Discussions broke out in the hallways of the university, on the community forums, and through e-mail distribution lists about how and whether a person with varying level of deaf-centric views should immediately translate into the "qualified person" to lead Gallaudet University. Some blog comments conveyed the belief that the person with cochlear implants and the ability to speak would do a better job of lobbying at Capitol Hill. Others disagreed, stating that a culturally Deaf person would be the only possible qualified leader of the Deaf Nation worldwide.There's more to it than meets the eye. People may not realize about why DPN2 really took place. Even to this day I still believe that to a large degree the Deaf President Now Protest 2 which began on May 1, 2006 for the ouster of Jane K. Fernandes was all about her not being that "culturally deaf enough" or not "Deaf-centric" enough. Bridgetta Bourne-Firl made that clear in 2006 before the protest began. Protesters and leaders on the push to get Jane K. Fernandes out from becoming the first deaf woman president of Gallaudet University claimed that the protest was really all about JKF's bad administrative records as Provost of Gallaudet University. Other excuses to not have her because she wasn't "social enough" with students and staff which is saying she's not "Deaf-centric" enough because sociability among culturally deaf students is considered a cultural norm and an expectation.
Bridgetta Bourne-Firl, one of four Deaf President Now student leaders and the outreach director at California School of the Deaf at Fremont, eloquently signed in Joey Baer's ASL blog her account of a valuable lesson that she learned from one black university's president about how a gradual transition must occur in order to gain widespread acceptance.
Bourne-Firl explained, "the university president was very dark skinned and very proud of his role in the society as a Black man. This president said that at first, these universities would only hire the light-skinned presidents, because the general white population was able to somewhat identify with the new presidents. These light-skinned presidents basically paved the road for presidents that are more closely aligned with their student bodies, and that man was a result of that process."
Bourne-Firl described how when she presented at different locations, many people asked her why the selection of a late-deafened deaf adult was made instead of a culturally deaf person, and she used this story as an analogy. She concluded,
"Now is the time for Gallaudet to select someone with a strong deaf center."
"She does not have a relationship with the (Gallaudet) community in general. She keeps herself hidden." - Ryan Commerson (Video Time stamp @1:09..with a delayed caption)Other unpopular "incidents" like J.K. Fernandes punishment of students who tore down a football goal post or the pulling of alarms in celebration in a hotel at Gallaudet University were the "reason" to not like J.K Fernandes.
SHAPIRO: I think that's right. Some of it, by the way, goes back to Gallaudet's winning football season this year. Gallaudet's played football since 1883. Some historians of football give them credit for developing the football huddle. That was a way to prevent people from stealing their signs. And they've had a lousy football team, I should say, for a long time, but they got a new football coach this year and they went nine and oh. And they celebrated after the last game they tore down the goal post.
Some students also were celebrating at a hotel nearby, and they set off fire alarms. Jane Fernandes was the provost of the school. She had been provost for six years. She disciplined those students, and a lot of students felt she was acting like she thought she was their mother. It was her job as provost to discipline them. But some people felt that she'd been too strict.Frankly, anybody pulling fire alarms for fun deserve to be punished. There's an inherent safety concern there. You simply do not pull fire alarms unless there is a true emergency to do so.
Other excuses was that the Board of Trustees did a "rush job" for "hurrying" to select JKF as president when in fact there was never a "rush job" to begin with. Or because of the fact that JKF has a hearing husband as a disqualifying reason to not pick her as president of Gallaudet University.
The difference between the two protests in 1988 and 2006 is really quite simple.
The first one was all about getting any deaf president into Gallaudet University as in (d)eaf President Now (dPN1) versus 2006 which was all about getting a Deaf-centric president into Gallaudet University as in (D)eaf President Now (DPN2). Not to mention that 2006 protest with the amount of bullying and threats were quite apparent. Even so far for a deaf/hh person to phone in to the DPS at Gallaudet University a bomb threat. None of these events, even the assaulting of Dr. I. King Jordan with fluids and a plastic bottle that struck him in the head, were ever spoken up by any the 2006 protest leaders among the faculty members condemning those kinds of actions. Being silent about all this spoke volumes.
I. King Jordan became the first deaf president in 1988 after a successful push to replace Zinser who was voted by a mostly hearing Board of Trustees to become the first hearing woman president at Gallaudet University. However, it was better than nothing since I.King Jordan was never born deaf. Never grew up in a deaf family. He lost his hearing in a motorcycle accident at age 21. A late deafened person who learned sign language as an adult and was forced into the world of silence. While as president of Gallaudet University (and even before then while as part of the Gallaudet University community) his method of communication was strongly oral along with signing or SimCom. Although he's been president for 19 years he announced his resignation which surprised and sadden many people. But it also woke up the monster inside of Gallaudet University as an opportunity to finally get a "Deaf-centric" president for the first time in Gallaudet University's history.
