American Sign Language classes reduced

The American Sign Language program which has been a part of university curriculum for more than twenty years, has gone from a program offering a major and minor to just two classes this fall.

The offering of a major in American Sign Language is not available to students and the minor has been “suspended” according to an email from Elizabeth Hanson, American sign language professor.

“For the past twenty years [the linguistics department] have worked hard to develop a minor in ASL however, for a few different reasons, we have reduced the course offerings to ASL 1 and 2 only starting fall 2018,” Hanson wrote.

Hanson has been an instructor with the American Sign Language program for twenty years and has been its coordinator for ten. A lack of student enrollment in the program and a lack of professors to teach the language is the reasons for the change, according to Hanson. The linguistics department has decided to suspend the minor until such time as interest by students becomes greater, and more professors become available.

“The minor has not been erased from the books, it is merely suspended until we have enough student interest and a deeper instructor pool to re-establish it,” Hanson wrote.

According to, Gallaudet Universities Website, Alaska has 16,552 citizens ages 18-64, who have a form of “hearing difficulty” which is about 3.6 percent of the Alaska population.

UAF has recently put in place new credit requirements which have reduced the need for ASL 3 and above. Hanson believes that the move by the linguistics department was smart and well informed.

“I believe that the reduction in the program at this point is a decision made in the best interest of the students and faculty,” Hanson wrote. “It did not happen lightly—we are dedicated to the preservation of American Sign Language and the integrity of the program for which we teach.”

Matt Mertes

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