In the fall quarter of 2019, students and members of the American Sign Language Club at UCR started an initiative to implement American Sign Language (ASL) courses at the university. They presented the initiative to ASUCR Senators Natalie Hernandez and Miguel Ramirez, who reached out to the deans and department chairs of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) to receive insight on the possibility of implementing said courses into the curriculum. ASUCR and the Student Voice Committee then teamed up to survey the general student population in order to determine the overall desire to make ASL courses available to current and forthcoming students.
The Highlander reached out to Derrian Tabilin, the president of the American Sign Language Club at UCR, who began the project and petition to implement these courses on campus. According to Tabilin, they received over 1,000 student survey responses and found that 68% of students expected ASL courses to be offered when applying to UCR, and over 96% of those from each college (i.e., BCOE, CHASS, CNAS, SoB) believed UCR should implement ASL in the course catalogs.
These results catalyzed the creation of a petition in order to spread the word about getting these classes offered. The petition, which currently stands at almost 1,700 signatures and is available online, provides reasons why UCR should implement these courses and allows the community an opportunity to input their opinion as to why these courses should be offered.
One of the reasons listed explains that the University of California San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Davis and multiple surrounding schools such as Cal State San Bernardino, California Baptist University, the University of Redlands and Riverside City College already offer ASL courses that fulfill language requirements.
Tabilin mentioned that they worked closely with Tommy Korn, an assistant professor of ASL at Riverside City College, in an effort to create an online open forum and to ensure that this petition was accessible to the deaf community.
Tabilin explained that this petition is important because “it provides students, staff, faculty, and community members the opportunity to voice their opinions on UCR providing these courses. It provides quantitative evidence that it’s not only the members of the ASL club who wish for these courses to be offered, but really, the campus and surrounding community. It further provides an overview of the issues that we are addressing and compiles all the reasons that it’s important for UCR to offer the courses.”
By implementing ASL courses on campus, UCR would be working toward increasing cultural awareness and deaf accessibility. It will also grow the deaf and signing community on campus and provide another higher educational institution for future deaf leaders and further opportunities to work with the local deaf community.
Tabilin also mentioned that UCR has already appropriated part of the ASL language by using the ASL “R” to represent school pride. These courses will further educate the general campus in using the symbol “R” by paying respect to the language and teaching the campus how to use it appropriately.
Tabilin wanted The Highlander to note that the ASL Club “have made extra efforts to include various individuals and organizations from the Riverside Deaf community to ensure that this project is just as much theirs as it is ours; it is extremely important that we work together with everyone involved to have the project go smoothly and successfully.”
Their next step is to get the resolution passed so that the ASL club and other parties involved may work with campus departments, administration and the local deaf community to design these course offerings.