Gallaudet Protesters Chalk One Up For Civil Disobedience
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 1, 2006
WASHINGTON, DC--Gallaudet University student demonstrators have won.
Sunday night, the board of trustees at the nation's only liberal arts college for deaf and hard of hearing students voted to rescind their earlier appointment of Jane Fernandes to replace current university president I. King Jordan at the beginning of the upcoming year.
"We've climbed to the top of Mount Everest," said demonstrator Christopher Corrigan.
The decision came after weeks of intense protests -- by students, faculty, staff and alumni -- in May when Fernandes' appointment was announced, and again last month after the current term started.
The protesters claimed that Fernandes, the university's current provost, is not competent to run Gallaudet, is not proficient in sign language, and does not have the temperament to be a role model for and representative of the deaf community. They also claimed that the board's recruitment process did not welcome diverse points of view and did include enough student or faculty input.
To bring their message to the attention of lawmakers and the country about 2,000 demonstrators marched to Capitol Hill on October 21. Earlier demonstrations led to a virtual shutdown of classes at the school, and the arrests of more than 130 protesters who had linked arms in a human chain. Several students engaged in a nearly two-week long hunger strike.
Fernandes reportedly said in an email that she did not know what she would do next, but was looking at possible opportunities.
Many demonstrators insisted repeatedly that their opposition had nothing to do with Fernandes not being "deaf enough", as was written in some early media reports. Rather, it was about how the deaf community would be represented, since Gallaudet is so closely associated with that community, and how the decision was reached on who would head up the school.
In a statement following the vote, the board said, "Now is the time for healing."
Gallaudet students marched on Capitol Hill 18 years ago, demanding the board appoint a "Deaf President Now!" That led to the eventual appointment of Jordan, the first deaf president in the college's 142-year history.
"At Gallaudet, Peace" (Washington Post)
"Opinion: Retaining Gallaudet's integrity" (Sacramento Bee)