In 2006 the selection for president of Gallaudet University were down to three finalists of the presidential search process. Dr. Weiner, Ron Stearn and Dr. J.K. Fernandes. Both Dr. Weiner and Ron Stern grew up in a Deaf-centric family. Both of their parents were Deaf parents. Both knew ASL from the beginning of their life.
This 2006 protest has never really been about "diversity" but about ensuring "Deaf-centrism" be the ideological goal surpassing all other concerns one at a time. J.K. Fernandes saw what Gallaudet University is supposed to be, a campus that show true diversity which is opposite of what the goal of "Deaf-centricism" is about.
One person from Dana Point, California had this to say in a live chat with Dr. Jane K Fernandes with the Washington Post hosting it:
Dana Point, Calif.: Is it your intention to make Gallaudet University accessible to all modes of education for the deaf (i.e., ASL, SEE, Cued, Oralism, Rochester, Pidgin, etc.)? Lately, it has become ASL-only and I fear this may turn off some prospective students as CSUN and RIT have reported increased enrollment as a result.
Jane K. Fernandes: At Gallaudet, we plan to welcome all kinds of deaf students to campus. We will continue to uphold our bilingual ASL-English philosophy. In the future, as there will be many ways to be deaf, we will strengthen programs designed to teach Sign Language to deaf or hard of hearing students who don't know it and increase the level of support we provide to them.
Before I go further the definition of "deaf centricism" is certainly different from "deaf centric" from two different "ASL experts" who are culturally deaf.
Deaf centricism is defined as "feeling proud as a deaf individual and become a capable citizen in a hearing society" according to Sandra Ammons, a noted ASL and Deaf Studies scholar. Versus the definition of "Deaf centric" by Ella Mae Lentz founder of Deafhood Foundation which is to mean anything from a pro-Deaf/ASL view:
There is also another term that's the same and that is "Deaf center."
Bridgetta Bourne-Firl advocated for a "Deaf centric" president in 2006. Clearly a show for others to realize that Jane K. Fernandes was never considered as a person who is "Deaf centric" is double-speak for "not culturally deaf enough." Fernandes was born deaf to parents with a deaf mother and hearing father. Didn't learn sign language until the age of 23. Has a hearing husband. A very "oral person" when it comes to speaking much the same way I.King Jordan communicates signing and speaking at the same time. He was born hearing but lost it after a motorcycle accident at the age of 21.
President Hurwitz of Gallaudet University is considered a "Deaf-centric" person since he was born profoundly deaf and was born to deaf parents. He described himself in his Candidacy Presentation letter to Gallaudet University emphasizing profoundly deaf where both of his parents were deaf.
WHO AM I?Yes. You know what that means. That means he's "Deaf-centric." He made clear that he socialized mostly with his deaf parents and their deaf friends while growing up at his home in Sioux City. There was a Deaf club that Hurwitz and everyone attended together nearly every week. A stark difference from I.K. Jordan and J.K. Fernandes' own upbringing not born to deaf parents or used ASL to communicate while growing up. Clearly there was a preference in the beginning that took shape on May 1, 2006 at the start of the DPN2 protest. Even during the very early stage of the protest Joey Baer even mocked at IKJ's SimCom signing in his own video that was quickly taken off of the internet which gave me a huge insight in the beginning on what this whole DPN2 protest was really about. Even Elisa Aubrecht made a comment about recognizing ASL and not SimCom.
I was born profoundly deaf. Both of my parents were deaf. That’s who I am. You all know what that means.
POV: Entrenched with the protesters in their "tent-city" at the school's front gate, '06 grad Elisa Abuchuchan blogs about events as they happen. She says, "I personally support the protest but I try to present more factual information rather than my opinions."
FYI: Abuchuchan, a '06 graduate, has been blogging since the protests began on May 1. On some days, she posts 10 updates or more.
Sample post: "David Simmons and Christine Roschaert [on a hunger strike] talked to the crowd. They explained that they were starving for real, quality education. They are starving for linguistic equality, the university needs to recognize ASL as an official language, not sim-com. English classes and foreign language classes are required, but no ASL classes are required. They are starving for social justice. They are starving for a real president. Jordan and Fernandes’s goal is to divide and conquer, twisting things to the media. They are starving for the presidential search process to be reopened. They want a transparent process that includes the faculty, the staff, students, and alumni."Now, what's interesting is that we have Dr. Angela McCaskill who signs in a fashion just like SimCom. Just as well, Dr. Angela McCaskill's own upbringing was also not of born to a culturally deaf family despite her two other sisters who are deaf as well along with two hearing brothers. Her signing clearly shows that much like I.K. Jordan and J.K. Fernandes when they all learned sign language as an adult.
