Gallaudet Protest may need two million dollars

That’s the amount of dollars the Board of Trustees have agreed to pay if they asked her to resign. Obviously, it’s going to take a lot to convince the BoTs to see if it’s worth two million dollars to replace her. Or the FSSA (facuty, staff, students and alumni) finds a way to come up with that amount of money and they can say “Look, we have two million dollars. Please step down.” but that’s just me and my radical thinking. I got this information from where else? Look below about Jane’s contract.

This post isn’t going to be of a Pulitizer’s prize material but a curious observation and opinion by a person who was once a Gallaudet student during his first year of college in 1999 and has been following the protest closely.

The volcano has erupted once again. The protest first started in last May when students were unhappy with the selection of the next University president in Jane K. Fernandes and felt that the presidential search process was unfair and flawed. They also felt that JKF was pampered by I. King Jordan as they both hold a close friendship and JKF has risen all the way from her first job as a Vice President of the Laurent Clerc National Center (which is ironic, that I will explain a moment later), then became a Provost and now she is set to be the next President.

Students feel that with the close relationship between Jordan and she, Jordan would still have some voice/input/control in the future Gallaudet decision-making and isn’t completely out of the picture, basically leaving the current administration intact without going through a big change that would leave him behind the ship. It isn’t very hard to see this because last weekend, two Gallaudet buildings were already named after him and his wife. Perhaps Jordan felt that he deserved some kind of a special party (how does a lobster bisque soup sound to you?) and two buildings being honored after him and his wife for all his hard work, fund-raising skills and one deaf quote that has made him famous, “Deaf people can do anything but hear.” This only enables students to disagree further from him and his administration, feeling that there is an oppression and a suspected fiscal management—-a corruption at play. Gallaudet probably would need more than ten professional CPAs or positions equivalent of IRS agents to audit every cent that has come into the university. Something is sure to find there.

Now, back to the protest, it seems that the protest has caught on a wild fire when someone had an idea of locking out the HMB building where most classes and professors’ classes are. This is strategic because it doesn’t require as many people as it would need to block the whole campus. As in most other protests, they are like a fire or a car engine; all they need is a spark to get them going. Gallaudet students got that spark when DSP decided to get physical with students as one DSP officer tried to choke a student after students kept standing in his way. This was caught on the video. Another DSP officer used a mace spray in an attempt to “shoo” them away out of the HMB building. How did the Administration respond? The public office released a statement that no such accidents occurred and no one was hurt. They probably weren’t aware that those two incidents were actually caught on the videos. So, this only added more to the fire. Now, the Gallaudet Protest has found their momentum, with more people now convinced that there is something that needs to be done about the administration, starting with JKF’s resignation.

To really understand the whole protest, it isn’t as complicated as it sounds. There is a conflict in the philosophy between JKF (and IKJ too) and the FSSA. JKF has announced that in her future plans, she has a goal to include all communication modes from ASL to cued speech to pure oral. She even supports the idea of having an oral interpreter in a classroom if there are some oral students who have no knowledge of ASL and wouldn’t understand what a deaf professor may be signing. JKF sees a problem that with the declining number in unique deaf students who attend deaf schools like myself and my parents, there would be less enrollment numbers to Gallaudet. To help boost the number, she feels that she’d need to welcome ALL kinds of students who have some hearing loss or all of it regardless of what communication mode they use. Gallaudet will give them the accessibility they need when they get to the campus, making it more mainstreamed than it is now.

It may sound good and may help with the enrollment numbers but that’s not what Gallaudet is about. The founder of Gallaudet University, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, went on a ship to Europe to seek what would be the best possible education for the deaf people and in that, he discovered sign language and he personally brought Laurent Clerc, a deaf educator, to America to teach sign language to the deaf. He had to convince Clerc to come with him and there is a rumor that Gallaudet’s first deaf pupil, Alice Cosworth, was the reason why Clerc came, in which they eventually did get married.

