Gallaudet Protesters Pick Up Where They Left Off In May
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 9, 2006
WASHINGTON, DC--Hundreds of students, staff, faculty and alumni at Gallaudet University have renewed protests over the school's choice to head up the nation's only 4-year liberal arts college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
University officials met over the weekend with the protesters, who call themselves the Faculty Staff Student Alumni Coalition, or FSSA, but were not able to resolve the dispute.
As the school started the semester last week, demonstrators started building a makeshift tent city with about 35 tents around a campus plaza. A similar tent city sprouted up the first week of May after the Board of Trustees announced that it would appoint the school's provost, Jane Fernandes, to be president when I. King Jordan retires in December. That tent city remained until after graduation ceremonies were over.
The students have expressed outrage over Fernandes' appointment, saying she is not competent to run Gallaudet, is not proficient in sign language, and did not have the temperament to represent the deaf community. They also protested the selection process for not including enough student or faculty input.
After meeting with the Trustees last Thursday, about 200 students barricaded themselves inside the Hall Memorial Building. They clashed with campus police Friday when the officers tried to enter the building to respond to a reported bomb threat, that proved to be a false alarm. The protesters turned the police back, they said, after the officers hit, choked, and pepper-sprayed several student protesters.
Campus officials denied that the police used pepper spray on students. They said they have not ruled out calling in D.C. police, however.
Meanwhile, the school's alumni association has also threatened to withdraw from any affiliation with the school because the administration refused to print in the campus newsletter the association's letter condemning Fernandes' appointment.
According to the Washington Times, classes did resume Monday, but not in the Hall Memorial Building which is still occupied by protesters.
Fernandez has refused to step down. She claims that she is being targeted by some who believe she is "not the right kind of deaf person" because, even though she was born deaf, she was "mainstreamed" in regular schools, learned to talk, and did not learn American Sign Language until she was 23 years of age.
She has also said she believes the protests are the result of unpopular decisions she had to make as provost.
Gallaudet University was founded as the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in 1857. Jordan was chosen as the college's first deaf president in 1988, after students demanded that the school no longer appoint administrators who are not deaf.
"Deaf Students Raise Voices" (Campus Progress)
"In protest, deaf students take over college building" (CNN)
"Meeting aims to resolve standoff at Gallaudet" (Washington Times)
"Gallaudet outgoing president stands firm, protests enter 4th day" (Washington Examiner)
Gallaudet University FSSA Coalition