Home > Deaf News > The Gallaudet University Protests

The Gallaudet University Protests

As of yesterday morning, Gallaudet University was under protest by the students since last May over the incoming university president. Faculty and alumni have been encouraging and inciting the students to protest. Buildings have been taken over and vandalized by the protesters. Students (specifically the football team and other supporters of the protest) have blocked the gated entrances to the school. The entire campus – which includes a preschool, elementary school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate schools for the Deaf, as well as audiological facilities and other medical facilities for the Deaf – has been shut down. Classes have stopped. They have even postponed this weekend’s football game and may even cancel it.

I have yet to find any substance to the accusations being levied against the new president Jane Fernandes. I have found nothing but rumors, innuendo, and outright lies. I have even found threats of physical harm and death threats against Ms. Fernandes. Disgusting. I have spoken with a Gallaudet student who was once under my ministry here in Louisville, and he cannot give me a straight answer about this protest. In fact, once I asked him for the evidence behind the position of the protesters, he has not responded and has since refused to respond to me. The many Deaf blogs out there in the blogosphere are even worse. The majority of them remind me of the Caners. No one I have corresponded with can give me an answer of substance or plain fact.

As of 7 P.M. last night, the soon to be retired president of Gallaudet, I. King Jordan, asked Washington, D.C. police to begin arresting the protesters in an effort to reopen the school. This, of course, has led to a great backlash against the administration.

I will contribute two cents, and only $0.02, to this silliness. This protest has gone beyond the exercise of free speech and bringing the voice of the students to the administration. It has now descended into the realm of embarrassing. Much like the infamous protest at Southern Seminary when Al Mohler took office, this protest will cause Gallaudet to suffer.

However, there is one major difference between Southern and Gallaudet. Gallaudet quite possibly will not survive from this event. As such, I am ashamed of the behavior of this generation of young Deaf individuals at Gallaudet university. They have taken a symbol of our culture and defaced it. They have taken a place where the Deaf can be educated and dispensed with education. They have made the Deaf community look extremely bad.

Grow up, students. Welcome to the real world. The world which our Deaf community inhabits is not the kind of world in which one can whine and complain and be destructive like a small, spoiled child until one gets what one wants. For your refusal to work with your administration, you are reaping what you have sown.

Categories: Deaf News
  1. betenoir
    October 14, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    I’ve been trawling thru the FSSA website and blogs and very little of what I’ve dug up is of substance or backed by facts. I’m not interested in rumors, backstabbing or smearing. Just the facts, ma’am.

    I’ve been pracitcally screaming at Gally Deaf to provide evidence and I keep getting ignored on another website. They’re like I’m an outsider and I have to be on the inside and I wouldn’t understand. Kristi Merriweather’s essay is the most substantial [url=”http://www.deafdc.com/blog/?cat=17″]essay[/url] I’ve seen so far on this travesty. From what I’ve seen of her, she looks like she’s able to back up her facts.

    It is dismaying and heartbreaking to see this travesty happening and that Gally may not survive this. That very thought is heart beaking. Gallaudet is a symbol beyond the ASL Deaf Culture. It aslo serves as a beacon to the rest of the deaf. The rest of the deaf are shamed by this as well.

    There [i]is[/i] a lot wrong at Gally. This not the way to go though. As much as I’d like to support this protest, I can’t do so even if I risk being considered a deaf Uncle Tom or a pariah.

    I speak as someone who is from a background very similar to JKF expect that deafness doesn’t run in my family.

  2. Curious Eyes
    October 21, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    Call me an optimist, but I am hopeful that Gallaudet WILL survive this controversy. I am encouraged by the fact that there are more and more blogs popping up that are critical of the general tenor of the protest as well as their unsubstantiated claims. In addition, an excellent blog, DeafDC.com, while not exclusively pro- or anti-JKF, has the ability (most of the time) to sift the wheat from the chaff and discuss the issues rather than the person in an intelligent and non-emotional manner. I’d also like to direct you to David King’s excellent interview in the Buff & Blue that appeared today. Someone made the point that the protestors are noisy and unruly, and get attention that way rather than from the persuasion of their arguments. I am confident that the wiser and experienced heads within the administration and the BoT will prevail. That’s what I would do if I were in their shoes.

  3. Erick Ketcham
    October 21, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Before I begin, I would like to say that I am in 200% support of the protests. I am hoping that it will continue and drive hard until Jane Fernandes is out of Gallaudet. I am also hoping that Jordan will resign himself as well.

    From all the blogs, articles, media, etc, there are two sides to this story- the protester’s story & the administration’s story. While there is an overwhelming support for the protesters, there is some support for Fernandes. This is the problem. There are too many people that support her. Even if there is just one person that supports her, that is one too many.

