Milberg's Musings: Deaf and just plain dumb

Glenna Milberg weighs in on a university's bad decision

Published On: Dec 05 2011 07:28:42 AM EST   Updated On: Dec 05 2011 12:17:55 PM EST
MIAMI -

You know that lump in your throat, the welling up of emotion, as someone sings The Star Spangled Banner?  I love that communal few moments of patriotism and community at the beginning of events and ceremonies, especially when the performer is particularly passionate and powerful.

That job, that singing of the National Anthem, is considered an honor and privilege.  And that’s just how a group of seniors at the University of Florida felt as they prepared to interpret the National Anthem in American Sign Language during their upcoming commencement ceremony on December 17th.

But they just got the brush off.

Thanks, but no thanks, said university brass.

In an email to the "Signing Gators" faculty advisor, the powers-who-be said they don’t need ASL interpreters “because the words are written on the big screens."

Under that logic, why would UF even need an actual singer? They could open graduation ceremonies by blasting any recording of the National Anthem.

"Where is the sense of compassion," wrote one student’s father, a UF alumnus, to the commencement director and university President Bernie Machen.  Dad’s respectful, impassioned, research-based two-page email got this response:

"Thank you for your e-mail."  That’s all it said.

Students spend their time, effort and passion learning American Sign Language, are excited and honored to stand on stage at their graduation ceremony and perform a public service for the hearing impaired, are to deliver to the hearing-impaired the power and passion of the Star Spangled Banner.  No cost to the university, no extra planning, no extra time. 

And all they get is "no."

The handsign for that response would need no interpretation.