One of her sister had a working relationship with J.K. Fernandes. On January 20, 2006 a memo written to I.King Jordan about a plan "Towards an Inclusive Deaf University: Achieving Equitable Educational Outcomes for All Students" where Gallaudet’s future would rests on its ability to build an inclusive deaf university. Those who helped write the plan are:I grew up in Mobile, Alabama. My parents were Willie McPherson (deceased) and Janie McCaskill, currently living in Mobile—both hearing. They never married; basically, I grew up in a single-parent household. I have three sisters and one brother. The first three are deaf and the last two are hearing. My oldest sister, Carolyn, is deaf and was the first Black Deaf Miss Gallaudet in 1976. She is a professor in the Department of ASL & Deaf Studies at Gallaudet and resides in Largo, Maryland. Jacqueline, who is also deaf, graduated from Gallaudet in 1978 and currently lives in Mobile. I am the third sibling and I am hard-of-hearing. My youngest sister, Sharrell, is hearing and currently works as the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Officer at Gallaudet. My brother is the last sibling, also hearing, and currently resides in Mobile.I initially attended segregated public schools in Mobile during the 1960s and ’70s. My first experience with integration occurred in middle school where I attended Azalea Middle School and W.P. Davidson High School, both predominately white schools. I was very active and ran track. Even though I have always had a passion for cheerleading, I was not allowed to try out for the cheerleading team due to household chores after school (cleaning, cooking, babysitting, etc.)I graduated from Davidson High in May 1976 and immediately enrolled at Alabama State University during the summer. In May 1980, I received my Bachelor of Science Degree [in Social Work]. I was very active at ASU. I ran track, played on the softball team, and was a cheerleader. My experience at ASU was the best days of my life. I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1980, immediately after graduating from ASU, and moved in with Carolyn. This was the beginning of a new era for me. I grew as a person when I became immersed in Deaf culture and the Deaf world. It has been my life since. I love it! Even though I have two Deaf sisters, I didn’t know American Sign Language growing up. I was fluent with the manual alphabet. I begin to learn ASL and made many new deaf friends. Ruth Reed and Pamela Baldwin were the two deaf friends that I met upon arrival in Washington. They took me under their wings and taught me ASL. I am forever grateful for their friendship and support, and we remain friends to this day, 31 years later!
Jane K. Fernandes, Judy Berglund, MJ Bienvenu, Jeffrey Hardison, Frances E. Kendall, Carolyn McCaskill, Jane Norman, and Leslie Page.
The link to the paper is located under a subfile called "faux-inclusion" on a website called Gally Protest.org. I suppose Gally Protest.org thinks the paper is no good which is funny since it advocates diversity and inclusiveness with better educational outcomes while still recognizing ASL and English. What are the odds that people will actually say that the paper is "flawed" or "no good"?
The three McCaskill sisters at Gallaudet University in high positions who are well respected in the Gallaudet community. And it's no wonder that president Hurwitz has backpedaled from the possibility of firing Dr. Angela McCaskill in the latest sinkhole phenomenon that threaten to swallow Gallaudet University. He'd be dealing with three McCaskills and not just one. Along with a very public and national backlash. Bad mojo.
It's interesting how these people with very similar backgrounds were targeted by supposedly the "true Deaf-centric" people for a variety of reasons. All of these actions appear to be more likely targeted, perhaps subconsciously or consciously because for not being "Deaf-centric" enough. One has to wonder why some faculty members in very high positions took the time and effort to find Angela McCaskill's name in a petition she signed. There's an agenda afoot and it's not quite abundantly clear but we can probably take a wild stab at it. Perhaps will know with better details in the future exactly the kind of relationships among these faculty members.
But, is this what you called "Shared Governance" at Gallaudet University? Punish them first and ask questions later? Whatever it is, it's a big mess in what seems to be a slog of an effect to push "Deaf-centric" values to the forefront at the expense of minimizing true diversity and potentially hurting Gallaudent University's own survival. The culturally deaf community is certainly at a cross road. What will people think, dear and hearing?
This is what Jane K. Fernandes said in 2008 in the UNC Asheville magazine who interviewed her after she became Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
“Protesters wanted to see a president with different characteristics than I had. Basically, I was not ‘deaf enough’ because I am able to move pretty easily between the deaf and hearing world. I speak English. I sign ASL. They really wanted someone who was more totally a member of deaf culture to represent them,”Indeed. Some people would agree.