With a language that all deaf people can understand, they began to communicate their thoughts better, thus, education is possible. However, the sign language, now known as American Sign Language (ASL), have been going through so much oppression that black slaves or Jews would be embarrassed to hear. For the longest time, hearing people thought ASL was not a language and that it’s equivalent to apes making some funny gestures and in the Milan conference back in 1880, it was decided that ASL must be banned and only oral method shall be taught. As a result, Deaf teachers lost their jobs and ASL almost became extinct but who was there to save the language? None other than Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and the college he founded.

Jane K. Fernandes was a former Vice President at the Laurent Clerc National Center. Instead of promoting or encouraging ASL to be the primary language all across the campus, she does not expect a high level of fluency from each faculty, staff, or a student. Now, she is selected to be the next President and her vision is to welcome all communication modes and expects that such accessibility is to be met. In short, she does not consider ASL to be a requirement to be a student or to work at the university. A good example would be in order to apply to colleges, you’d need to write a strong good essay in English, right? At Gallaudet University, you don’t have to be. There is no specific ASL screening test for faculty, staff and students. Basically, it is possible to waltz through the university with a little knowledge of ASL. FSSA doesn’t want that. They want to see ASL to be as natural as other languages and not to take a backseat to other languages. It seems that the real problem still lies between us and hearing people that they still treat ASL as secondary language and do not want to appoint a person who is deaf-centric and use ASL solely without resorting to what they always want to see—a deaf person who can talk.

This is precisely why FSSA does not want her to be the next leader for the deaf. ASL is like oxygen; we can’t live without it.


*disclaimer – all of the above was written with speculation and does not claim to be factual or accurate.


5 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Good post. A price cannot be tagged on the future of the deaf community. This is a “at all costs” deal.

  2. natech

    Thanks. I’m just saying that it seems to be the only option since JKF won’t even budge. She’s trying to wait it out like this is a perfect storm movie.

  3. Kent

    Tis nice to vent. Was wondering when you would appear out of the woodworks n share your views.

    The elders are out of touch – i think its time for a campfire roast for them to acclimate to such joys of youth.

  4. This protest is, of course, the key event in the evolutionary proccess we’re seeing in the deaf community.

    The protesters are all about the old deaf guards who dont believe in the re-intergration of deaf people back into the hearing society.

    The deaf communities are facing major evolutionary changes in the near future which enable them to mainstream and re-integrate back into the hearing society. They are cochlear implants and recently, stem cells, which are promising to be part of the final solutions to addressing deafness. The medical marvels have enabled deaf people to function almost like hearing people. This has created a new deaf society in the past decade and this new deaf society has been slowly taking over Gallaudet University operations.

    The protests youre seeing is the old deaf guard’s last stand against the changes in the future of deaf society, against the new deaf society taking over Gallaudet University.

    Jane’s leadership has the support of the new deaf society and is best one to lead the new deaf society which comprises 80 percent of the students at Gallaudet into the future.

    The protesters are about the past deaf society, about the old deaf guards who have become the scourge of the deaf communities.

    They have to give it up because they cant beat the evolutionary proccess the deaf society is facing.

    Richard Roehm
    Chief Executive Officer
    Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center

  5. buzzair

    hmmm…I haven’t been following this story so I might not have all the facts.

    But from what I’ve read from this post is that JFK currently wants to include more communication modes and have oral interpreters. Is that basically what this protest is all about?

    Am I mistaken in thinking that ASL is STILL going to be the primary langugage that teachers will use it to teach their classes. ASL will still be the primary language that all students and faculty will use at Gallaudet to communicate. That is not going to go away. The only difference will be oral interpreters and including other modes of communication, such as cued speech and oral.

    What we have to remember is that Gallaudet and Universities all over the world are a business. Enrollment and tutition is one of thet biggest factors that keeps them running. The fact is that there are less deaf kids out there because of medical advancements and with CI around there are more parents inplanting their children so they grow up in mainstreamed schools and probably won’t attend Gallaudet.

    Now I ask, which is preferred? Having a school as great as Gallaudet stay open and continue to be the leader in deaf education worldwide by simply adding more modes of communication in order to expand enrollment or would you rather have the school shut down because students want ASL only and there aren’t enough students to keep it running?

    Again, I may be missing some issues in the whole picture because I’ve only read Nate’s post, so feel free to enlighten me.

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