Transcript of Nightline on Protest
American Broadcast Company (ABC)
(National news program)
Monday, October 30, 2006
When Students Revolt
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (anchor): We’re going to take a journey inside one of the most closed and insular communities in the country tonight, inside the world of the deaf. This weekend, the trustees of Gallaudet University, the country’s most prestigious school for the deaf, revoked the appointment of the school’s new president. Why did she lose her job? She says she wasn’t deaf *enough* to suit the students. Here’s Nightline’s John Donvan.
(Unidentified voice:) Go! [Video showing students locking arms and sitting on the ground]
JOHN DONVAN (pre-recorded): You could take this as a Sixties thing–students take up a cause and stage a sit-in and force a crisis–sort of straight out of 1968… [drumming sound] … But when
the students of Gallaudet started their protest and it went on for weeks–a protest to keep the next appointed university president from taking office–[cheers]–they were only reaching back–[cheers]–to nineteen *eighty*-eight, and another protest. That year may have been
the first time many outsiders had actually ever heard–[cars honking horns]–of Gallaudet University–a publicly funded school for the deaf in which the language of instruction is spoken by hand–[honking, cheering]–and where to be deaf, totally deaf, is never anything you have to explain, even something you can be proud of…[continued honking sounds]…In ‘88, protests began when Gallaudet select as its president-designate–[honking]–a person who was not deaf …[honking]…which had been true of all of the school’s presidents up until that point… [honking]… The students won that time. Another candidate, a deaf candidate, was selected as
president… [cheers]… They just won again in 2006, only this time the candidate the students were against–[cheering]–the candidate they burned in effigy, she is deaf. But, she can also speak, as she did to ABC News back in May.
JANE FERNANDES [sounds like the voice of a hard-of-hearing person]: Uh, there are many ways to be deaf, and there are many paths that deaf people take in life.
DONVAN: Her name is Jane Fernandes, and now she’s out of a job, because the board that appointed her in the first place gave in to the student protest movement–[cheers, drumming]– without really giving a reason, just a statement that said: “With much regret and pain, after serious deliberation, we have voted to terminate–terminate her appointment.” …[Beeping sound of pedestrian signal for the blind on Florida Avenue and 8th St.]… One explanation is that she was seen as not committed enough to Deaf culture and to the language in which Deaf culture is centered, American Sign Language, ASL–[continued drumming sounds]–whose use among the protesters is not just a question of communication, but identity.
LEAH KATZ-HERNANDEZ (voice of interpreter): [Birds chirping]…We need a leader who we can look up to–a leader who is one of us.
DONVAN: Fernandes herself had argued that this was all about her being, quote, “not deaf enough.”
FERNANDES (her own voice) [from the pre-recorded interview in May 2006]: I think that’s in the mix of everything else. We had a forum yesterday and the first person who made a comment, or asked me a question was related to my not being a native signer, and the question about how I thought I could represent deaf and hard-of-hearing people if I’m not a native signer.
DONVAN: Today however, as students began to clean up the protest site, practically everyone who appeared before the cameras insisted the identity issue has been overplayed–[pedestrian beeping sound]–that it’s all about competency–that Fernandes, who served 11 years [sic] as
provost for the school was not a good administrator. The student government president:
NOAH BECKMAN (voice of interpreter): When Dr. Fernandes and I had met, she wanted to work with the student body government and I told her that that was great and she should send me an e-mail…[beeping]…To this day I have not had one e-mail from her in my box. It shows that she speaks, but she does not reach out.
DONVAN: The professor who pulled his four deaf children out of the special elementary school on campus which she was responsible for at one time.
JEFF LEWIS (voice of interpreter): This is not about issues of identity and “not deaf enough.” This is about the issue of failed leadership of 11 years. I can tell you this till I’m blue in the face, but this is what you need to hear.
DONVAN: Now the students here are talking with a sense of the new power they feel–[cheers]– to have a say in running the place. This is Chris Corrigan:
CHRIS CORRIGAN [his vocal sounds audible in background] (voice of interpreter): This university is governed by the students, faculty, administrators, the board–all of us together, including the community–are what makes this university what it is.
DONVAN: But if this protest was all about competency and *not* identity–[cheering]–it’s hard to understand how it could become so passionate. Students had started disrupting school ceremonies. A classroom was targeted for a bomb threat at a university where one of the board members teaches–
DONVAN (continued): –and then–[cheering]–there’s the face, in effigy, in the flames… [sustained cheering]… Yes, the students won, but at the expense of raising the question: Who’s in charge now? I’m John Donvan for Nightline in Washington.
MCFADDEN: And we should add that Night Line did reach out to Ms. Fernandes for comment, but she was unavailable.