Takeaways: Gallaudet is nothing less than the Mecca of the deaf world. If campus security were required to be fluent in ASL, Carl Depree would have never died. The “not deaf enough” statement is inaccurate according to the protesters
As some people may have heard, Gallaudet is having a huge protest right now. I recently realized how inaccurate most media sources such as tv news, newspapers and the radio are, once I talked to my boyfriend about the protest. He instantly said, “Oh yeah! I heard about that on the radio, it’s about how the president is not deaf enough right?” The reality is that, no, that has nothing to do with the protest. I decided to check Associated Content to see if there were any articles on the protest and discovered that there were none and decided that it’s my responsibility to write one to clear up some confusion. First a bit of history is necessary. Gallaudet is the world’s only university for the deaf. It is the one place in the world where deaf people can communicate effortlessly with each other. A place where the word “disabled” doesn’t exist. Most deaf people would agree that Gallaudet is the very heart of the deaf community. Basically it is nothing less than the Mecca of the deaf world. Unfortunately, Gallaudet is no longer a safe haven for the deaf community. I will include some examples that prove this statement. Gallaudet is not a place where communication is effortless, due to the fact that many of the staff members lack the basic understanding and knowledge of sign language, including the campus security. Which led to a deaf student, Carl Dupree, being killed by a security officer. Carl and a security officer got in a fight and the officer used a choke guard to restrain Carl, but Carl signed rapidly about how he could not breathe. Unfortunately the security officer could not understand him and mistook his struggle for air as an attempt to rebel back at the officer. A few students watching tried to step in and explain verbally to the security officer that he could not breathe but was told to step back. Once the officer realized that Carl died, they tried to retrieve him, but it was just too late. If the staff was required to be fluent in ASL, this would have never happened. The administration of Gallaudet chooses to not consider American Sign Language [ASL] as a mandatory language on campus. Now how does this make sense? This is a school for the deaf. What sort of message does this give to the students of Gallaudet? When it was announced that the former President, Irving K. Jordan, was resigning and it was time for a new president. Several people ran for president, one was Dr. Glenn Anderson, who stepped down from his position as chair of the board of the trustees. Many students, staff members, faculty and alumni saw him as a very qualified candidate but he didn’t make it past the final six. The thing is that he is an African-American man who holds a PhD, who also had many years of experience working with an university on an administrative level, and they passed him up for a white man, Ron Stern, with a master degree, who only had experience on a high school level. Many students and faculties have questions as to why Dr. Glenn Anderson, a PhD holding African American would not hold a higher chance of being elected than his competitors, one of which was a white male whose credentials rank him lower in academic achievement. There are some people suggesting that the presidential search had more to do with politics than finding the most qualified individual. In addition, faculty and students voiced out their opinions on the final three candidates for president through polls. The results were that 81% students said that JKF was unacceptable and 64% of Gallaudet faculty said that JKF was unacceptable as well. Somehow the opinions of the majority did not matter and the Board of Trustees selected JKF as president. On October 16, there was a faculty meeting, out of 221 eligible voting faculty members – 178 were present at the meeting, representing 76% of the voting faculty. They voted on a motion that the faculty demand JKF to resign or be removed from her position for the greater good of Gallaudet University. The motion was passed with 138 ayes, 24 nayes, and 6 abstain. One would want to know why JKF [Dr. Jane K. Fernandes] is considered the wrong president for Gallaudet. In doing my research, I found some alarming discoveries that would make one question whether she really is the right person for the job. JKF has been a part of the administration at Gallaudet University for more than ten years. During her years as a part of the administration, Fernandes stood by and watched as issues such as audism [discrimination based on one’s ability to hear], racism, and homophobia festered. Students and teachers pled with her to help them change and improve this situation but instead of showing compassion and concern, she chose to intimidate and alienate the deaf students and teachers even more. To quote a part of the Clerc Center Staff’s letter that asks for the resignation of JKF: “During her tenure as the vice president of Pre-College National Mission Programs (PCNMP) from 1995 to 2000, Dr. Jane K. Fernandes ignored, alienated, and disrespected teachers and staff. During a period of restructuring in 1996, the teachers and staff at PCNMP sought to offer additional advice and direction, only to be shunned and mocked. To continue our employment, we had to endure an atmosphere of distrust and fear. This statement of our oppression is long overdue.” Apparently, there is much more to the protest than what was captured on the airwaves and radio. If the true story is revealed, would the media make apologies for getting the story wrong? You read, and make up your mind as to whether or not that the real story got out. Or if the voice of the deaf people was once again, dealt a swift injustice. Instead of giving the protesters the right to voice their concerns, the administration chose to do rather questionable things such as: Instead of inviting interpreters to aid in the communication between campus security and the protesters about a bomb threat, the decision was made to have the campus security forcefully enter the protester-occupied building. In addition, during the bomb scare, the campus security resorted to shoving, choking, pushing, and uses of pepper spray. The administration was quick to deny the reports of injuries, but eventually did order an investigation upon the discovery of that multiple instances of questionable force had been caught on a camera by many of the protesters throughout the demonstration The administrators knew that the protesters would need interpreters to ensure that their voice gets across to the media as clearly as possible. In denying the protesters interpreters, they in turn, denied the protesters their voice. Robert Loeffler. who worked for Gallaudet’s interpreting services took a stand and explained why there were no interpreters and pointed the fingers at the administration. Thankfully he took a personal leave from work so he could help interpret for the protesters. Many people think that the protesters chose to close down Kendall and MSSD [ elementary & secondary school for the deaf] during the protest. This is not true, apparently the administration closed both themselves despite the fact that the protesters were willing to allow Kendall and MSSD to continue. Lastly, the administration told the media that it was the protesters who chose to close down the schools, as an attempt to make the protesters look bad to the public. JKF did not show her face or ask to meet with the protesters until she reappeared on Friday the 13th and asked to have a meeting with a small group of protesters. In an attempt to get the media to refocus attention to the story, the students asked to have a live feed broadcast. JKF refused. Such a response would definitely make one question whether or not she was willing to let the story be told thus far have another side to it. Also, one must note that on the 14th, Washington Post published a column written by JKF where she stated that she spent a Tuesday night negotiating with protesters who had taken over the hall memorial building. The protesters say that this never happened. Lastly, I would like to clear up the biggest misconception about this protest . . . The statement that the reason behind the protest is because JKF is not deaf enough is inaccurate. The reality of the situation is that the protesters feel her qualifications should be examined, not her hearing. More accurately, the FSSA Coalition [faculty, staff members, students and alumni who have no confidence in JKF as president] organized this protest to bring to light their consensus on two things: JKF is, in their opinion, not the right candidate to help unite Gallaudet once again, and to shed new light on the presidential search itself. In addition, the source of the “not deaf enough” quote was JKF, herself. Now, with all that said, I’ve done my best to shed some light on this issue. I highly recommend further educating yourself in this issue by following the links I have provided below as there are much more to learn.
More resources: many links I put together:
Gally FSSA News: http://www.gufssa.com/
Clerc Center Staff’s Letter: http://news.gufssa.com/2006/10/13/letter-from-clerc-center-staff/