ASL to Only Count for Language Requirement under Certain Exceptions

Sarah Manderbach ’22, Staff Wrtiter

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Dickinson students are no longer allowed to take courses in American Sign Language (ASL) to fulfill their language requirement, unless they have been granted permission through the Office of Disability Services (ODS) or have completed an approved online ASL course or intentioned to do so prior to July 2018.

According to “How to Meet Dickinson’s Language Requirement with American Sign Language,” “Dickinson College students must learn another language through the intermediate level as one of their graduation requirements.” The requirement can be fulfilled either through college courses or by scoring high on the college placement test for that language. Students who take language courses at Dickinson can choose to take one of the 13 different languages that the campus offers.

Dickinson students could meet the language requirement by learning ASL prior to July 2018 even though Dickinson did not offer any courses in it, according to Dickinson’s ASL document. Students could take ASL courses at a pre-approved institution and transfer the credits to Dickinson, or study ASL and prove your competency through certified testing. 

Dickinson has since changed its policy. The school’s ASL document explains students are now allowed to learn ASL to fulfill their language requirement only if they have a documented disability which calls for them to have an accommodation through the Office of Disability Services or if a student can show proof of having completed an online ASL course or communicated their intention to complete one prior to the change in policy.

Olivia Trombley ’22 said that her grandparents and uncle are all deaf, so signing has already been a big part of her life. “I know a few simple signs,” Trombley said, “and I want to learn [ASL] more fluently so I can carry that with me and maybe use it as part of a career one day.”

Since the policy change had already occurred prior to Trombley’s choice to change her language from French to ASL, she approached many different faculty members to talk about the language requirement. “I had to assure [the faculty members] that this would be the best option for me in my academic career,” explained Trombley. “So to graduate, I will have to take a course to my desired level and have a certified ASL speaker test me and report to the school that I’m at the level they’re looking for.”

Trombley said that the hesitation from the faculty was about the ASL courses being a “less conventional way” of fulfilling the language requirement. Trombley says that one of the main concerns surrounding the ASL language is that she is “on [her] own to do the learning.” Because of this, she said that she is “not assured that [she’ll] reach the desired level in the four years at Dickinson.”

Although Trombley has not yet taken a course for ASL, she still gives advice to those who may want to take ASL as a language, “If you’re passionate and really find beauty and meaning in the language, or anything for that matter, don’t let anyone keep you from doing what you want just because it’s different from the way everyone else does it.”