To: Gallaudet University Board of Trustees
Subject: Open Letter to the Board of Trustees
Date: Thursday, November 02, 2006
Honorable Members of the Board of Trustees;
In April of this very eventful year in the annals of this great university, we, the undersigned, requested with what we believed was a compelling argument that you should not have proceeded with the selection of a controversial choice as President of Gallaudet University. The Presidential Search Committee clearly had not given you the final 3 candidates who would be best suited to lead us in the direction we believe the university needed to go. The selection of Mr. Ron Stern as a finalist over Dr. Glenn Anderson was particularly disturbing in its blatant disregard of the university and Board of Trustees approved diversity statements.
As a result, and just as we predicted in our original letter, the deaf world was sent into chaos I believe nobody had imagined would be so intense and passionate. We predicted that your decision to accept the three candidates for finalist would be controversial and potentially damaging. We predicted that it would raise suspicions and divide our community like never before. Unfortunately you chose to ignore us and our plea. Unfortunately, you chose to lend credibility to the insult that a person of color in general and a black man in particular will never be considered equal to or better than a white man with a less stellar professional record and academic credentials. We believe the spirits of our forefathers have come to haunt you and to tell you that you were wrong.
You should never have accepted those candidates because it was very apparent to all of us that it was the most visible sign that the process was flawed. You therefore must be held accountable for the following:
1. A protest that took all of 6 months and great inflicted psychological and financial tolls on all involved.
2. A deeply divided deaf community where trust and friendships were very negatively impacted and scars might be felt for years to come.
3. An environment where suspicions of Management by Intimidation (MBI) were further proven by what was a stark contrast in the participation of staff vs. faculty and students. For 6 months we worked, learned and lived in an environment that became more hostile and unsafe the longer the protest continued. Staff was particularly affected as they were given direct instructions to tow the administrations line. They were intimidated.
4. A national leadership crisis where leaders appeared tentative or paralyzed with uncertainty and fear of cyber bloggers some of whom displayed a shocking lack of civility and engaged in painful character assassinations.
5. The confusion anger and frustration felt by our faculty as they tried to honor their academic obligations while also exercising their free speech rights to disagree with your selection of Dr. Fernandes as the President Designate from a FLAWED PROCESS.
6. The arrest of 134 mostly students and a few faculty, staff and alumni. These people are considered heroes for making this sacrifice for their beliefs. However, they are now faced with the shocking reality that they now have a record of being arrested and that is going to have adverse impact on their future opportunities to find work. The administration and the protestors were placed in this compromising position by your failure to heed our plea to STOP A FLAWED process.
7. The confusion and anger felt by students close to graduation and those who wanted to continue their education undisturbed by hostilities that lead to a take over of the main academic building and eventually a campus wide lockdown. Many were traumatized and their academic performance was impacted in negative ways. It might cost the university innocent students who did not protest but who can no longer feel safe and welcome, or who may feel their ability to study uninterrupted would be impacted negatively.
8. The tainting of potential applicants for the position of President and organizations who would normally be expected to lead us in the healing process and who in the passion of the protest, chose sides and gave up their impartiality which may or may not hider their ability to play important roles in the healing process. They have been compromised and conflicted.
9. The loss of jobs of potentially very effective and brilliant young leaders of the protest who also were employed in our K-12 education programs at the Clerc Center. Their involvement in the protest and voluntarily arrest makes them ineligible by law to maintain their employment. The fact that your negligence instigated their actions suggests that you indeed should be held accountable.
10. The difficult position our GUAA leadership and members were placed in during this conflict which in the end lead to the President and Vice President of the GUAA angering and dividing alumni who had divergent opinions of the protest. We believe the GUAA is a very important part of the university’s tradition and vitality. Your actions have compromised its effectiveness and questioned its integrity.
11. And finally, orchestrating and watching the incredible venom directed at Dr. Jane K. Fernandes by an enraged community is an example of gross negligence of your responsibilities as a Board of Trustee who is trusted upon to uphold the dignity and mission of our university and the community it serves. We hold you accountable for directing our anger at her. You made her a symbol of our pain and fears.
