As Tents Come Down, Protesters’ Sense of Victory in Ouster Of Incoming President Contrasts With Some Officials’ Concerns
By David A. Fahrenthold and Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 31, 2006; Page B01
On the front lawn of Gallaudet University yesterday, tents were being taken down and sleeping bags rolled up. A day after the ouster of the school’s incoming president ended a month of bitter protests, the campus was returning to normal.
But on a rowhouse across Florida Avenue NE from the main gate, a message written on a sheet showed that strong emotions remained underneath Gallaudet’s new calm. It said:
First they ignore you
Then they ridicule you
Then they arrest you
Then YOU WIN.
A sense that the termination of the appointment of president-designate Jane K. Fernandes was a significant victory, and one that gave student, faculty and alumni demonstrators new leverage and unity at the university, was widespread. Protest leaders said they would make sure the next presidential search is more open and did not rule out further action if they don’t approve of Fernandes’s replacement.
“We need a person who is accepted by the community,” signed Ryan Commerson, a Gallaudet graduate student and protest leader. “We need a person who respects us, who respects our — excuse me, for lack of a better word — voice.”
While many on campus celebrated, others warned that a dangerous precedent had been set. The board allowed itself “to be whipsawed by various constituencies with a variety of agendas,” said Anne D. Neal of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in a statement. “Gallaudet’s governance has now proven dysfunctional not once — but twice. It’s imperative that the board take time to learn from this pathetic episode, and reestablish credibility. . . .”
Since the beginning of this month, students have taken over a campus building, enforced a blockade of the school’s entrances that ended with more than 130 arrests and briefly seized the administration building. Faculty voted that Fernandes should go and expressed a loss of confidence in the board and outgoing president I. King Jordan, and about 2,000 students, parents, alumni and others marched on the Capitol.
The board chair, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, did not return messages yesterday, and Jordan declined through spokeswoman Mercy Coogan to comment.
Coogan said disciplinary decisions regarding students will be made on an individual basis through the established judicial process.
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