Eighth Open Letter to the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees, Administration, Supporters, and Interested Persons
Posted November 10, 2006
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) in its open letters to date has called for Gallaudet University to heed concerns related to loss of trust and leadership leading up to, during, and in the aftermath of the protest at Gallaudet University. Ironically, there is a silver lining to the protest – it sparked the desire and commitment necessary to begin the healing process and much-needed rebuilding of Gallaudet.
The Gallaudet Board of Trustees has taken the first step toward tackling deep-rooted issues tied to betrayal of trust and leadership ineffectiveness. There is hope that the Board can leverage this experience into long-lasting changes that will reverse damaged public perceptions about Gallaudet, its diverse constituencies, and the American deaf community.
Sweeping system-wide reforms with emphasis on transparency and accountability at all levels, are undoubtedly needed at Gallaudet. Reframing dialogue so that the diverse forces of the Gallaudet community can engage in meaningful discourse is needed for change to happen. The harbinger of fear must be removed to promote the expression of differing opinions and recommendations. Such reforms begin with the University Board itself and the interim president to be selected.
The University Board and administration must do much to repair relationships with Gallaudet’s diverse communities, including those beyond the campus. There is much to be learned from past administrative failures, including divisive and diversionary tactics. There is much to be learned, too, from crises of trust and leadership at other campuses, such as American University – where their Board moved affirmatively toward more open and transparent leadership, shared governance, and democratic decision making.
Gallaudet must again focus on truly becoming an inclusive community, rejecting racism, audism and other exclusionary philosophies and practices. By working through and welcoming differences internally, diverse constituencies both on campus and around the nation can begin to develop a sense of connectedness and renewal. Many speak about the beautiful sense of unity that occurred on all sides during the protest. This wonderful passion needs to be channeled constructively so that the Gallaudet community can truly heal, build on its talents, and look ahead to the wealth of future possibilities.
This weekend, the University Board will outline the process whereby they will select an interim president to take on the challenges that lay ahead, starting this January. Our sincere hope is that the Board will truly involve faculty, staff, students, and alumni as well as the external community in this process and in future efforts.
In our view, the interim president should personify the values expressed in our first Open Letter, specifically, being a visionary in promoting academic excellence as well as committed to diversity in hiring and promoting qualified deaf administrators, faculty, and staff members. In addition, the interim president must be a person who has skills in working with Congress, the media, and the general public to restore Gallaudet’s tarnished image. Equally important, the interim president must place a high premium on communicating openly and honestly on all levels, bringing together differing perspectives toward a vision of Gallaudet that can truly be embraced and championed by all involved.
The deaf community has, thanks in large part to Gallaudet itself, an impressive array of highly accomplished individuals who can fill these large shoes. We are very confident that the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees, working with its stakeholders, can select an interim president who can say in the first person with great resonance and passion – “my people” – and who has the community’s trust and confidence to lead the University to new heights of excellence.
The NAD stands ready to help and be of support.
Bobbie Beth Scoggins
National Association of the Deaf