We believe as we did the moment Dr. Anderson was not a finalist, that this process was flawed. While we also believe the target for protesters anger was misguided and perhaps deliberately made so by the administration in order to protect the Board of Trustees and Dr. I. King Jordan from closer scrutiny. In other words, as a university staff person once said to us, the Board of Trustees is hiding underneath Dr. Fernandes’ skirts and must be flushed out and made accountable for their FLAWED PROCESS. We believe that that this was an act of cowardice on the part of the Board of Trustees and administration and therefore eroded your credibility, authority and legitimacy. We therefore request that every member of the Board of Trustee who participated in, directly or indirectly, wittingly or not, in the FLAWED SEARCH PROCESS do the following:
A. Do the honorable thing and graciously offer us a full accounting of their poor leadership and irresponsibility in this flawed process.
B. Conduct an independent investigation into the FLAWED SEARCH PROCESS and offer a public audited and notarized report.
C. Provide us with a public rationale for the decision to rescind Dr. Fernandes’ contract as President Designate which we believe is not only due to the toll the process has taken on the university’s finances but because of what we clearly believe is undue influence from the administration and specifically the Office of the President in this process. We submit the involvement of Ms. Patti Kunkle as an example of what we believe was undue influence. Her conflicting roles through out the process and her position within the Office of the President suggests there is no way Dr. Jordan was being honest when he suggested he had absolutely NO involvement in the process.
D. Seek legal ways to remove (expunge) the arrest records of the 134 protesters who are victims of your negligence and who were forced to engage in this form of civil disobedience by the fact you THREE times refused to acknowledge the FLAWED PROCESS. The fact that on the 4th try, you eventually got it right does not dismiss the fact that on THREE occasions you publicly defended your FLAWED DECISION.
E. And finally, graciously resign from the Board of Trustees so that a new group of Trustees may be sought to replace each one of you. That way we may be able to rebuild the authority, credibility and confidence/trust in the university’s Board of Trustees.
This we believe will lead to closure and therefore it will signal the first step towards healing. We believe it will be a long and painful process but with renewed trust in our leadership, we believe the deaf world will come out stronger and with a clearer sense of its unique multiple identities, its diversity and its untapped potential as citizens of the 21st century.
Arlyn Penaranda David Musa King
Niesha Washington Anita Mazzuca
Open letters to Board of Trustees from the Students of Color dated April 24, 2006 and May 1, 2006.
National Association of the Deaf
National Asian Deaf Congress
National Black Deaf Advocate
Study Body Government
Graduate Students Association
Black Deaf Students Union
International Students Club
Asian Pacific Association
FROM: Coalition of Organizations for Students of Color at Gallaudet University
TO: Gallaudet University Board of Trustees
SUBJECT: Open Letter of concern over the Presidential Search Process
DATE: Monday, April 24, 2006
“Gallaudet University promotes an environment where every member of the community is included, valued and respected.”
– Gallaudet University New Directions – Strategic Goal #5
This statement, while laudable for its intent, is rather ironic in light of the Presidential Search Committee’s strange conclusion in the selection of the 3 finalists. One candidate did not have the following:
1. Possession of a terminal degree. In this case, as is commonly expected by any reasonable person standard given that Gallaudet is a higher education institution that confers doctorate degrees, possession at time of interview of a doctorate degree is essential.
2. University level teaching and research experience given that Gallaudet is a research institution looked up to as the leading expert in research on deaf people, their history, culture and language.
We do not see evidence that this process has valued, respected or included us. We are not included among the finalists even though a candidate of color who possesses all of the qualifications was overlooked, while one who was selected does not. We believe an explanation is warranted. Ignoring this principle in this presidential search process suggests you have not been honest with us and therefore our trust in you and the process has been deeply affected,
As a result of this strange selection of the 3 final candidates, we have seen the campus community and the deaf community beyond being torn apart and deeply divided. We know that most of you read the major websites including the shamefully venomous http://www.gallypreswatch.com/ and the widely read GallyNet-L listserv. This is the gist of this open letter jointly drafted by a coalition of deaf people of color including students, alumni, faculty, staff, administrators and friends beyond the gates of Gallaudet University.
1. We believe that the legacy of Dr. I. King Jordan, who ironically was elevated into the office of President of Gallaudet University in eerily similar circumstances, should not end with such divisiveness in communities that the Deaf President Now movement of 18 years ago so effectively pulled together in a unified and historical effort.
2. We believe that none of the 3 finalists deserve the brunt of a divided communities frustration, confusion, anger and even vicious rage in some instances. Discourse in blogs, online forums and among groups and individuals has exposed attitudes, conflicts and divisions that threaten to do irreparable harm within the Gallaudet University community and have smeared the character of an outstanding candidate unfairly while making a mockery of our alma mater with suggestions that a doctorate degree is overrated. Dr. Anderson is represented by the image of a gorilla in the www.gallypreswatch.com forum. That is not the message we want to send to the deaf youth, let alone young black deaf men whom Dr. Jordan has long stated are at a major disadvantage the moment they set foot on Gallaudet campus.
