Gallaudet Students, Faculty Protest Choice For President
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 16, 2006
WASHINGTON, DC--For nearly two weeks, students, staff, faculty and alumni at Gallaudet University have been protesting against the school's choice to head up the nation's only liberal arts college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
On May 1, the college's Board of Trustees announced that it would appoint current provost Jane Fernandes to be president when I. King Jordan retires at the end of this year.
Almost immediately, students started protesting the decision, claiming that Fernandes is not competent to run Gallaudet and does not have the temperament to represent the deaf community. The students also argued that Fernandes' appointment had been made without input from the student body or faculty.
Within a week, Gallaudet teachers held a confidence vote for Fernandes which was rejected 49 to 96.
A tent city soon grew up on campus, with student protesters signing and text messaging each other to coordinate rallies. The protesters camped out and demonstrated through last Friday's commencement ceremonies.
On Thursday, the National Association of the Deaf urged the board to listen to the concerns of the different groups and to work quickly to unite the deaf community inside and outside the college.
Fernandez has refused to step down. She claims that she is being targeted by some who believe she is "not the right kind of deaf person" because, even though she was born deaf, she went to regular schools, learned to talk, and did not learn American Sign Language until she was 23 years of age.
She has also said she believes the protests are the result of unpopular decisions she had to make as provost.
Gallaudet University was founded as the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in 1857.
Jordan was chosen as the college's first deaf president in 1988, after students demanded that the school no longer appoint administrators who are not deaf in the post.
"Gallaudet faculty reject new president" (United Press International)
"Gallaudet president-select speaks" (Washington Examiner)
"Signs of Change At Gallaudet" (Washington Post)
"Open Letter to Gallaudet University Board of Trustees, Administration, Campus and External Community" (National Association of the Deaf)