Gallaudet University President I. King Jordan said yesterday that he has hired a law firm to make an "independent review" of an incident Friday in which a former student died after a scuffle with campus police.
Meanwhile, Gallaudet students, upset over the death of Carl Dupree, won the cancellation of classes yesterday morning to permit a demonstration, then held a memorial service last night.
Dupree, 41, died after a struggle that apparently was touched off by a "grade dispute" between him and an instructor, according to a statement released yesterday by Jordan.
A university spokesman said a death certificate listed the immediate cause of Dupree's death as cardiac arrest. A D.C. police detective said yesterday that an investigation by the city's medical examiner had not been completed.
Students last week said Dupree, who was deaf, could not communicate with security officers after being handcuffed, and that the officers used excessive force.
A university spokesman said yesterday that students had asked for the cancellation of morning classes, and that the school had granted the request.
About 350 students attended a candlelight vigil for Dupree last night. Among those who attended were Dupree's wife, Avis, and their four children.
A student leader, Arlene Brenner, said Dupree enrolled at Gallaudet in September, but dropped out shortly thereafter to work to support his family. Avis Dupree also is a student at Gallaudet.
After a short march, the students last night crowded into a small auditorium, where several students and faculty members, including Jordan, remembered Dupree as a popular student who was active in student affairs.
Student leaders called for a boycott of classes today, Wednesday and Thursday. Brenner said the boycott would be an attempt to bring about changes in the school's English department, a cause in which Dupree was active.
A brief statement released yesterday by Jordan provided additional details of Friday's incident. According to the statement, a security officer who had been called to Gallaudet's Hall Memorial Building saw Dupree "threaten an instructor over a grade dispute."
When he was asked to leave the campus at about 4 p.m., the statement said, Dupree "resisted and a struggle ensued." More officers were called and Dupree "had to be physically restrained," it said.
After he was handcuffed, an officer noticed that Dupree's "face was turning blue." Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was "quickly administered" and an ambulance was called, the statement said.
Dupree was pronounced dead at Capitol Hill Hospital.
Jordan said he has hired the D.C. law firm of Squire, Sanders and Dempsey "to conduct an independent review of the circumstances surrounding this tragic incident." He said one of the firm's lawyers "will begin working with me immediately."
Brenner, the student leader, said last night that among the Gallaudet students' demands is that the university hire English instructors who are proficient in sign language.
"Some of the faculty are terrible signers and can't teach the students," Brenner said through an interpreter. "We teach them signing. They're supposed to be teaching us."
Brenner also said many security officers have poor signing skills, which she said may have contributed to Dupree's inability to communicate with them.Bob Daniels, the university spokesman, said the school requires all its security officers to learn sign language, though their level of proficiency varies.
"The level of skill is not necessarily as high as we'd like in some of them," Daniels said.