On Aug. 18, the Nebraska State Legislature passed Legislature Bill 965. LB965 recognizes American Sign Language as separate and distinct from English and gives schools the authority to offer ASL classes for foreign language credit. Likewise, postsecondary institutions can offer elective ASL courses, and credits earned in those courses can be used as foreign language classes if the institution allows.
Nearly 200 universities in the United States accept ASL courses for fulfillment of foreign language requirements, but the University of Nebraska-Lincoln isn’t one of them.
The university needs to allow its students to use ASL classes to fulfill their foreign language credits.
The College of Education and Human Sciences currently offers four ASL courses through their Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology program, and accepts them as elective, not foreign language credits.
Because LB965 recognizes ASL as being a distinct and separate language and grants colleges and universities the authority to count ASL credits toward foreign language requirements, I see no reason that UNL shouldn’t the footsteps of other Big Ten schools like Ohio State University and the University of Iowa that accept ASL as a foreign language.
Since when do we want Ohio State to have a leg up on us? If 197 postsecondary institutions throughout the country are able to offer ASL for foreign language credit, surely UNL can too.
LB965 also requires the Nebraska Department of Education to collaborate with the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in creating a program that tracks the linguistic progress made by deaf and hard of hearing children, so that their education can be assessed, and they can stay on track with their language learning.
The Nebraskan legislature voted 45-0 in favor of encouraging schools to teach ASL and furthering deaf education. Not only does this increase opportunities and resources for the deaf, but it will also spark the interest of their peers who have ASL classes available to them.
As a freshman who recently attended Husker Dialogues, it's been on my mind how we can subconsciously alienate others with what we don’t know or understand. Understanding ASL is a great first step in understanding those who can’t communicate the same way I do. I believe that if UNL offered ASL courses for foreign language credits, it would encourage more students to take them and promote overall inclusivity.
Expanding the ASL program would cost the university, especially as budget cuts threaten programs like undergraduate dance and the department of textiles, merchandise and fashion design. But I think that it is necessary, especially if UNL wants to actively promote and encourage inclusiveness and follow the precedent set by LB965.
I’m proud of my state legislature for taking this important step in advocating for ASL education and advancing programs for the deaf in our schools. I hope that my school will also make me proud and allow ASL classes to count towards foreign language credit, as well as expanding their program within the College of Education.
Chloe Herbert is a freshman history major. Reach her at email@example.com.