while trying to do good for the college community, the students are learning some important lessons right now. “After a hotly contested November general election for the whole of the United States, in a spirit of shared governance and voice of our opinions, this is exactly what it takes to have collective, civil and productive conversations. “, did he declare.

Carter hopes the vocal student body can continue conversations between government decision-makers and faculty members, as well as undergraduates and graduate students. He also cites the money returned from the state’s education share as a point of hope that the university can find money within its budget to allow the ASL program to continue. 13abc has not received confirmation of this funding at the time of this writing. In a statement to 13abc, university leaders say a low number of students in the minor program and difficulty finding instructors for higher-level courses contributed to the program’s termination. The statement also assures that eliminating classes this year will not delay graduation for students in those classes currently.

A changer.org a petition has been launched asking that BGSU keep its ASL courses. You can find the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/bgsu-keep-asl-classes-at-bgsu?fbclid=IwAR3DVWFYxeNPo8_CAkkmZ8jpXVqz6IxsPAzSvY980fNueEFcc6Lm2W6cwB4.

Full declaration:

In response to budget cuts and additional teaching responsibilities for our faculty in the wake of the global pandemic, Bowling Green State University made the difficult decision to eliminate American Sign Language (ASL) classes and the minor of 21 credits. We realize that this had a disproportionate impact on the deaf community and the sense of belonging that developed with the addition of the program.

This decision was not taken lightly. While ASL language courses were very popular options for many students, these courses were not required for any degree from the College of Education and Human Development. The ASL minor was a new program that we were excited to add to our program offerings. However, since this minor was only recently approved, very few students had formally declared ASL as a minor. The added challenge of finding qualified ASL teachers to teach higher level ASL courses made it difficult to maintain the new minor. Therefore, the decision to eliminate ASL courses and the minor, while difficult, will not delay students in progressing to graduation.

As a public university for the public good, BGSU is committed to creating a community to which we all belong. The pandemic has affected our communities in different ways. BGSU is exploring new partnerships and possibilities that would provide students with the opportunity to access ASL courses and continue to support our deaf community at BGSU.

Here is the email sent to ASL faculty members on December 8, 2020:


Know that it is with a sad heart that I must tell you that from the fall 2021 session, we will not be offering any ASL courses. This spring we have ASL 1020, ASL 2010 and ASL 2020. . . this summer we will be offering ASL 2020 to some students so that they can take all four courses. This is due to budget cuts and since ASL is not an undergraduate program so it was cut. If students have any questions about their schedule, please suggest that they contact their advisor.

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Sylvester L. Goldfarb