    For Fernandes supporters- I would like you pro-Fernandes’ers to consider this. Now, let’s put aside what the protesters are saying. Let’s put aside what the media is saying. In fact, let’s put aside what everybody is saying. There are some of you that say that Jane Fernandes is qualified to be president of Gallaudet. Some of you even think she more than qualifies.

    But, I would like you to take a CLOSE look at these facts:

    1) There are thousands and thousands of Deaf people that are NOT in support of her, including a good percentage of Gallaudet students as well as 82% of the faculty. A lot of big names have spoken against her such as Frank Turk, Bob Davila, Jack Gannon, Donalda Ammons, Yerker Andersson, and other such important figures in the Deaf community. Even NAD denounced her. Many other large organizations has denounced her and condemned her actions and statements in the media. Isn’t that enough already to fire her from the position?

    This in itself speaks volumes. If all of those Deaf people don’t want to follow Fernandes, then how can she be a leader? How can she be a president of a University that doesn’t want her? If she is such a good leader why isn’t she able to “control” the protesters? Why isn’t she able to keep most Deaf people happy? Being a president very much requires the ability to interact with people, of which Jane Fernandes lacks.

    2) Jane Fernandes said, “I am the only one that can lead this university”. Now, let’s
    analyze that. I’d like to bring back the previous point that I made. If people will not follow her, then how can she be a leader? Therefore, she is incapable of leading the university. In addition to this fact, she has effectively INSULTED other candidates. She has effectively told these people “you are incapable. I am better than you.” She has effectively insulted many Deaf people out there that is very qualified to run the university but chose not to apply for the position. Isn’t that enough to rub someone the wrong way? Isn’t that a bad choice, to announce that in the media? What if something happened to Fernandes, and someone else took over? The media and congress would be led to believe that there is nobody else qualified to fill in the position, when that is not true at all. See the paradox here?

    3) Please view this news video clip of Fernandes: http://video.nbc4.com/player.html?dlid=38759

    You will have to wait for the commercial to be done with before it starts. Anyway, please take the time to analyze her sign language. Fernandes has claimed many times that she has ASL skills. I am an ASL instructor at a community college, and I train interpreters in a degree program.

    Now, her signing is not ASL at all. She is missing non-manual markers- this means the mouthing such as when you say “finally”, you say “pah”. If there is a large cylindrical object, you say “cha”. If you say someone squirmed completely, you say “bam”. These are examples of non-manual markers. There is no usage of non-manual markers at all in her presentation. In fact, she signed word for word and spoke at the same time. That is called Sim-com, utilizing Pidgin Signed English with a tendency towards Signed English.

    She also did not utilize classifiers. Classifiers are hand shapes for example, if you talk about a car, you use the “3” handshape to signify a car and how it goes somewhere. If you are talking about a ball bouncing, you use the “C” hand shape to signify the ball, and the movement shows the ball moving, and how it moved. Fernandes did not utilize classifiers at all in her interview. She did not utilize proper ASL structure. She was signing in English order- for example “I went
    to the store.” When in reality, true ASL follows French grammar- “Store, there, I go.” She did not utilize that at all. In addition to that, ASL signers do not speak word for word.

    Proper ASL aside, there is a lot of signs that she uses that is awkward. While her signing is fairly clear Pidgin Signed English, even I, myself- with an expert eye for languages had to take a double take. A good example of this would be if you viewed the clip above, and went to :22 seconds, you will see she signed “Yes, with a gun”. But look at her signing. Does it match? The answer is no.

    If she cannot communicate properly in ASL, then she is not signing the true language of the Deaf. Pidgin Signed English and Signed Exact English are NOT languages. They are communication tools, and it has been proven over and over that they are not languages. ASL is the ONLY language in America that is officially recognized as the actual language of the Deaf.

    If that is true, then this alone does not qualify her to be president of Gallaudet University. After all, would you hire a person that speaks in Broken English to be president of the United States? I don’t think so. Since PSE and SEE are communication tools, and not a language, using these two languages can be considered “Broken”.

    4) Please view the video again:

    Fast forward to 1:15. She is mixing a peaceful protest with anarchy. Unfortunately, Jane Fernandes allowed things to escalate… And the result was more anger & more aggression on the protester’s part. It’s human nature. Whose fault is that? Both Jordan and Fernandes are responsible for how far the protest has gotten. But, she has gone far to say that the protesters are anarchists & dissenters. That in itself is a very bad move on Fernandes’ part. Why? Deaf people are already under a microscope in the hearing community. Deaf people are already experiencing audism and discrimination. Fernandes’ statements only will increase those acts by hearing audists out there. It will only emphasize that Deaf people are incapable of
    running things. It will only invoke feelings from the public that Deaf people are dumb.

