Clarification to This Article
Bobbie Beth Scoggins, co-author of an Oct. 22 Close to Home article critical of since-ousted Gallaudet University president- designate Jane K. Fernandes, applied for the Gallaudet president job last spring. Ms. Scoggins was interviewed by the search committee but was not among the three announced finalists. The article should have disclosed her previous interest in the job.

The Gallaudet Protests

Sunday, October 22, 2006

As Gallaudet University President I. King Jordan and the board of trustees continue to insist on the appointment of Jane K. Fernandes as the school's next president, they are separated from the rest of the campus and the deaf community by an ever-widening chasm.

The protest began in earnest when people of color brought attention to diversity issues in the selection process for the new president, but the seeds of this protest were sown over the past decade.

When Fernandes was promoted to provost in 2000, she received a no-confidence vote from the faculty. Soon after her selection as president in May, the faculty issued another vote of no confidence. Since then, issues of "audism" (discrimination against deaf people) and racism and instances of management by intimidation have been exposed.

Regarding audism: Fernandes has repeatedly declined to enforce university guidelines that encourage Gallaudet staff members to learn sign language.

Regarding racism: To be a person of color and deaf in America is a double whammy. On campus, Fernandes has done little of a practical nature to alleviate those difficulties.

Regarding management by intimidation: Gallaudet staff members are terrified to express opinions critical of the administration, so there is little incentive among university employees to make suggestions for improvement.

Furthermore, the administration has used divisive tactics, such as campuswide announcements and news releases, that seem intended to demonize students, faculty, staff and alumni. And Fernandes's recent public statements have demonstrated her lack of connection with and understanding of the university's constituencies.

The failure of the administration, including the board of trustees, to engage in effective dialogue led to the escalation of the demonstrations that began in May. The takeover of Hall Memorial Building and the closing of the gates this month were initiated by students out of frustration.

The university's responses generated increasing support of the protest by diverse constituencies -- alumni, parents and others in the Gallaudet and deaf communities. The arrest of 133 protesters on Oct. 13 outraged deaf people everywhere. Last Monday, the overwhelming majority of Gallaudet faculty members, showing their unity with the students, voted that Fernandes either resign or be removed from the president-designate position.

That Fernandes continues to assert that she is the only deaf person who can do the job is demeaning not only to the faculty but also to the university, which has produced many leaders in the field of education.

The administration's inability to resolve this crisis clearly demonstrates the lack of effective leadership by Fernandes, Jordan and the board.

Fernandes needs to resign as president-designate to heal the Gallaudet community and move it forward. We expect that the search process for a new president will be reopened, and we look forward to that. Further, the faculty voted to recommend that the board consider alternative models of governance that would include representation of all Gallaudet constituencies.

-- Noah Beckman

Washington

-- Bobbie Beth Scoggins

Frankfort, Ky.

Noah Beckman is president of the student government at Gallaudet University. Bobbie Beth Scoggins is president of the National Association of the Deaf.


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