Born with full hearing, Jaye Brown became deaf as a child. She is now a well-loved American Sign Language Teacher at Shasta College in Redding, California, working to bridge the language gap between the hearing and the deaf.
Last week, Brown was shocked to learn that her contract at Redding was not going to be renewed. College officials told her that one of her students had complained about a gesture she had made, and she would not be invited back the following semester. Jaye Brown was also evaluated, along with her husband Calvin Brown, for her performance in the classroom using a "Peer Evaluation". This "peer" was a full time Spanish teacher at Shasta College. She was evaluated in a lab class where little instruction takes place. Her and her husband both received poor evaluations and Jaye was nearly immediately told her contract would not be renewed.
Distraught, J. Brown and her students say that this is a misunderstanding. American Sign Language speakers use body language, facial expressions and large gestures to communicate. This issue was a communication issue and a cultural gap, they say. People who use American Sign Language rely on using descriptions that are most noticeable. Students and Brown are fighting to get her job back.
Professor Jaye Brown has taught at Shasta College for 12.5 years as an adjunct professor receiving no tenure and no benefits. She has created much of the curriculum currently used. In the classroom, Professor J. Brown enjoys using humor and placing students in an everyday typical "Deaf family" situation. She is loved by many students of Shasta College and the Deaf Community.
Tell Shasta College to address this issue with the campus community. If J. Brown was fired for a misunderstood gesture, she needs her job back. This issue is larger than Shasta College, and is an issue for the whole deaf community and their allies.
I recently heard about the situation at Shasta in which Jaye Brown, a popular, qualified ASL teacher, was fired over the misunderstanding of a gesture she made. Experts who study deaf and hearing culture agree that there is a huge gulf between how deaf people and hearing people communicate, especially when it comes to gestures, body language and facial expressions. Brown, who is deaf, asserts that she was misunderstood by a student. Later it was determined that Professor Brown was terminated due to being inappropriate in class, using rude humor, not having a first day handout available on the first day, and the complaint that was made by the student. It is known that humor that is inappropriate to a hearing person may not at be found inappropriate by a Deaf person. Jaye has always made an effort to explain her humor to her students, since this [humor] is something that they will encounter in the real world with Deaf people quite often. As for the class handout, Mrs. Brown was concerned that some of her classes may be canceled. She clearly explained her expectations consistently throughout the semester using signed, written, and verbal forms. After 12.5 years of teaching ASL, 30 years of signing as a Deaf person, and her dedication to designing the current curriculum, Jaye Brown is more than a qualified person for this position
As an institute of higher education that seeks to be an ally for the Deaf Community, Shasta College must:
* Address this campus controversy in a public and open manner
* Commit to educating the student body on the differences between deaf and hearing communication
* Offer a disclaimer on the course description informing students that Deaf Culture differs greatly from Hearing Culture and that in rare cases this humor may be found inappropriate by the hearing audience
* Reinstate Brown's contract and make this issue a learning tool for the entire campus community.