Using their Deaf-centric attitudes as an excuse, or so it seems, many Gallaudet University students are rejecting the selection of Dr. Fernandes, who is deaf, simply because she is identified less with Deaf culture. In a Deaf culture you must essentially be born into a Deaf culture in order to be looked upon most favorably by those who are. But just like I. King Jordan, who grew up hearing and became deaf at age 21 after a motorcycle accident, both Jordan and Fernandes never signed in ASL until later in life and were never born into a Deaf culture. Even after I. King Jordan was selected as the 8th president, there were a good number of Deaf students who resented Dr. I. King Jordan for being the 8th president. At the time it was better to accept him than to rock the boat for wanting a "better" president. Many felt that Harvey Corson would have been the better person simply because he was born into a Deaf culture and not I. King Jordan or hearing person Elizabeth Zinser. The DPN's 3 finalists consisted of a culturally deaf person, a deaf person and a hearing person back in 1988.
The difference in Gallaudet University's Board of Trustees back in March of 1988 for the president selection was that it consisted of 21 members while only four of them were deaf and interpreters were needed to give the four deaf members access to board deliberations. Today, interpreters are needed to provide hearing members with access to the board deliberations (note: not a part of the selection board). Quite the irony in the reversal of accomodation requirements.
But in this new "Really Deaf President Now" (RDPN) protest we have students currently going agog over the B-of-T's final selection of Dr. Fernandes. Many Deaf students consider the 2 of 3 finalists as "culturally deaf" while Dr. Jane K. Fernandes is not considered to be a "culturally deaf" candidate even though all three finalists were found qualified for the position in the final selection process. Many students were hoping that the BoT had enough "sense" (i.e. "political correctness") in picking one of two real "Deaf" finalists.
Trevor Brennan, a sophomore, added that “many of us don’t see [Fernandes] as truly deaf,” he said. “She was raised orally deaf, meaning she spoke and did not sign. Even now she seems to prefer voice to sign.”
Mowl said that Jordan is viewed as an outstanding public speaker, but that he “employs a mixture of speech and sign, and does not sign ‘true’ [American Sign Language], something many people want to see out of the next president.”
And so the B-of-T picked Dr. Jane K. Fernandes to be the 9th Gallaudet University president based on her qualifications to help ensure Gallaudet University's continuing successes that was led by I. King Jordan during his 18 years as president. Will there be a burning of a Fernandes effigy like they did with Zinser? Even though a few months earlier students had printed out T-shirts with the image of Dr. Fernandes with a caption that reads: "Know Thy Enemy." Or will they hijack yellow school buses and flatten the tires in front of the campus gates on day 5 of the protest? Yet many rational students of RPDN are clamoring for a calm protest yet one has already been arrested according to Gallynet-L under "Post-Announcement Chaos on Campus." And pleaded that students "Observe the laws" and "express your views peacefully."
But in 1988 DPN, many students broke local laws (RECOMMENDED READING!) in the DPN protest and were never arrested nor charged. But given to the unique sensitivity at the time, the District of Columbia and campus police were wise not to interfere unless absolutely necessary. Imagine the outcry of seeing arrested deaf students with their hands in handcuffs behind their backs with no way to communicate on national news? However, this is no DPN. And no hearing candidate was selected for the 9th president slot. And so, this has become a "Really Deaf President Now" protest.
Be sure to watch upcoming news of this unfolding event. I'm sure reporters will interview the four well known DPN's leaders Hlibok, Bourne, Covell and Rarus to get their inputs on this new and unfolding RDPN event. Will RDPN protesters draw up a demand a la DPN 1988 to the Board of Trustees? Will reporters try and make this into another "DPN" thinking students will take to the streets to the Capitol steps blocking traffic without a marching permit? How much sympathy will the protestors get from the public? Will RDPN protesters try and model after DPN? Will the campus be forced to close down like in DPN 1988? I was there. It wasn't pretty but it was necessary at the time. How necessary will it be this time around for RDPN?
What do I think? Nah, don't believe there'll be a repeat of another DPN moment. Just too passe'. This is not the "Selma of the Deaf" moment. This is all about Deaf Pride and the requirements thereof...strictly speaking.
Stay tuned.......or perhaps wait another 18 years to try again?
"This time, we must have a Really, Really, Really, Really Deaf President Now!"
UPDATE: ScandiaMaxie has more with pictures and makes an ironic note:
I think this is kinda funny because this is literally the LAST week of school.
Although ScandiaMaxie thinks this whole thing was concocted and planned to have the selection process finalized on the last week of school but doesn't explain that it was I. King Jordan who announced his own retirement in September 2005 leaving room for 8 months to get a B-of-T together to head the finalists selection process. But looking at ScandiaMaxie's picture, the protest crowd is considerably less than the 1988 DPN protest when it first started.Of course, the campus population is currently about 600 less than what it was in 1988 when it's campus population was around 2200 near its peak and that nearly everybody was protesting. However, according to Deaf DC, Adam Stone, the protest crowd of "200 strong" will hardly set the stage for a successful protest if one wants to try and compare DPN to RDPN.
No, it's not a "DPN #2" protest. Please, don't go there.
Adam Stones makes clear of the B-of-T's bending over backward to include students and staff as part of their decision selection process:
In fact, the Board of Trustees has been remarkably cooperative with the needs of the Gallaudet community throughout the entire process. The search committee included student representatives and appeared to be a diverse group. Unprecedented open forums and discussions were held for all three candidates. The committee actively elicited feedback from all stakeholders. They announced their decision during the school term, instead of during the summer. The Board LISTENED to the students. Doesn’t mean they had to follow whatever the students say. Where would the students get such a preposterous idea like that?
The Board should be commented for their effort to include as many people as possible in this important process and for their timely announcement. And above all, for making the right decision. Dr. Jane Fernandes is the most qualified person to lead Gallaudet into the future. Her background and credentials are impeccable.