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Gallaudet's Next President Won't Bow Out

"Over time I will build up support," says Jane K. Fernandes, Gallaudet's next president. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)

Immediately after Fernandes's name was announced Monday by interim board Chairman Celia May Baldwin, a spontaneous demonstration by students erupted. Since then, the students have held midnight rallies, erected a tent city by the main gates, pulled together rival groups into a united organization. More than 2,600 alumni have signed an online petition echoing there demands.

But a small movement in support of Fernandes has taken shape.

"In some people's views, [she is] the wrong kind of deaf person," said Judy Berglund, an aide to Fernandes. "She also represents change for this university. . . . Change is a scary thing."

Fernandes angered opponents Wednesday when, in an online chat on washingtonpost.com, she said that Jordan had interviewed her and the other finalists.

Protesters said Jordan was too involved in the selection process, acting as a reference for Fernandes, talking with her and other finalists -- and then telling students at a protest that he had stayed out of it.

"I'm not sure if it's appropriate for King to participate in the process. And what puzzles me most is why we were told he wasn't involved at all," senior Anthony Mowl said.

Jordan said he initially wanted to be involved in the search but was told that he couldn't be. He talked for 90 minutes with each of the finalists but told them to think of it as a conversation, not an interview, he said.

Yesterday, Fernandes said she "made a big mistake online" in calling it an interview.

In an e-mail, Baldwin said King did not intervene or try to influence the vote, although he was a reference, which she feels is appropriate.

Jordan said that Baldwin has agreed to a videophone conference with the protesters and that they have cleared the board's agenda of non-urgent items to meet with protesters next week.

"Maybe I will not have 100 percent support," Fernandes said, "but I'm sure that over time I will build up support from people as this thing moves on."


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