Students unable to take American Sign Language for foreign language credit

When junior psychology major Sammie Luke found out that American Sign Language (ASL) had been added as a foreign language, he was ecstatic.

But on Monday, Oct. 28, while preparing for registration, he discovered a departmental policy that he found unsettling. As a psychology student, Luke currently does not have the option to enroll in an ASL course to fulfill the foreign language requirement of his major’s curriculum.

“Freshman year I found out that ASL was offered at Georgia State,” Luke said. “Since then I have wanted to take it as a foreign language.”

As previously reported by the Signal, ASL courses were upgraded from electives and added to the list of foreign language courses offered at Georgia State in the spring of 2013. Since then, all students have been guaranteed the option to enroll in an ASL course and receive credit under the humanities and fine arts section of the core curriculum.

The College of Arts and Sciences requires students attempting to earn an Arts degree to complete one second-level foreign language course, according to Georgia State’s undergraduate catalog. Of the 20 B.A. programs offered at Georgia State, psychology is one of the programs that does not offer the option of ASL courses to fulfill this requirement.

“At this point, the decision for Area F credit is at the discretion of each individual department,” Dr. Susan Easterbrooks, the driving force behind the annexation of ASL as a foreign language, said. “If your department doesn’t allow it as a foreign language option, you would want to petition your department to permit it and get some students together to make a formal request to the department to add it. But again, it is strictly up to the individual department.”

To earn a degree from Georgia State, students must meet the standards of education set forth by the University itself, the college of the student’s major and their department.

Courses to be completed by students are divided among seven areas labeled A-E. This includes science, mathematics, and technology, social sciences, humanities and fine arts, etc. The core curriculum includes certain courses that are required for all students aiming to earn a B.A. However, certain curricula are designed by the separate colleges within the university. Different departments can pick and choose which courses students must take to earn credit for their degree within that department. This allowed the Psychology department to disallow the use of ASL as a foreign language credit while other departments allowed it.

After reading Dr. Easterbrooks’ comments in a Facebook message on Oct. 30, Luke decided to take action and begin the process of petitioning the Department of Psychology.

“I am totally ready to go through with this,” Luke said. “I want to take this under area F to help fill
my credits of a foreign language since it is a foreign language. I don’t think
ASL should be regarded any differently than any other language. Also, I have already met
my area C credits.”

Luke also believes that learning a new language will help him in his future career. As an aspiring psychologist, he believes that being able to communicate through multiple languages would allow him to treat a wider variety of patients.

“I want to take ASL so that I will be able to reach a marginalized group that is often forgotten about or just ignored,” he says. “I plan to counsel LGBT Youth who already have it hard. Adding deafness to an LGBT identity can only be harder. I want to be able to easily and fluently communicate to deaf people through their language.”

ASL has been approved and accepted as a course and as a valid language by the University.