Gallaudet: Campus Protests Continue

LaToya Plummer
University Junior and Protest Leader
Wednesday, October 18, 2006; 2:00 PM

Gallaudet University officials yesterday postponed this weekend's homecoming festivities because of an ongoing clash with hundreds of protesters who have erected a tent city on campus. The protesters, in turn, vowed to stage a series of "alternate" events.

Students, alumni and employees set up on campus this month to protest the appointment of Jane K. Fernandes, the former provost, as president. Her critics say Fernandes is a divisive administrator, insensitive to the community the university serves. A three-day shutdown of the campus ended Friday with the arrest of 133 protesters, an episode that appeared to galvanize the opposition. Since then, the faculty and leaders of the National Association of the Deaf have joined in calling for the university's board to step in.

More: As Campus Protests Continue, Officials Postpone Homecoming ( Post, Oct. 18 )

LaToya Plummer , a junior at the university and a protest leader, will be online Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 2 p.m. ET to take questions about the situation at the nation's premier university for the deaf.

Programming Note: An invitation has been extended to the office of Jane K. Fernandes, president of Gallaudet University, to participate in a separate online discussion.

Listen to Gallaudet Student, Professor Speak on Protests ( Washington Post Radio, Oct. 18 )

A transcript follows.


College Park, Md.: Ms. Plummer,

You mentioned that Jane is "insensitive" to the community's needs, can you elaborate on that. Thanks.

LaToya Plummer: Yes, Dr. Fernandes is insensitive to the community's needs.

We have requested for a meeting concerning different issues occurring on campus. The issues like racism, audism, and management by intimidation must be discussed and must be solved.


Washington, D.C.: What percentage of the student population at Gallaudet do the protesters represent?

LaToya Plummer: The university has about 1,200 students. The number of protestors started real small, around 300. After last Friday's arrests and increased falsified information by the administration, the number has since grown


Rockville, Md.: Why do students expect to be able to run a university which has established and appointed leaders? Are they spoiled and expect to get their way in every instance?

Do they offer any sort of a compromise?

LaToya Plummer: We the students do not expect to run the university. We know that a university isn't run by one person. The president has to demonstrate shared governance in order for the university to operate. Shared governance means you share power and management with the faculty, the staff, and the students.


Washington, D.C.: Students at other universities don't get to pick who is the school's president. Why do the students at Gallaudet think they have a say?

LaToya Plummer: We believe in the value of shared governance.


Washington, D.C.: Can you give some examples of the school's racism?

LaToya Plummer: The university does not abide by one of its strategic goals of diversity. Currently the administration does not have a person of color that has power to make decisions. 2 out of 220 faculty members are African American. The students of color organizations frequently receive little or no funding assistance


Fairfax, Va.: What is audism?

LaToya Plummer: Audism is a word that was coined by Tom Humphries: "The notion that one is superior based on ones ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears." It's a form of oppression by people who hear and speak to people who do not.


Woodbridge, Va. : I'm an alumni. Class of '88.

I have not been able to get down to the campus as family and work obligations have me tied down, but I find it really hard to discern from news reports what the students want from this protest or what is exactly going on with negotiations with the administration.

Do you find the media has misrepresented what is going on the campus? Is the only demand that Fernandes step down and they pick a new president?

LaToya Plummer: Our demands remain the same. First, reopen the search process with the understanding that Dr. Fernandes must resign. Second, no reprisals. We have emphasized that failed leadership is not acceptable.


Washington, D.C.: If Fernandes does not resign, will the protestors ever return to class? Or will they stubbornly fail out of school? Is their education so insignificant to them?

LaToya Plummer: The protesters' education is significant. It is why we are protesting. To study in an environment as hostile as this is not healthy and we are appealing for a solution so each student can feel safe.


Arlington, Va.: What percentage of the students are minorities?

LaToya Plummer: The percentage of students of color who graduate is significantly lower than the percentage of those who enroll


Arlington, Va.: So as to help set aside the allegations that protests are about Ms. Fernandes being "not deaf enough," will you agree that she was born deaf and is fluent in American Sign Language?

LaToya Plummer: I think we have made it clear that is not the issue.


Washington, D.C.: If there is a fire or a medical emergency on campus, will the protesters allow emergency responders to enter the campus?