3. We believe that it was irresponsible for the PSC and the Board of Trustees to have deliberately neglected to recognize the consequences of this decision prior to announcing, thereby failing to prevent incredible emotional and psychological damage among various sectors of a very diverse deaf and hard of hearing community. You have created a hostile environment and that hostility has extended beyond our fence and gates.
4. We believe that the PSC and the Board of Trustees was irresponsible and unconscionably naïve in assuming it could justify its selection decision, which has sent a message to deaf people of color that completely contradicts the noble rhetoric in strategic goal #5.
Did you honestly believe that deaf people of color and any reasonable person would agree with your “assertion” that race was NOT an issue when we find a candidate who met the most important profile requirements, has been in possession of an earned doctorate from a respected university for over 20 years and happens to be a person of color and yet is deemed inferior or not a better candidate than a white man who we believe should have been screened out in the very first applicants screening process for the simple reason he did not possess a doctorate degree for a position that absolutely requires one?
How could we not see the issue of race? How could we not see déjà vu all over again with what is sometimes referred to by one of our leaders as the “RD Factor” as in Dr. Robert Davila. Dr. Davila in 1988 was widely considered the one deaf person who was most prepared to assume the leadership, but did not make the finalist because Dr. Zinser was pre-ordained. In 2006 we believe it is true again and again the female candidate appears to be pre-ordained and the candidate with strongest credentials in our eyes is eliminated just as Dr. Davila was. Dr. Davila was Hispanic and we certainly remember that.
You will also note that her competition is almost identical to that which was presented to the Board of Trustees in 1988. One is a superintendent of a school for the deaf and the other is a former Dean at Gallaudet University. We do not believe this is coincidence and believe it has been premeditated. Dr. Frances Kendall, a leading expert in white privilege stated that “systems are designed to obtain the results they desire.” We believe this to be the case once again and believe that you have betrayed our trust in Gallaudet University and its ability to educate and protect deaf and hard of hearing students of color.
As students of color representing the diversity of the deaf community, Gallaudet University, the United States and the Global deaf world, we have:
1. Lost confidence in the legitimacy and integrity of the current presidential search process
2. Lost trust in the Board of Trustees and their purported commitment to diversity.
3. Felt violated by the message this has sent which to us implies that a person of color may have all the credentials necessary and more, but will never measure up to a white man whose weak credentials should not have even made him a candidate.
4. Been reminded of the hundreds of excuses people with the same mentality as yours have offered when denying US opportunities for employment.
5. Had enough. We demand a true commitment to Enough is Enough – Diversity NOW.
While we do not know if Dr. Anderson would have any interest in considering should we request that he be added, and while we are aware that a new search might reduce the pool of better candidates who may not wish to be under similar scrutiny, we request that:
1. You NOT accept any of the 3 candidates when presented to you by the PSC and request a reopening of the search.
2. You review the process of hiring the search consultant and consider someone who is more in tune with the complex and very unique community that the President of Gallaudet University represents.
3. You REOPEN the process with a new PSC that is entirely neutral and representative of the major stakeholders in the Gallaudet University and Global deaf community. It should NOT have a member of the Board of Trustees involved because the BOT is ultimately expected to vote on the candidates presented by the PSC.
We would also recommend that the Board of Trustees do the following in good faith and as a process to reassure a deeply hurt community that they will take measures to better understand the harm caused and how to ensure it never happens again:
1. You will ensure that the members of the PSC are fully briefed by the EEOC officer BEFORE receiving applications.
2. PSC members will be put through a rigorous 3 day to a week long diversity training program facilitated by Dr. Frances Kendall to more fully explore issues related to racism and audism.
3. Each member of the Board of Trustees will take a 2 day retreat under Dr. Kendall’s leadership to explore white and hearing privilege and its impact on those who are victims of either AND both.
4. Each member of the Board of Trustees commits to attending the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity and the World Federation of the Deaf conference at least 3 times within a 12 year term to ensure that they maintain current knowledge of the global deaf community and issues pertaining to social justice in higher education.
In conclusion, let us look at the following statements from the PSC website under preferred requirements:
· Be intentional in addressing diversity and ensure a respectful campus environment that welcomes diversity and promotes inclusiveness of all kinds and at all levels.
