CSUN’s deaf studies program still remote due to campus mask mandate

CSUN deaf studies major Juliette Braden takes an online ASL development class with Jeff Pollock on March 29, 2022, in her dorm room in Northridge, Calif. The Zoom continued to freeze throughout the class so they needed to communicate in the chat box.

Beatriz Barros Felice, Reporter

While most of CSUN classes are back to in-person learning, the deaf studies department is still fully online.

Flavia Fleischer, chair and professor in the deaf studies department at CSUN, said that the reason for this is because face masks are still required for in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Face masks cover most of one’s face including most facial expressions, which are very important to the learning and teaching of American Sign Language.

“One of my professors mentioned that … sign language has to be combined with facial expressions and with masks we would be losing those facial expressions that give context to what we are signing,” said Capri Castellanos, a junior transfer student in CSUN’s Department of Deaf Studies.

Deaf studies courses will be held on campus in the fall semester, according to Fleischer.

While Fleischer said that lifting the mask mandate would make a more ideal environment for the better development of the program, she concluded that the department plans to shift to in-person classes next semester regardless of whether masks will be required or not.

Castellanos supports this decision because while she believes that online classes are a better and safer option at the moment, there are downsides.

Poor internet connections have led to a delay in learning or even the cancellation of classes.

“[There] is not much of listening … you have to watch [the class and professor’s signs] the entire time,” Castellanos said.

Class engagement is another problem pointed out by Fleischer, since it is hard to keep students completely focused in class when a lot is happening in their surroundings or on the internet.

Castellanos also said that it feels as if she and her classmates are behind the general learning of the major. They often discuss how they feel their confidence to perform ASL has drastically reduced because of these setbacks.

In the event that the mask mandate is not lifted, the department decided that professors will record and publish extra video classes.

“Our faculty will have more time over the summer to prepare for additional video lessons … to supplement in-person instruction if the mask mandate continues,” Fleischer said.

While Fleischer said that she has received a “good number of emails” from students in the department who are nervous to return to campus, she hopes that those concerns will be alleviated once they are back in the classroom.