LaToya Plummer: Yes, we have agreed to keep one gate open. The university typically keeps one gate open


Washington, D.C.: I had never heard the term "audism" until the recent protests at the university. Could you give some examples of audism that you or others you know have experienced? It boggles my mind that anyone would be prejudiced against a deaf person. Thank you.

LaToya Plummer: There are several examples, including the lack of communication access in classrooms, meetings, and other university activities, people who speak being promoted where those who don't are not; The most recent and obvious example lies in the fact that Gallaudet Interpreting Services refused to provide interpreters for protestors at the beginning of this protest, strategically depriving us of access.


Washington, D.C.: Isn't the protest just as "intimidating" to those students who are not part of it? You have a right to protest, but why should that right interfere with other students' right to obtain the education that they have paid for?

LaToya Plummer: Social Justice means for everyone to be treated equal and to be valued and respected. How can one group of students maintain studies in an environment that is NOT safe? While we have shut down the campus, the education mode is continuing. This is the university's responsibility to ensure that each and every student is safe in a healthy environment.


Washington, D.C.: Your answers to the questions regarding the goals of this protest are still pretty vague - "issues' of racism, audism, and shared governance don't really get across what the real problem's are, or what the proposed solution would be. Is there anywhere else where the views of the protestors are explained in more detail?

LaToya Plummer: The issues are clear. A leader must be able to lead at any university. He or She must understand the concept of shared governance. He or she must have the ability to comprehend the issues occurring on campus and act to solve it for the best interest of the university. Neither Dr. Jordan or Dr. Fernandes are demonstrating quality leadership


Rochester, Minn. (Alumnus: Masters in 2003): What is the plan for this weekend now that official activities are canceled, but alumni like myself are coming home to show support for the people of Gallaudet?

LaToya Plummer: Come home to Gallaudet. The events are continuing. If you do remember, we have said we no longer recognize Jordan in the position as the university president. Activities are still on.


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: I truly do not understand what are the specific concerns of the students leading this protest. I know that you cannot state them simply in a forum like this, but is there a Web site where your concerns are enumerated? I want to understand, but all I see in the media are buzzwords, catch phrases and sound bites, none of which make any sense to me, an outsider. Can you help me out?

LaToya Plummer: Gallaudet University FSSA Coalition_______________________

Ballston, Va.: When I asked my brother, who is deaf and lives in Rochester, about the protests, he was concerned that there wasn't a clear message (other than "get rid of Dr. Fernandes") or consistent organization. How do you think the deaf community outside of Gallaudet views the protests?

LaToya Plummer: The deaf community shares the same concerns as students, faculty, staff, and alumni here- failed leadership demonstrated by both Dr. Jordan and Dr. Fernandes. Both of them currently cannot lead with 82 percent of faculty voting no confidence in Dr. Fernandes.


Reston, Va.: Are you preventing Gallaudet from providing services to students (children as well as university students) because of some impropriety on the part of the newly elected leader, or do you just not like her? Is the level of her wrongs equal to the force with which you're lodging your protests?

LaToya Plummer: We have not prevented any services from taking place at the University. However, the president has several times closed the University


Washington, D.C.: Were you arrested on Friday night? If so, how was that experienced?

LaToya Plummer: Yes I was arrested. Being a part of a cause as just as this is a good experience. However, I was not happy with the university's decision in allowing for the arrests to happen before they exhausted all other options, which include having open dialogues with the students.

_______________________ Gallaudet University FSSA Coalition


Washington, D.C.: Didn't Fernandes just recently assume her post? How can you claim that she hasn't addressed certain problems if you haven't even given her the time to do so? And, if what you're interested in is in fact getting certain important issues addressed, why is Fernandes' resignation your demand? I don't mean this as a defense of her -- I know little about her. I truly just have a hard time reconciling the protesters' demands with what you claim the problems are.

LaToya Plummer: Dr. Fernandes has a long history of employment at the University. She served as Dean of Clerc Center for 5 years before becoming the Provost of Gallaudet University. In her 11 years she has demonstrated poor leadership, management by intimidation, and other forms of divisive leadership that have resulted in a very hostile environment.


Silver Spring, Md.: Explain how this current protest is either similar or different to the protests in 1988 that resulted in Dr. Jordan's presidency at Gallaudet.

LaToya Plummer: you cannot compare the two. in 1988, the issue was about having a deaf president. In this one in 2006, the issue is about failed leadership


San Francisco, Calif.: How are Gallaudet's issues of racism and such are different from those at other universities? To me, this seems like a common problem at most universities, not one that is unique to Gallaudet.

