Gallaudet Students Continue Protests Against New President

By Susan Kinzie and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 2, 2006; 10:27 AM

Several dozen Gallaudet University student have launched a second day of protests over the appointment yesterday of provost Jane K. Fernandes as the school's next president.

About 20 student lay prone inside the main gate of the Northeast Washington campus this morning to prevent cars from entering or exiting, while others parked their cars at a second entrance to block it.

A third group, many of whom had also kept vigil through the night, left the demonstrations to attend a meeting with university administrators scheduled for 10 a.m. A rally was scheduled for noon.

Administration officials said they would hear the students' concerns about the appointment of Fernandes to replace retiring President I. King Jordan. But they said that the selection process had been fair and the trustee board would not revisit its decision.

Hundreds of students had blocked the Gallaudet entrances yesterday minutes after the announcement that Fernandes -- who students say is aloof and does not reflect their priorities -- had been chosen. Protesters lay down in the driveway; shouted slogans; climbed onto the stone fences and one another's shoulders to sign to the growing crowd; and scrawled angry words on bare stomachs in thick black paint.

Jordan made history 18 years ago when students demanded a deaf president for the school, which many consider the cultural center of the deaf community.

This time, all three finalists were deaf.

But less than two decades after their predecessors had marched to the White House and the Capitol calling for a "Deaf President Now" and launching a civil rights movement, this generation of students has new expectations and new demands.

They complained that the board of trustees once again was ignoring the campus community; some decried the lack of racial diversity among the finalists -- all of whom are white. Others focused on personality, saying Fernandes was cold, aloof, condescending.

"She doesn't say 'hi,' " one student's poster read, along with a new rallying cry: "Better president now."

The students who kept vigil all night were regrouping early this morning -- some sleeping in the grass, wrapped in blankets and hoodies; some sipping hot coffee; some leaning in to read a newspaper they had unfolded on the hood of a campus security car. Around 8 a.m., more students began to arrive. By shortly after 9 a.m., they were trying to prevent cars from entering or leaving.

Gallaudet's faculty called a special meeting for next Monday to hear resolutions regarding the presidential search and selection.

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