After two years at the University, American Sign Language instructor Peter Quint was terminated last week, presumably because of a May 4 incident with a student during his morning American Sign Language 203 course, according to students in the class.
Administrators from the College of Education declined to comment on the issue. However, several students present during the class said Quint began the class Wednesday with a personal story about being confronted by a group of men with guns while traveling in Pakistan with a group of friends. According to students, Quint, who is deaf, explained he was able to get out of the situation safely because he could communicate to the men that he was not a threat.
The story was intended to highlight the importance of communication, students said. It came about after several students repeatedly ignored Quint’s requests to only sign conversation. Quint lost his hearing due to meningitis when he was two and insisted students only sign during his classes so everyone could participate.
According to students present, later in Wednesday’s class, Quint noticed that a student spoke rather than signed, got upset and asked the student, “Do you want me to shoot you?”
“He wasn’t saying he was actually going to shoot anyone,” Claire Johnson, who is in several of Quint’s classes this term, said of the comment, adding that it was intended to relate back to the story and was taken out of context. “I didn’t find it threatening.”
The administration and Department of Public Safety made a short presentation to Quint’s ASL and Deaf Culture class last week, Johnson said, but gave little information about the specifics of the situation. Replacement instructors have taken over both of Quint’s classes, Johnson said.
“I feel like a lot of the students have been left in the dark,” said Korrin Bishop, another ASL student. “No one’s actually said to us what’s going on.”
Both students, and several others through emails, said they don’t feel the situation has been handled fairly by administration and feel that students speaking in his class rather than signing was discriminatory against Quint.
“I really want to give the administration an opportunity to talk about this,” Bishop said. “I don’t want this swept under the rug.”