Oct 042011
Authors: Colleen Canty

CSU’s sign language department is using silence to enhance communication across campus in an effort to teach every student the Rams’ Fight Song in sign language.

The campaign, conceived by sign language professor Dede Kliewer this past summer, is relatively new but has already found its place in a number of significant events at the university. Kliewer, accompanied by various sign students from her class, has made appearances at university directors’ meetings, Ramapalooza, the Student Involvement Fair and Grill the Buffs.

“A young man working at the bookstore stopped me one day, wondering if I was the lady waving her arms around on the plaza during the involvement fair,” she said. “He asked to learn it and I taught him and a group of friends right there. Whenever or wherever anybody wants to learn, I’ll teach them.”

More recently, the song could be seen at this week’s diversity conference and, for the first time ever, the Homecoming Parade last weekend.

“I must have signed the song 20 or 25 times,” said sophomore sign language student Emmy Swisher, recalling her place among other sign students in the recent parade. “I dreamt in sign language that night.”

A room of high school students learned the song Monday, when Kliewer, assistant interpreter Renee Wilson and two sign students made a presentation at the diversity conference banquet. The excitement among the approximately 75 students may not have been heard, but could certainly be seen.

“You have to stand up and perform it with much energy and excitement,” Kliewer told the eager room.

Despite the somewhat jumbled hand movements exhibited by some throughout the song, none could mistake the exuberant climax; fists pumped wildly while mouths silently formed the “fight, fight, fight. Go Rams!”

“I learned the song a few weeks ago,” said Ashleigh Pursley, senior sign language student helping teach at the conference. “I’m still a little sloppy, but this kind of thing is really important in enhancing communication between students.”

Kliewer agrees; rather than learning the song for the song itself, the inclusiveness and awareness it draws from the student body is the true goal.

“If it makes just one person stop and think about how deaf people try to communicate, I’ll feel like we accomplished something,” she said. “And see, these kids learned what ‘stalwart’ meant tonight. That’s got to come up at some point in their lives.”

With what Kliewer estimates to be around 400 signed and dangerous students already walking the campus, her goal to convert the fight song to a fight sign is gaining momentum.

Four hundred down, 22,500 to go.

Collegian writer Colleen Canty can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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