As we Gallaudet students amble around campus, going through the dull routines of everyday life, brushing our teeth, dressing in whatever ambivalent clothes we choose to portray our moods of the day, running through multitudes of files in our minds about the endless tasks that we are to complete before the day is over, I ask us—how often do we pause and take stock in what is really happening before our eyes?
Yes, you DID just walk by a throng of hearing students who either barely pick up their hands to communicate their words in a pathetic, half-assed way, using the ever-glorified term of “simultaneous communication” as a reliable fallback defense, or did not bother to make any attempt at making their words at all accommodating to the deaf majority here on campus.
Yes, you DID just enter a classroom where your “highly-educated” professor ekes out barely understandable manual signs to the deaf students s/he already constrains OR uses interpreters of usually questionable quality to educate you while your student loan net amount increases as you go through receiving a dubious level of education.
Yes, you DID just friggin’ walk by a desperate, inappropriate poster for the “Walk4Hearing” fundraiser. Yes, you did. In the same academic space that represents the heart of Gallaudet—the ASL/Deaf Studies department. Why? Why is this happening? Why are we allowing this to happen?When are we going to wake up and take action?
A shift is needed from the most recent question of how are we representing Gallaudet to the world; rather, we must ask how we are embodying Gallaudet and representing the community to each other as we constantly confront a long-embedded hearing system within our educational and social institution. Yes, let us admit it: Gallaudet is hearing-ized.
What are we to do with the ever-constant invasion and regime of hearing bodies and institution that maintain and impose audistic systems? Why are we wasting our time kowtowing to the needs of ASL-inept and unwilling students rather than taking them by the collar and demanding to know why they are infiltrating our cultural grounds with their spoken language and visible resistance to ASL? Why are we allowing our deaf peers who grew up under such unfortunate hearing systems to come here and act as empty vessels that only serve as justifications for the aforementioned hearing students’ unconscious agenda? And worse, we’re allowing these deaf peers to feel rejected by the rest of us because they continue to operate under the hearing system, under the infallible protection of audism.
How do we reclaim, nurture, and revive the deaf center here at Gallaudet? Before I make my proposal, a brief, personal narrative is necessary. In September, I attended one of my graduate-level courses. The hearing professor explained a recent, about-to-be-released research project on the academic levels and performances of Gallaudet freshmen. The research was to be presented to a national education organization. The freshmen were divided into three categories based on their American College Testing (ACT) scores and predictors of their academic performance at Gallaudet. The first group who barely passed or failed the ACT were considered unable to academically compete with their peers at Gallaudet. The second group of students who managed to pass the ACT were considered to be only able to academically compete with their fellow Gallaudet students. The third group consisted of students who were Gallaudet’s top-performing, stellar students who were capable of competing with students from, and I quote, “other low-tier universities and community colleges.”
“Low-tier?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Naturally, I raised my hand and asked, “Does that mean our top-performing Gallaudet students are unable to academically compete with students from the Universities of California or other ‘high-tier’ universities?” To which the professor replied, “If our top Gallaudet students could compete with those students from the rest of the country, there would be no need for Gallaudet.”
Pause. The heart drops. Yes. That DID just happen.
As our lead hearing researchers presented slanted data about Deaf students to nationwide institutions of education, the numbers of HUGs on campus have increased exponentially. The interpreting, audiology, and speech therapy departments continue to thrive with many of its students being resistant to becoming fluent ASL users, competent in deaf culture—but, of course, such resistance can be found among a variety of graduate students, to my painful realization. What is wrong with this picture? As Aubrecht and Commerson (2010) identified, what we are seeing are features of the Gallaudet Syndrome*, a vicious cycle that is renewing itself every year through our continuing to bow down to the false ideal of a hearing-ized Gallaudet. Are we to continue participating in this cycle, submitting before the system of oppression that is permeating our daily lives on this campus?
This is my proposal. Gallaudet is a bilingual university. Gallaudet is the one deaf space we can have in this country. As members of an oppressed cultural-linguistic group, we deserve a space that is based on our right to express our language and for our true allies to fully participate in that expression without any whining about their own language that is a direct representation of the system that constantly ruins so many of our deaf lives through cultural and linguistic denial.
Thus, a language policy must be accepted. ASL at all times. Language immersion at all times. Cultural representation at all times. No more wasting time coddling the hearing students or the Deaf students victimized by the hearing system who are not yet fluent users of ASL. It is time to rise up and unite, to recreate Gallaudet as a deaf embodiment.
Who is Gallaudet? We are. Who are we? Deaf, deaf-allies, and ASL-users. Finish.
*“The Gallaudet Syndrome” Alison L. Aubrecht and Ryan Commerson (2010) Butterfly Effect Series http://www.facundoelement.com/articles/Butterfly_Effect_Series/thegallaudetsyndrome.html
Photo courtesy of Gallaudet University
EDITOR’S NOTE: this article mistakenly named the writer, Elena Ruiz wrote this article.