LaToya Plummer: You're right. It is no different here than any other universities. A leader MUST address the issues with action and solutions in order for the university to remain a healthy environment


Omaha, Neb.: Hi, thanks for doing this chat. I am curious as to the intensity of everyone's reaction to the provost's potential appointment. In my experience, most college students don't even know who their provost is and could probably care less who is appointed as president of the university. Why is the Gallaudet student body so concerned about this situation? How do you see this provost impacting Gallaudet's university business should she be appointed?

LaToya Plummer: That is a good question. Our university is the lone deaf university in the world that accommodates the Deaf, Hearing, and hard of hearing students. The community is very very small. Because of the size, we tend to be more attentive to issues of leadership


Arlington, Va.: Do you think Fernandes will step down simply in order to keep the peace and in light of so many faculty members against her?

LaToya Plummer: So far she hasn't.


Washington, D.C.: Ms. Plummer, I'm hoping you can help me better understand something. In the news accounts I've read, student protesters have said that they disapprove of Ms. Fernandes' management style. However, I've never seen any elaboration on this statement. What exactly about her style that you object to?

LaToya Plummer: a perfect example of her failed leadership can be looked into on the Web site Gallaudet University FSSA Coalition(see the Clerc Center letter)


Arlington, Va.: Is the level of her wrongs equal to the force with which you're lodging your protests?

LaToya Plummer: The issues of social justice and quality leadership are ones we are passionate about.


Hard of Hearing: What exactly do you mean by "safe" in terms of a safe campus? Also, what information do you say has been "falsified" by the administration? From what I understand, Fernandes is the first woman to be selected as G.U. president. That seems to be a significant milestone in terms of diversity.

LaToya Plummer: We have been existing in a climate of fear over the last several years. Sharing our opinion means the possibility of losing jobs, missing opportunity for promotions, not getting good grades, and so on. We have never felt so safe as we do now-- in this protest, united at last.


San Francisco, Calif.: I'm confused about why you think Jane F. would not make a good president if she has not even had a chance to lead. Don't you think you should give her a chance first and see how things go?

LaToya Plummer: She has been given a chance to do so for eleven years.


Washington, D.C.: As an outside observer who has in the past worked within the deaf community, I have to state that these protests are coming across to the general public as selfish and nonsensical. "Shared governance" on any university campus does not mean that students get to pick a university president. While Deaf President Now was a legitimate, worthy and necessary protest movement, what is going on now makes the Gallaudet community look ridiculous -- and it's shameful the way the deaf community is turning its back on the very man who they legitimately fought so hard to have as president in 1988.

Your sense of entitlement is outrageous. Give the woman a fair chance to meet -- or even exceed -- your demands.

LaToya Plummer:

Please read the letters on Gallaudet University FSSA Coalition from many people across the community, including the original 4 DPN leaders. We emphasize, Dr. Fernandes has been given a chance and she has failed.


Washington, D.C.: If you are so unhappy with the governance of the school, why don't you just leave? You shouldn't deny others an education over your personal views.

LaToya Plummer: You are asking more than 400 students to leave, rather than asking one failed leader to resign?


Danbury, Conn.: After an interview with Dr. Jane Fernandes throughout the Washington Post Radio, she has determined that she is the change for the Deaf community and stated that there will be "New Order" going on in the Deaf Community, regardless of the expansion of cochlear implants programs.

As being a member of the Deaf Community, what she said about "New Order" is very alarming.

What will you do about that? What has it done to her reputation as a university Leader? What do you think of New Order?

LaToya Plummer: Dr. Fernandes has maintained that the issue of this protest centrals around the idea of her not being Deaf Enough. That is her take on the issue.

We stand by our concerns of failed leadership.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Would a televised town meeting between the two parties at Gallaudet help solve the problem?

LaToya Plummer: It would make our concerns transparent.


St. Paul, Minn.: How many times did you and other leaders have met with Dr. Fernandes or Dr. Jordan this fall to negotiate? What did they have to offer?

LaToya Plummer: We have not met with Fernandes or Jordan to discuss concerns or negotiate on issues. The only person we were able to meet along with two other administrators is our current interim provost MIchael Moore. The only time we met with Dr. Fernandes was on Friday afternoon when she demanded that we open gates and refused to discuss any other issue.