· Build community through open, responsive and visible communication that encourages reciprocal trust both internal and external to Gallaudet;
· Model integrity, enthusiasm and moral values for the extended Gallaudet community which are integral to successful leadership.
We do not believe that the actions of the PSC and therefore the Board of Trustees, show commitment to any of these messages. We see them as empty words with no meaning and we are very disillusioned. Enough is Enough – DIVERSITY NOW.
While we hope we will have an audience with key University officials to resolve our loss of confidence and trust in the University as a place where we are all respected, valued and welcome, we would much prefer to discuss our concerns at a refereed meeting with Dr. Frances Kendall acting as a neutral facilitator. We look forward to a dialogue and especially a closure we all can accept. Should you decide that we are not worthy of your attention, we will have no option but to expand our coalition and we will continue our struggle with peaceful nonviolent demonstration until we get the audience we seek.
Signed for and on behalf of:
Black Deaf Student Union (BDSU)
Asia Pacific Association (APA)
International Student Club (ISC)
Ms. Niesha Washington Ms. Arlyn Penaranda
BDSU, President APA, President
Ms. Anita Mazzuca Mr. David King
ISC, President BDSU Member/Coalition Liaison.
- Dr. Derek Braun
- Dr. John Christiansen
- Ms. Emilia Chukwuma
- Dr. Janet Pray
- Ms. Sandi Larue-Atuonah
- Ms. Lynne Murray
- Mr. Michael Higgins (Undergraduate)
- Ms. Caroline Pezzarossi (Graduate)
- Ms. Nicole Sutliffe
- Ms. Judith Gilliam
- Mr. John Yeh
- Dr. Brenda Jo Brueggemann
- Ms. Susan J. Dickinson
- Mr. Frank Ross
- Dr. Benjamin J. Soukup, Jr.
- Mr. Christopher Sullivan, III
- Cheryl L. Wu, Dept of Counseling, (Interim Chair of PEP Diversity &Field Placement Committee)
- National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc.
- Representative Mel Watt, Chair of Congressional Black Caucus
- Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton
- National Asian Deaf Congress
- Student Body Government
- National Association for the Deaf
- Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
- Cable Networks News (CNN)
- The Washington Post
- The Washington Times
- ABC News
To: Gallaudet University Board of Trustees
From: Coalition of Organizations for Students of Color
Date: Monday, May 01, 2006
Dear Interim Chair Baldwin,
We are puzzled by your memo of April 29th to the campus community inferring that you found the PSC search process to be satisfactory from the Board of Trustees perspective. It appears to us that the Board of Trustees is clueless as to the issue that is frustrating us. Let us try again to inform you of our most pressing concern:
1. The PSC sent a message, intentionally or not, that a person of color with a PhD and all the necessary qualifications for the job cannot ever hope to compete against a white man who does NOT have a PhD or the necessary higher education experience.
2. This message, and not whether the PSC was diverse or not is our primary concern. Besides, we are not so naive as to believe that a white woman does not enjoy “white privilege” and we feel insulted to suggest that a white woman would satisfy the “diversity requirement” even though we all are confident that Dr. Fernandes is indeed a dedicated and determined advocate for social justice.
3. It is the MESSAGE you have sent to our entire community, and which we feel contradicts the hard work Dr. Fernandes and the Diversity Fellows as well as the entire campus community has put in to address the issue of Racism and Audism that we are concerned about.
4. We fear that this sets a precedent for units and departments on campus who have had a history of rejecting candidates of color for positions citing a white candidates “better” interview (which we believe is a subjective exercise in that a good interview says nothing about a persons actual performance on the job but merely suggests the person has more information on responding to the questions).
5. As a result, we are concerned that we will not be able to get a fair opportunity when applying for jobs here since employees on campus could use the precedent you have sent. That message is the reason for our loss of trust in the Board of Trustees commitment to diversity and fear that we will never have a fair opportunity as long as you insist that you sent the right message to us.
Thank you for your effort even if we are a bit disappointed that you are unable to truly understand what people of color, students, faculty and staff experience here and outside of Gallaudet University. Why do you think we are so under represented at schools for the deaf and other agencies/organizations serving the deaf? It is because there are others who find it as hard as it appears you do, to get it. You do not seem to understand the power of “white privilege” in oppressing us and we hope that this letter helps you see where we are coming from.
Coalition of Organizations for Students of Color
David Musa King Arlyn Penaranda
Niesha Washington Anita Mazucca