American Council of Trustees and Alumni: Gallaudet Board Should Stand Firm

Below, I will share with you a supposed letter from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. I have high doubts this is a genuine letter from them. If it was genuine, one would think that the organization had spent time in discussions with alumni and faculty of Gallaudet before issuing a statement. To my knowledge, they have not. I believe this letter is yet another fabrication from the infamous IKJ/JKF PR Spin Machine. My doubts arise given that the mission statement of ACTA states:

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt, nonprofit, educational organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America’s colleges and universities.

Founded in 1995, and formerly known as the National Alumni Forum, ACTA is the only national organization that is dedicated to working with alumni, donors, trustees and education leaders across the country to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives a philosophically -balanced, open-minded, high-quality education at an affordable price.

ACTA was launched by former National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Lynne V. Cheney, former Governor Richard D. Lamm of Colorado, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, distinguished social scientist David Riesman, Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow and others.

ACTA works with college and university trustees to ensure responsible management of higher education resources, end grade inflation, establish a solid core curriculum, and restore intellectual diversity on campus.

ACTA has members from over 400 colleges and universities. Its quarterly publication, Inside Academe, goes to over 12,000 readers, including 3,500+ college and university trustees.

Statement from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni

Contact: Anne D. Neal, 202-467-6787


WASHINGTON, DC (October 27, 2006)—As the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees prepares to meet this Sunday, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni urged the trustees to stand firmly behind their selection of Jane K. Fernandes as the next president. For months, Gallaudet has been engulfed in controversy over the selection of Fernandes, currently the provost, who is due to assume the position in January.

“Gallaudet’s trustees engaged in an inclusive and thoughtful selection process and concluded Dr. Fernandes was the bes t candidate to lead Gallaudet into the future,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “They should not give in to unlawful protesters who have their own agendas—rather than the school’s—in mind.”

Fernandes’ appointment was announced on May 1; protests began then and resumed this month. Earlier this week, protesters seized two buildings and blocked access to the campus. The faculty has also issued votes of no confidence in Fernandes, the current president, and the board. According to numerous media accounts, the protests began amid complaints that Fernandes is not “deaf enough” because she learned American Sign Language only in her twenties.

“Not everyone always agrees with the result of a presidential search,” Neal noted. “But disagreement does not mean the board was wrong.”

“At a time when higher education is facing many challenges, it is the board’s obligation to identify a leader who can address the long-term goals of the school,” she concluded. “The Gallaudet board has made its choice and is accountable for the results. The trustees should affirm their choice—and the protesters should allow Fernandes do her job.”

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, national organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni around the country and has issued numerous reports on higher education, including How Many Ward Churchills?, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century. For further information, contact ACTA at (202) 467-6787.


IF the above letter is genuine, then it runs directly counter to the educational ideal as expressed below in an article written by this SAME organization. IF the letter is genuine, how can this organization have such divergent views within itself? That inconsistency considered, the only logical course of action is to dismiss the letter.



“The most serious problems of freedom of expression in our society today exist on our campuses…. The assumption seems to be that the purpose of education is to induce correct opinion rather than to search for wisdom and to liberate the mind.”
Benno Schmidt, former president of Yale University (1991)


Academic freedom is a modern term for an idea with roots in ancient Greece: the right to follow an argument, wherever it may lead. It is the belief that intellectual inquiry must be protected against those who, for whatever reason, may try to deny it, shape it, silence it, or punish it; and that the unfettered pursuit of truth is central to the purpose of the college or university and fundamental for human progress.

The ideals of academic freedom and free speech are at the core of the American academic tradition. Teachers must be free to teach, students must be free to learn, and freedom in research is essential to the advancement of truth.

In the past, systematic threats to academic freedom have been external. Today, however, the threat to academic freedom comes from within. The barbarians are not at the gates; they are inside the walls. In 1991, retiring Harvard president Derek Bok said, “What universities can and must resist are deliberate, overt attempts to impose orthodoxy and suppress dissent….In recent years, the threat of orthodoxy has come primarily from within rather than from outside the university.”

Since that time, others have documented the growing political intolerance and abuse of academic freedom on campus.

  • Students report feeling intimidated by professors and fellow students if they question politically correct ideas. In some cases, students have been subject to official sanctions for speaking their minds in class.

  • The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center finds that hundreds of colleges have adopted speech codes or sensitivity requirements that threaten free speech and academic freedom.

  • American historians cited “political correctness” and “overspecialization” most frequently when asked to name weaknesses in their profession by an Organization of American Historians survey.

  • The Student Press Law Center reports over 100 instances of campus newspaper theft, with little or no punishment for the perpetrators.

  • Professors have been removed and punished, in some cases illegally, for violating the norms of political correctness.

What happens when the threat is internal? What happens when the intellectual freedom of politically unfashionable colleagues or students is threatened by other professors, whose outrageous behavior is itself protected by tenure and “departmental autonomy”? It is important to understand how dramatically the situation has changed. Professors who once preached objectivity now celebrate subjectivity. The measure is not truth but power—especially the power of one’s race, class, and gender. The aim is not to educate the young to think for themselves but to transform them into “change agents” for the professor’s own brand of social engineering.

ACTA believes the internal threat to academic freedom must be challenged both practically and philosophically. At the practical level, we must find ways to defend those professors, as well as students, whose academic freedom is threatened by other professors or administrations that disagree with their views. ACTA is working to engage alumni and donors, trustees, and state leaders in this fight.

Alumni and other friends of the university must vigorously enter the debate on the side of intellectual freedom. Slogans such as institutional autonomy that derive their legitimacy from the unpoliticized search for truth cannot be allowed to provide a cloak for undermining academic freedom.

Trustees set policy and have a fiduciary obligation for the academic, as well as financial, well-being of their institutions. It is their duty to protect academic freedom, ensuring that their campus maintains a genuinely open intellectual environment when faculty and administrators fail to do so. Campus newspapers should be protected. Speakers should not be disinvited. Tenure decisions contaminated by intellectual intolerance should be reviewed and, if necessary, reconsidered. Policies should be adopted to encourage intellectual openness in departments and other campus units.

And finally, all of us—joined by state officials and education leaders—must rise to the philosophical challenge. We must return to our intellectual moorings. We must recapture the classic understanding of intellectual freedom. We must reaffirm the search for truth that unites us in a community of free minds. No fanaticism, no ideology, no political passion has the right to suppress free minds in the pursuit of truth.



2 thoughts on “American Council of Trustees and Alumni: Gallaudet Board Should Stand Firm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s