The Right Future for Gallaudet

by Kathleen Wood
Thursday, November 2, 2006; Page A16

Regarding Lew Golan’s Oct. 26 op-ed “Protest at Gallaudet: By, and for, the Few”: Not all deaf students belong at Gallaudet University. It is certainly not for those who reject Deaf culture and American Sign Language (ASL).

Like Mr. Golan, President I. King Jordan and recently ousted president-designate Jane K. Fernandes have proclaimed that Gallaudet is for everyone.

Over the years, this slogan has managed to attract a handful of “resister” students who continue in their studies while resisting ASL and not integrating into Deaf culture. The Jordan-Fernandes leadership has enabled these resisters, and this has led to second-class citizenship for users and seekers of Deaf culture and ASL skills. 

The result of this “we are for everyone” lie is that the majority of Gallaudet students who come to the university longing to be part of Deaf culture and to improve their ASL skills are instead neglected. These students have been shortchanged by a university that has left them with few language and cultural role models and few tools for navigating the multicultural world they live in.

The protesters know that removing Ms. Fernandes is only a first step toward creating a Gallaudet for the deaf students already here and in our future — students of diverse backgrounds with clear speech, eloquent ASL, cochlear implants and Sidekick pagers. The new Gallaudet will not be for out-of-step leaders or people who think that monolingualism and membership in a single culture are badges of honor. The new Gallaudet will not pretend to be for everyone.

The writer is an associate professor of English at Gallaudet University .


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