WP editorial: Gallaudet’s Loss

Please note that this editorial is the opinion of the WASHINGTON POST EDITOR-in-CHIEF. In it, the chief AGAIN repeats the oft-told lie/PR Spin of Dr. Fernandes: “When students launched their protest against president-designate Fernandes in the spring, many of them stated the objection that she was “not deaf enough.” This editorial proves that the Post was always, and still is, on the side of Dr. Fernandes, and her expensive PR consultants they admitted to bringing in to fight their war for them. The Post apparently never ‘got it’ nor understood. They instead, continue to wage the battle against us. Therefore I recommend that readers of the WP boycott this newspaper for it’s failure to hear the protester’s most important grievance against Dr. Fernandes: She was not qualified nor skilled enough to LEAD the University. Her 11 year record at Gallaudet PROVED this. Her failure was HERS, and HERS alone. -Ken @ bibliomarket.


Gallaudet’s Loss
The ouster of the university’s incoming president defeats her vision of a more diverse institution.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006; Page A20

THE BOARD OF trustees at Gallaudet University certainly showed who was in charge when it voted to terminate Jane K. Fernandes’s contract as president. Sadly, it wasn’t the members of the board, who are supposed to serve the interests of the university. Nor, for that matter, were reason or right in evidence Sunday as the trustees ousted a woman they had recently judged to be the best person to lead the renowned school for the deaf. Instead, what triumphed was lawlessness and the principle that a university president should be chosen on the basis of popularity.

If this were just the story of another university administration crumbling under pressure, it might be of interest to the larger public only to the extent that Congress is Gallaudet’s chief funder. But more was at stake: Alternative visions of Gallaudet were at war during the past months. Ms. Fernandes promoted a school that would welcome all sorts of deaf and hard-of-hearing people; that would accommodate itself to improving technologies, which in coming years will allow more and more deaf people to function in the hearing world; and that would emphasize tolerance of diversity. The protesters were promoting a university that celebrates what they call Deaf (with a capital D) culture, prescribes American Sign Language as the only acceptable medium of communication and relates with suspicion to deaf people who choose to function in the hearing world. To the extent the latter vision won out, it does not bode well for Gallaudet’s future.

When students launched their protest against president-designate Fernandes in the spring, many of them stated the objection that she was “not deaf enough.” Though deaf, she grew up speaking and lip-reading; she did not learn sign language until she was a young adult. That protest theme didn’t play well beyond Gallaudet, and it was dropped from public discourse; students and faculty soon were reacting angrily if it was ascribed to them. But the protest movement never came up with a convincing alternative explanation for their anti-Fernandes passion. All that was left was a series of relatively petty complaints about her executive style as provost.

In a way it’s too bad that the underlying debate couldn’t have been played out more openly. The protesters’ fealty to and pride in their language and culture are admirable and understandable. Not very long ago, deaf people were often regarded as substandard and were treated accordingly. Amazingly, Gallaudet’s current president, I. King Jordan, is the school’s first deaf leader, and it took a round of protests to persuade the board to name him in 1988. That technology and genetic science might provide more alternatives to deafness just as deaf pride has achieved a breakthrough is an understandable source of anxiety.

Neither nostalgia nor pride, however, are sufficient bases for educational policy. We have no doubt that Ms. Fernandes, a tough and qualified educator, will find other ways to contribute; her behavior throughout this painful time was exemplary. More consequential to the university is how long it takes for her inclusive and progressive vision to be accepted.


7 thoughts on “WP editorial: Gallaudet’s Loss

  1. Actually the Post editors are not emotionally involved in this cultural war and got it right. Someone on Deaf-L is calling the present situation cultural suicide and he got it right too. A lot of parents aren’t going to send their kids to a campus full of hate and fear, a lot of employers aren’t going to hire graduates of a university where mobs rule and there is no respect for authority. A lot of graduate schools are going to think twice about admitting students from a place the students themselves call baby-down and that the average student only has a grade 5 reading and writing achievement level. This is a sad time for Gallaudet and all i see on the blogs is continued fighting and vilification of other deaf/Deaf persons.


  2. Ruby, it was because we didn’t have Deafhood workshop that time. It was called “Audism” by the hearing educators. We had learn how to act “bad attitude” from them. I guess that was virus or disease for us to learn from the Audists.

    It’s time for us to heal and learn more about Deafhood.


  3. Long, long time before Jane was hired to employ at Gallaudet, I have seen a lot of Deaf employees from Deaf genticially Deaf Families having bad attitudes toward other Deaf people who happened to be on campus for business reasons or being hired as new employees. Gallaudet folks are mostly not friendly folks toward to new faces on campus. They have been in narrow mind with hate feelings or negative looks toward others who are not genetically deaf or just a humble person being there. Realistically, It was not a welcome mat for “inclusive” deaf people coming from diverse background.


  4. How much of Gallaudet’s federal funding was spent to attempt to have a normal college where students could be educated? The protestors are at fault for every dime spent on this debacle.

    And yes, I was there the day the decision was made to select JKF. Students did say it was that she was not “deaf enough,” but that was lame and they instead chose vague, unprovable things like “audism”, “racism”, and “lack of leadership.”

    Face it: Gallaudet has a HUGE issue with identity politics. Until it’s confronted, it cannot be corrected.

    I wasn’t a subscriber to the Washington Post, but I am now


  5. Yeah, boycott the Washington Post. Buy the Washington Times. They’re much more sympathetic to the issues.


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