By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer
As part of an effort to advocate for more disability awareness, freshman MacKenzie MacDonald held the first official meeting for Club ASL, which stands for American Sign Language, on the Clifton Miller Library Terrace on Friday, Oct. 22.
The club met twice before to work out the logistics, but saw a good turnout after MacDonald sent the official interest email on Oct. 14.
According to MacDonald, she wanted to learn as well as foster a community of people who are also interested and willing to learn sign language.
“It’s about learning about the deaf culture and about the deaf community,” MacDonald said. “I’ve really wanted to learn for a while and I’ve just never got the chance.”
The club meets once a week to go over each lesson that was assigned that week through ASL Connect Gallaudet.
According to their website, “Gallaudet [University, located in Washington D.C] is [a] space where the vitality of the Deaf experience and vibrancy of sign language thrive. By acting together for the greater good of our students and our community, we create a better world.”
Students who came to the meeting arrived with varying experiences with the language, from first-time ASL learners to those who have some fluency.
Sophomore Niko Chen took ASL in high school and decided to use this club “to get back into it.”
“I think it’s a really important language that you should be able to learn, and it brings awareness to disability issues because a lot of deaf people are left out because nobody bothers to learn their language,” they said. “They should be able to function without needing an interpreter.”
Though students who participate in the lessons will not be able to gain academic credit from this club, they nevertheless recognize the social importance the club can offer the Washington College community.
“I started [the club] because [WC] was the only school that I applied to that didn’t offer [the language] or at least offer in relation to another school for credit,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald — along with the club’s faculty supervisor Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion, and Co-Chair of Diversity Committee Dr. Emerald Stacy, who is familiar with ASL — plans on advocating for WC to offer ASL classes for credit.
MacDonald said that, according to the Director of the Office of Academic Skills Hilary Bateman, if the club can gain at least 50 interested members, the school can evaluate to offer a class for students that will offer academic credit.
“I’m hoping it really just gets people curious, there’s not a class or a strict community that will help deaf people feel welcome,” MacDonald said.
Club ASL will meet every Friday at 4:30p.m. on the Clifton Miller Library Terrace.For more information about the club, email MacKenzie MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Kayla Thorington