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From Club to Course, Students Look to Expand BC Course Offerings

Members of the BC Sign Language Club demonstrate basic communication with American Sign Language. PHOTO/ M.A. Rahman

By M.A. Rahman

Published: December 12th, 2018

The Brooklyn College Sign Language Club is like most ordinary student organized groups on campus organizing, showcasing interesting events and ideas whenever possible to engage with students with one exception, it seeks to add a new curriculum: Sign Language to the overall BC course offerings.

Founded in the Fall 2018 semester by the club’s current President Allina Khan, a sophomore majoring in computer science, the thought of creating it originally was conceived after Khan one day began to think about her perceived deteriorating hearing.

“I hadn’t gone to [a hearing] doctor in awhile to get it checked out,” Khan said looking back a year ago as a freshman when she began to have sudden difficulty in being able to hear and understand friends in normal conversation. “It turned out not to be as serious as I thought but it still made me think if it was, what would I do?”

Khan, like some of the other members of the Sign Language Club found themselves self-learning American Sign Language (ASL) as means to cope with the dreaded thought of being gradually unable to conventionally communicate via speech.

Having come to value the ease of speech based communication is and gaining awareness of the difficulties the majority of its deaf/near-deaf users encounter daily on and off campus, Khan suggests her interest in learning ASL gradually shifted from a hobby into a movement of her own.

“Our goal here [at the BC Sign Language Club] is to ultimately have a proper Sign Language Course be offered to students here so they too can be introduced to the world deaf and near deaf students go through,” Khan notes.

Currently the recently created club boasts a dependable membership of roughly a dozen BC students of all backgrounds and majors, most of whom are themselves neither deaf or near-deaf status.

The Sign Language Club insists that the road from club to class via student input and pressure on departments has been done before.

“I have never heard of such a thing,” says a baffled Professor Bernardita Llanos, Chair of the BC Modern Languages and Literature Department.

“It would not even matter since its completely out of our hands,” Professor Alejandro Alonso interjected, Deputy Chair of the Modern Languages and Literatures Department, before elaborating that the academic process that dictate the creation of new courses.

According to them, any desired course must be first listed on the BC Bulletin to undergo any consideration comprising a list of all the courses feasible to be brought to a classroom.

Thereafter it goes under review in front of a committee at faculty councils, where it must be accepted by all members of faculty there, a matter Llanos emphasized as being more difficult than it might appear to be.

According to Llanos, there are new classes that are proposed all the time, but they get rejected at this point of the process for all manner of reasons, “if I want a class that studies Spanish films under my department, you can be sure to expect the Film Department will want to have a say in who will offer it” Llanos said with frustration.

Later adding that the process become the process becomes increasingly more time consuming and difficult should the proposed course be more than a simple introduction to a subject.

If students really want to see a particular course, Llanos notes they should be persistent in their demand and show the faculty and multiple departments their interest in such a course, sooner of later, she says it will likely come into fruition.

As of now, students at the BC Sign Language Club remain content with their current circumstances as existing still as a club “we know we need to show the school that students are interested in this, so we’re still working on our numbers,” says Leslie Lima, the Club’s Connector

“I thought it was good to learn something new; it was hard but I enjoyed it,” remarked Mohammed Omar, a Junior Computer Science Major in attendance for the club’s final lesson of the semester.

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