An Iowa community college has been accused of cultural appropriation after hearing instructors taught sign language classes.
Scott Community College offers a two-year program that teaches students American Sign Language and equips them to work as professional interpreters.
“ASL is the language of the deaf community and only exists because of deaf people,” wrote Dirk Hillard, president of the Quad-Cities Deaf Club, in an op-ed slamming the college’s program. “It is cultural appropriation to use the language of the deaf community to make money for your institution without including deaf people in the instruction and provision of those classes. When hearing people are chosen to teach ASL, it is a form of ableism and audism.”
Alan Campbell, a spokesman for Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, which includes Scott Community College, said many of Hillard’s claims seem to be based on false information.
“I do not know where this person received his information from, but it is simply not true,” Campbell told Heat Street. “We are extremely proud of our ASL program. While other programs in the state of Iowa have closed, we have continued to work to maintain our program, and it is now the only program remaining in the state.”
Hillard claimed that the college’s summer program included only hearing instructors, which he called “oppressive and discriminatory.”
But Campbell said that while some of its sign-language instructors are hearing, every one of the its sign-language classes include either a deaf adjunct instructor or tutor.
Hillard also said that deaf teachers are required to have a four-year degree, while their hearing counterparts can do the same job with just an associate’s degree or professional license.
But Campbell said Scott Community College follows state guidelines, which require sign-language instructors to have either a relevant bachelor’s degree or both an associate’s degree and 6,000 hours of work experience.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.