The University might offer a non-credit American Sign Language course as early as this coming spring, Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne said.
The course would not be recognized as an official University course.
Dunne explained that plans for the course came about when he met with members of the Princeton University American Sign Language Club and brainstormed how the course could be offered.
“We do believe there’s a student interest here that we could meet and give people the opportunity to learn more about ASL and the Deaf community,” Dunne said.
He said the first step in the process will be finding a lecturer to instruct the class, but did not provide further details.
Colin Lualdi ’17, president of PUASL, said that when he first arrived at the University, there was nothing related to ASL on campus. He noted that as he met people, he realized that there was a strong interest among students in learning more about ASL and the Deaf culture and community, and he said that meeting this demand would be a meaningful contribution to the University’s mission of diversity and cultural understanding.
“It’s also not often that you have Deaf students here at Princeton, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities that you have when you have a Deaf, native speaker of ASL on campus,” Lualdi said.
Liz Erickson, the Associate Director for Disability Services, also met with members of PUASL. Erickson said that non-credit ASL courses were organized throughthe Office of Disability Servicesand made available through Campus Recreation class offeringsabout a year and a half ago, but the courses were not offered after that. She added that when the University did offer courses, students seemed interested.
“I think that right now, there is a great deal of interest and momentum on the part of students to learn ASL and to be able to communicate using that language,” Erickson said.
Khristina Gonzalez, Associate Dean of the College and Director of Programs for Access and Inclusion, and Council of the Humanities lecturer Eileen Forestal, who teaches LIN 312: Linguistics of American Sign Language, said that they believe the course could be beneficial to students and to the University’s campus community as a whole.
"It's great that Princeton is opening that pathway for students to learn American Sign Language and they can learn more about the Deaf community and Deaf culture as well as the history by learning American Sign Language," Forestal, the only Deaf professor on campus,said through an interpreter.
Forestal added that she is thrilled to be part of an educational movement that began with Lualdi starting the ASL Club, an act for which she gives him much credit.
Lualdi said that ASL classes could create a larger group of people who sign on the University’s campus and make the campus a more welcoming place for Deaf individuals. He also said he hopes that the course would become a permanent credit-bearing course offering, and that the eventual goal is to have a foreign language sequence in ASL that satisfies the foreign language requirement.
“What we’re doing is setting up small stepping stones to get to our ultimate goal,” Lualdi said. “It’s important that the non-credit class is not misunderstood as the solution itself — it’s just a temporary offering to meet the immediate demand for ASL instruction since it’s much easier to set up. But it’s not of much value or sustainable in the long term.”
Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article misstated the role of the Office of Disability Services in offering past non-credit ASL courses. The Office of Disability Services organized the courses. The 'Prince' regrets the error.