    This is also true for her emphasis on “I’m not Deaf enough” statement. It is very misleading. She did not take the time to explain the term ‘audism’, and explain that the protesters are upset with her because she is continually making the Deaf community look bad, continually making audistic comments such as “Deaf children have been prevented from having hearing

    Allow me to explain that hearing tests, hearing aids, cochlear implants, speech therapy, Signed English, Pidgin Signed English, & oralism are all a result of audism. How is that? Think about it.

    The fact that there are hearing aids suggests that hearing people feel that Deaf people’s hearing NEEDS TO BE FIXED. They view it as a HEARING PROBLEM. That is audistic. The same is true for speech therapy. They want us Deaf people to imitate hearing people like how a parrot would imitate humans. They want us to be the SAME AS THEM. They do not want to leave this uniqueness of being Deaf alone… They do not want to leave it up to the Deaf person to decide. Instead, hearing people force speech & language classes on the Deaf, they force hearing aids on the Deaf.

    More about audism here:

    The point of this is, Fernandes and Jordan both support and stand for all of these things. This is why the students are angry. (In addition for many other things) Such example is her action in May… Both Jordan and Fernandes were speaking to each other without using sign language in front of Deaf people. Not only is it rude, it is audistic and unacceptable.

    5) If you viewed this video again:

    And stopped at :22, Fernandes said “Yes, I have been threatened to be shot, yes”.
    This statement is misleading. She was threatened in May, not recently. Yet, Fernandes has not made this clear. There are other statements that she has made to the media that are misleading and manipulative.

    6) The fact that Fernandes has publicly THREATENED the board… Is not the action of a president. That was not professional. That in itself is enough to determine that she does not belong in office. Is that the kind of person you want to lead Gallaudet?

    7) There has been an argument that Jane Fernandes was not given a chance. She has
    Had plenty of chances as provost, and her record isn’t good. It’s so bad that there are hundreds of people outside Gallaudet, protesting. If she does not qualify to be provost, she definitely does not qualify for president.

    8) The Clerc Center has clearly stated the horrible things Fernandes has done, and
    They provided a long list of Fernandes’ failures. Now, in the real world, when you apply for a new position, they ask your old position for references. If they find that you did not do a good job in your previous job, you would not be hired. If you had managed to lie about it, and got away with it… And later, your employer finds out that you had lied about your track record, you would be fired immediately. I don’t see her being fired. Why is this? The Board of Trustees is within their rights to fire her based on her lies about her previous track record. Why isn’t it
    happening? Isn’t this enough already?

    9) Students provided pictures of DPS officers spraying mace in students faces, and
    Roughing up students using physical force when DPS took over the HMB. Yet,
    Jordan and Fernandes lied to the media, saying that there were no such attacks.
    Any decent president would not deny it… He/she would have said “We will investigate and get to the bottom of this and take punitive measures against the officers involved if this is true”. Yet, they did not. And has there been an investigation? I am talking about an internal investigation, not to hire someone from the outside. Even after pictures were posted, neither Jordan or Fernandes apologized for the attacks. And they dare to say that the protesters are violent? They dare to say that they are dissenters?

    10) The board of Trustees are spilt on the decision, some have threatened to resign.
    One of them even said that non-Fernandes supporters were pressured to vote for her. That in itself is enough for me already. Is this enough for you, pro-Fernandes supporters?

    There are so many more reasons that I can state here, but at the risk of seeming to
    Nitpick, I will stop here. Hopefully, you pro-Fernandes supporters will think about those things above. Take your time to think about it, and reflect on them well.

    In addition to this, I would like to warn the protesters that I read somewhere on the Gallaudet website that Jordan will be President Emeritus when he retires. This means he will have some kind of influence over Gallaudet University even after retirement.

    Jordan has proven himself over and over to be an audist and non-qualified to be president. He has done some terrible things the past few weeks, and during his tenure as president.

    For this reason, I move to recommend the protesters to SERIOUSLY CONSIDER demanding Jordan to RESIGN NOW in addition to Fernandes. Or, at least to have him sign a contract saying that he will not accept a position of President Emeritus, and in exchange, he will be allowed to Retire in Peace- RIP.

    Erick Ketcham,

    ASL Instructor
    Gallaudet Alumni
    Fluent ASL signer
    Delta Sigma Phi alumni
    Deaf Father of Deaf son
    Deaf husband of Deaf wife
    A member of a Deaf family


  1. October 23, 2006 at 1:59 am

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