Washington, D.C.: Some say the protesters need to fess up and compromise and act more adult. Are you and others enjoying protesting and being on the news every day?

LaToya Plummer: We have maintained a peaceful demonstration


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: You are creating a tautology -- King and Fernandes cannot lead because the students and faculty refuse to be led. From the outside and most reasonable accounts, King did a phenomenal job leading the university for many years. Why now is he all of a sudden unable to lead?

LaToya Plummer: Leadership is a two way street. You cannot lead without followers and you cannot follow without a leader. We also believe that we each have a responsibility not to follow leaders who are oppressors.


Arlington, Va.: How will protesters make up for the lost class time? It seems like in the pursuit of new leadership, the protesters are neglecting their education, the very reason they came to the university to begin with.

LaToya Plummer: There are so many different levels of education and this one has been an incredible learning experience. We are confident in our Faculty, who have been wonderful and will work closely with them to ensure that our education is intact.


Hard of Hearing Again: Hi, Thanks for clarifying what "safe" means to you at G.U. I'm still curious, though, about something you mentioned earlier in this chat, about what information has been "falsified" by the administration. Thanks again.

LaToya Plummer: The Friday after we shut down the center of academics, Hall Memorial Building. We maintained a peaceful blockade of the building. Department of Public Safety (the campus security) breached the building without warning. They physically harmed our students. When I say physically, I mean choking, hitting, throwing the students against the wall. We have all of that on tapes and pictures. The university sent out a press release saying that no student were harmed.


Washington, D.C.: So what is the solution? What do you want to happen? Who do the students want for president of the university?

LaToya Plummer: We want a leader who can lead with followers. We want a leader who is ready and willing to work with different groups of people on campus regarding different issues, especially the much neglected issues of social justice.


Silver Spring, Md.: In response to an earlier post, Ms. Fernandes has not assumed the Presidency at Gallaudet, she is scheduled to start 1/1/07.

LaToya Plummer: Yes, you're right. That's their plan.


Long Beach, Calif.: Forgive me for being ignorant, please. You said:

"The issues like racism, audism, and management by intimidation must be discussed and must be solved."

Is audism the conflict between those who have chosen to accept scientific advances so that they may hear, and those choosing to remain unable to hear who feel the former are "sell-outs"?

Did Fernandes make racist remarks or support those who have done so?

Thank you for clarifying.

LaToya Plummer: There isn't enough time to get into this particular issue. Please refer to Gallaudet University FSSA Coalition for more information and feel free to contact us if you want to ask questions through email. We will respond in that venue.


Alexandria, Va.: I am not connected in any way with Gallaudet, and I don't have an opinion one way or the other on whether this new university president is good for the school or not.

But, why do you think you have the right to disrupt the school, even engage in illegal acts, just because you disagree with the decision of the board of this private institution on who should be its president?

Don't you think your efforts would be more productive in founding your own alternative institution, or leave this school and go to another one, if you don't like the way this one is being run?

LaToya Plummer: Gallaudet University is the only University for the Deaf in the world. Our passion for the health of the university runs so deep that we are willing to engage in acts of civil disobedience to ensure the future of this institution.


Alexandria, Va.: So basically having a diverse president (woman, person of color, etc.) is not as important as having a LEADER for a president, right? Is that the main thrust of the tension on campus?

Gally '06 Alumna

LaToya Plummer: Dr. Fernandes was appointed as a result of a flawed process. A fair process would have resulted in the most qualified leader, regardless of gender, race, culture, or hearing status.


Washington, D.C.: Based on what I have been reading, I understand one of the reasons why the selection process was flawed -- it was because of insufficient diversity in the candidate pool. I also understand that the forums were scheduled at different times. How is that flawed? Is it because of the fact that Jane F. had ample time to prepare her speech? And the others did not? Was favoritism an issue? The only reason I am asking is so the outsiders can understand better the rage within the community towards the selection process. More details on the process itself would be much appreciated. Thanks!

LaToya Plummer: Yes, the time frame of selecting a university president was 7 weeks. Two candidates were given very short time to prepare for a public forum. The white man with a MA and little administrative experience got into the final pool over a black man with a PHD and more administrative experience. Those are the examples


LaToya Plummer: Many many thanks for having me here online. Our next step is that Homecoming will continue and so will the protest. Thank you all. Have a good day


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