Students, Deaf and Hard of Hearing community lead USF protest

USF students stand with signs in support of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community

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Over 100 students and members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community rallied at the University of South Florida last week for support for the school’s Interpreter Training Program.

Listen to the story here (and find the full transcript at the end of the story):

Rumours and quiet announcements from the USF College of Communication Sciences and Disorders laid out 5 points and a recommendation to alter or remove the Interpreter Training Program. In response, a petition was spread and garnered nearly 15,000 signatures.

Last Thursday, a rally was held outside the Marshall Student Center at USF’s Tampa Campus, where members of the community spoke directly to Dean Julie Serovich of the College of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

We are not closing,” Serovich said. “We may alter it, we may make changes. There is no termination at all. Even if there is, there’s still a discussion.”

However, even an alteration could have significant impacts on the community. If USF phases out the program and stops enrolling new students, then eventually the number of graduates going into the interpreting field will dwindle. Demand will overrun supply, causing significant damage and exclusion to an already marginalized community.

Kelvin Joel, a Deaf man and co-organizer of the protest, led the dialogue with the Dean.

“I need interpreters for me, for my doctor’s appointments, and where am I going to get them if the program is closed?”

While no official decisions have been made by the college, continued support for the program has made it clear that the want by students is there, and the need for interpreters in the community will always be there.


Audio Story Transcript

[Young woman shouts over crowd] “INCLUDE DEAF PEOPLE IN THE CONVERSATION”

Over 100 students and members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community gathered to have a conversation with USF staff. Julie Serovich, the Dean of the College of Communication Sciences and Disorders, said that the program is not closing, though it may be altered. But protesters say even that could have a significant impact on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community.

[Woman speaking, interpreting audibly] “I need interpreters for me, for my doctor’s appointments, and where am I going to get them if this program is closed?”

Those were the words of Kelvin Joel, a Deaf man and one of the organizers of the protest. He signed his concerns to Dean Serovich. Spoken translation was provided by ASL Interpreters; many of them alumni of USF’s Program.

No official decisions have been made about the Interpreter Training Program. But the community has made it clear: the want is there, and the need will always be present.

For WMNF News, I’m Rayna Kanas in Tampa.