Professors now must prove mastery of sign language to get tenure. Students, too, are expected to sign. In a campuswide e-mail last fall, Hurwitz wrote: “Everyone on campus — no matter his or her signing level — should make every effort to communicate in sign language when in public areas on campus.”
But upholding that standard is increasingly difficult on a campus where nearly half of the freshmen now come from mainstream high schools and dozens arrive not knowing how to sign. To help them, university leaders last year created a six-week crash course for 46 new signers, an orientation to Gallaudet and to the deaf world.
An explosive opinion piece in the school newspaper last fall decried the rise of non-signers on campus and the potential demise of “the one deaf space we can have in this country.”
Some students agree. Others favor a more patient approach to new signers.