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Gallaudet Board Ousts Fernandes

From today's Washington Post: Gallaudet Board Ousts Fernandes:

The governing board of Gallaudet University revoked the appointment of the school's incoming president yesterday, giving in to the demands of students, faculty and others whose protests have kept the nation's premier school for the deaf in turmoil for the past month. (Read the story.)

Read Board of Trustees' letter here.

Read Fernandes's statement here.

At Gallaudets, protesters celebrated (view quicktime video).

"Now that the protest is over, the work begins of evolving a new system," writes Diane Rez on her blog.

The partying will end and it is back to business as normal while the Board of Trustees get to the business of repairing Gallaudet.

For the rest of us, we have a lot of self-examination to do.

What does it mean to authority and governance now that constituents have successfully proven that they can influence a board of trustees to reverse its decisions?

Many in the Gallaudet community are posting such musings now. Find them through DEAFREAD.


“And that’s why we need a president with all the right qualities, not just someone who shares our deafness. . .”

“Why I’m Protesting” by Anthony Mowl

Amen! But Gallaudet is not alone. The entire disability community is under siege.

Leadership positions in organizations once considered bastions of the disabilities rights movement are being filled by ex-service-providers who refer to the important minority they represent as “clients”. These individuals may technically have disabilities themselves, but they are not really one of us. They just don’t get it. They don’t see this as a civil rights movement. Those they serve are “other” than themselves.

When an employee in an Independent Living Center is not allowed to point out the fact that a local housing authority is violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, by the leadership of the center no less, something is seriously wrong. We are all in danger.

So I applaud the Gallaudet students and faculty who were unwilling to bend their convictions for the sake of “peace” and extra revenue, and I hope the rest of us can find the cohones to do the same

While I think it is always important that all of us with disabilities have fair representation and leadership, I do have a problem with what happened at Gallaudet.

I do not for one minute believe that deafness (or Deafness) is something that is desirable. It represents a defect in a biologic system that is supposed to work and, when it doesn't, it significantly impairs a person's ability in major parts of life. Hearing loss is not called a communication disorder for no reason.

I am saying this as a person with a moderate-to-profound hearing loss. For many, many years, I have used whatever technology I could to KEEP me in touch with the rest of the world. I have no wish to be isolated and marginalized but rather to be completely connected with as many kinds of people as possible. This happens today because we have the World Wide Web. Indeed, I live in cyberspace and have marvelous connections with people all over the world.

I do agree that if ASL is the language that most Deaf people know, it needs to be used. However, I think there is a problem with ASL and this is the problem: The syntax of this language is totally unlike spoken or written English and thus it serves to isolate ASL users even more. If a dual program that includes ASL with other methods, such as signed English and cued speech for some people with residual hearing, were used it would have the effect of integrating everybody together.

I am not a separatist in anything I do. Nor am I an assimilationist. I believe it is absolutely the best thing in the world to retain one's cultural identity while being an active and participating member of the larger culture. When people on either side of this so-called divide refuse to accept me as a hard of hearing person, I give them hell--whether they are hearing or Deaf.

Why on earth a culture should develop around a disability is beyond me. If I had a way to get all my hearing restored so I could do more things, I would do it in a heartbeat. Why not avail myself of the opportunity to watch anything on TV or any movie (captioned or not), hear any radio program, go to any lecture, and speak with any number of people anywhere? Why not hear ALL the notes in music? Why not be able to maybe sing? Why not be able to talk to people in crowded noisy places or in the dark? Why not be able to go to any restaurant I please without having to worry about noise levels? Why not be able to hear what people say irregardless of their accents? Why not be able to maybe learn languages and travel abroad? Why remain limited and isolated when I might not have to?

There is a huge world out there for enjoying and I'm doing everything I can to enjoy it even with my hearing loss. Captioning, e-mail, amplification devices...you name it--I get it! And if scientists ever develop a real-time portable captioner, I will carry that around too!

My culture is my ethnicity, relgious affilations, generation, region, and tastes in the arts--it's got nothing to do with the physical state of my ears.

If this woman who was supposed to take office was insensitive to the needs and concerns of Deaf people, then yes Gallaudet is better off without her. But if her goal was simply to integrate people together more by becoming more inclusive of varying levels of hearing loss, then I am afraid that Gallaudet has suffered a loss.