Audio Transcript

Interview with Gallaudet University's Jane Fernandes

Tuesday, October 17, 2006; 4:21 PM

Washington Post Radio's Mike Moss interviewed the Post's Monica Norton and incoming Gallaudet University president Jane Fernandes about the protests over Fernandes' presidency and transition at the school. Dr. Fernandes spoke through an unidentified interpreter.

Mike Moss: Gallaudet University has been in a state of turmoil after a three day shutdown over the choice of Jane Fernandes to be the incoming president. The nationally renowned school for the deaf has reopened after 133 protesters were arrested. And joining us this morning to take a look into the situation is Post assistant Maryland editor Monica Norton joins us as does Jane Fernandes who is the president designate at Gallaudet University, and Ms. Fernandes will be represented by her sign language interpreter who is with us here this morning on Washington Post Radio. I want to thank y'all for joining us.

Let me begin with you Monica.

Monica Norton: Thank you.

Moss: What is it about Jane Fernandes that the students don't like?

Norton: Well students have given a number of reasons. When the protest began in May, it actually began with some black students and staff on campus upset about the presidential search process which had eliminated a strong black candidate in favor of three whites. There were also some faculty members who were upset that the board of trustees had not consulted them, and other students had said they didn't think that Dr. Fernandes would be a good representative for the community.

Moss: But why don't they think that she would be a good representative for their community?

Norton: Well, some have complained that in her tenure as provost there -- she has been provost -- for six years, they are upset about her leadership and that she has not exactly reached out to them

Moss: Let me turn now to Jane Fernandes, and again, she will be represented by her sign language interpreter. Ms. Fernandes, welcome to Washington Post Radio. I want to ask you whether you think in some way, shape, or form you are being discriminated against here by the student body which doesn't see you as deaf perhaps as they are?

Jane Fernandes: Good morning, yes, I don't know. I was born deaf, so -- my mother is deaf, my brother is deaf, I have a niece who is deaf. So, if that's not deaf, I don't know how to explain what deaf is.

Moss: How do you feel about these protests? What do they say to you? Why do you think these students are so disliking of your selection that they are staging these protests, and in the case of 133 of them, getting themselves arrested?

Fernandes: I think that we are in a time of great change in the deaf community, and in any time of change, I think that that brings with it resistance and it brings fear and people are afraid of change, and I just happen to be in the position I am in right now, and I believe it's not really about me, and I'm not taking it personally. I believe there are some issues of decisions I made when I was provost that did not please some people on campus, and I believe that is a separate issue from what the deaf community is going through right now.

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