The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN community promotes deaf leadership and awareness for all

Coming to CSUN was one of the best decisions that senior business major Philip Olivan could have made. ‘

Olivan is deaf.

He is one of more than 220 deaf and hard-of-hearing students at CSUN. Aside from having the National Center on Deafness located on campus, the university also has the resources to help students with auditory issues be successful in school.

‘Here at CSUN, I see a lot of people using American Sign Language and they aren’t only deaf people,’ Olivan said. ‘Because of the National Center on Deafness, CSUN is able to provide me with all the resources I needed to be successful in school. Such resources are captioning, interpreting, note-taking and so much more.’

‘Otherwise I would be completely lost,’ he added.

Olivan and other students were on a committee that planned a two-day deaf leadership conference, which started Oct. 2 at the University Student Union. The conference, he said, was organized to promote leadership in deaf communities.

‘I believe it was a success because despite not being the goal of 150 students, those 80 students learned a great deal of leadership issues,’ Olivan said. ‘I’ve seen the students step up and spoke out on issues that involve deaf leadership.’

‘We wanted to develop stronger deaf leaders,’ he added. ‘In the past, most deaf people would assume that nothing is possible. In today’s world, we believe that anything is possible and we want to develop better and stronger role models for the future deaf leaders.’

Storm Smith, a senior psychology major who is deaf, was also on the committee. Smith said she saw everyone embracing their roles at the conference and gaining experience about leadership.

‘The students were able to gain experience by attending workshops with different great guest speakers,’ Smith said. ‘There was also entertainment with a performance from the CSUN hip-hop team and the famous deaf comedian CJ Jones. We played several games and there was a performance by the deaf Matador team with two deaf members portraying the CSUN spirit song.’

Kristin Macaluso, academic adviser with the National Center on Deafness and staff adviser to the conference committee, said the conference was important because many deaf and hard-of-hearing students are not exposed to leadership the way hearing students are.

‘Our general student population is exposed to leadership capabilities almost on a daily basis,’ she said. Ninety percent of (deaf students) are born to hearing parents and many do not know sign language. Relying on interpreters to get the message across is a great tool in today’s world, but it’s not the same as having direct communication.’

The National Center on Deafness is the largest deaf program on the West Coast, Macaluso said. According to her, the students who participate in the center’s program are better prepared for the future as deaf leaders. ‘

‘Every academic tactic or program or event we create and/or provide, we do so with fervent passion knowing our deaf and hard-of-hearing students will benefit.’

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, deaf students did not get the support they needed.’ Even now, deaf students are a great minority and coming to CSUN may be the first opportunity they have to interact with a large population of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

‘Often times deaf students are one of just a few in public schools, and then they come to CSUN,’ said the director of the National Center on Deafness, Roz Rosen. ‘I am always amazed and energized to see individual deaf and hard-of hearing-students begin to blossom at CSUN when they meet other deaf students, when communication flows and when learning, sharing and leading become relevant to them.’

Not only is CSUN the home of a national deaf center, but also has a solid student deaf student organization, which promotes public awareness about deaf people, ASL and its culture.

Aside from having intramural teams, the deaf student club also organizes events such as the Miss Deaf CSUN Pageant and Deaf Awareness Month. The events generally get a crowd of deaf and hard-of-hearing people, or hearing people that know sign language.

Senior political science major Darren Hause, president of Deaf CSUNians, said, ‘We tend to attract people who know sign language or students in ASL classes,’ said Hause, who is frustrated when deaf people are not included in the school’s official minority lists. ‘We are for all deaf students on campus and we often work with (the Deaf Studies Association) to host events.

‘ ‘We have statistics on students and their ethnicity, but it doesn’t include deaf people because we are often marginalized with disabled students,’ Hause added. ‘I can understand why they think we are disabled but we don’t view ourselves as that. We have language and culture, which other disabilities don’t really have.’

Junior deaf studies major, Sara Hiett, doesn’t have auditory issues, but has always wanted to be deaf. While she was growing up, she would stick cotton balls in her ears to simulate being deaf. As she got older, she realized that if she couldn’t be deaf the next best thing would be to collaborate with the community.

‘I don’t like how people think they have a disability because I truly don’t think that they do,’ Hiett said. ‘I don’t think the hearing world has enough information or facts about deaf people.’

‘When people hear ‘deaf’, they think deaf and mute,’ she added. ‘They stick them in these mainstream classes with autistic kids and kids with other disabilities and they don’t get the education they need.’

Despite all his progress Olivan has made during his time at CSUN, he and other deaf students still have many hurdles to overcome. He considers himself just as capable of doing a good job, just as any other person.

‘The only difference between others and me is that I simply can’t hear,’ Olivan concluded. ‘With modern technology and culture, I am now more able to communicate with anyone.’

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