- Dwight Benedict (Gallaudet's dean of student affairs),
- Michael O'Donnell (professor in American Sign Language and Deaf Culture at George Washington University, Washington D.C.),
- Stephen Hlibok, (financial advisor for Merrill Lynch),
- Jeff Rosen (ZVRS general counsel),
-Fred Weiner, (Gallaudet's assistant vice president for administration),
- James Tucker (superintendent of Maryland School for the Deaf-Frederick),
- Paul Singleton (Purple Video Relay Services' director of government and strategic accounts).
What's interesting in this case is that all of them are bonafide Kappa Gamma brothers. No Kappa Sigma brothers. No Alpha Sigma Pi brothers. No independents. Why is that? Once the DPN protest began the Seven Ducks dissolved and was replaced by the DPN Committee since the protest became a student-driven protest.
One little bit of interesting tidbit of unknown history was that DPN came close to collapsing very early in the protest.
In the beginning prior to the DPN rally, which began on March 1, 1989 in support of electing a deaf president, the story goes that "Seven Ducks" asked many Gallaudet University students (including Tim Raurus and Greg Hlibok) if any of them would be willing to lead the DPN rally, a potentially sticky job. They all turned it down. The "Seven Ducks" finally approached Jerry Covell to see if he could do the job. Jerry agreed to take up the responsibility since he had nothing to lose.
The rally started with Jerry Covell standing on a large wooden box in front of a TV in the student cafeteria (wooden box was used by students to stand on so they can change the TV channels or use it to stand on to present short speeches or quick announcements). He was able to get the attention of students in the cafeteria with him waving his arms and explain to the students why they should support of the DPN rally. From the 1994 book "The Deaf Way," Jerry Covell mused over his experience leading up to the DPN protest.
"When our former president, Dr. Lee, decided to resign his position to work for the company of one of the members of the Board of Trustees, we students had never really thought about having a deaf president. Though there was some talk among ourselves, we didn't seriously consider the possibility until December 1987 or January 1988. At that time, a group called "The Ducks" was formed. This was a group of seven or eight men, most from Gallaudet or formerly from Gallaudet, who were all strong leaders in the deaf community. They decided that it was important, in fact key, to get the students involved in having a deaf president. So in January they started planning for a rally the following March, March 1st. They asked students to participate, and I agreed.
I can recall going to the cafeteria to talk to the students, saying that we must have a deaf president. The students said that a deaf person could not be president of the University because the president has to use the phone and deal with Congress. If Gallaudet were to survive, they said, we must have a hearing president: There was no way a deaf person could be president of Gallaudet if the University were to continue. When I saw that I thought, "can't...." and I wondered. And of course I felt hurt because I thought a deaf person could do the job. So I continued to go to the cafeteria.
By the way, the reason I went to the cafeteria was that it is the best place on campus to reach a large number of students. The academic buildings are too spread out. The cafeteria is the one place where I could talk to most of the student body. it's the place to share information and ideas. For weeks I talked, and there was a promotion stressing the importance of having a deaf president.
The rally drew near. The Board of Trustees was considering six candidates for the position of president, three hearing and three deaf. We were ecstatic - three deaf people had made the final cut. So let's say there were ten hearing applicants and five deaf applicants, and the list was narrowed down to three deaf and three hearing finalists. It showed that deaf people could make it that far. It meant we could do more.
The last week of February, the Board of Trustees announced that there were three finalists for the position, and surprisingly, two of them were deaf. So we all felt fairly sure that there would be a deaf president for the University. It would happen. We were all very sure that we couldn't lose.
Then came March 1, the day of the rally. Everyone turned out, students, faculty, and staff. No one was in a teaching mood that day. All came to see what would be said. Speakers from all over the country stressed the importance of having a deaf president. One presenter - I can't remember who it was - said, "This is Gallaudet, a school for deaf people, the only one in the world. Yet in the buildings here the public phones are not accessible to deaf people. You have to go to an office and plead to borrow one- and hope that it's not broken - and search around to find a TTY you can use. That's outrageous! If we had a deaf president, he would make sure that all the phones in the buildings were accessible to deaf people."
I'll always remember that day. We had high hopes. We felt positive we would win. Then on Sunday, March 6th, the shock came. The Board of Trustees announced that Dr. Elisabeth Ann Zinser, a hearing person, had been selected as president of the University. The news came in the form of a press release that read, "Gallaudet University is proud to announce the appointment of the first woman president in the history of the University.
Now I'll be honest with you. I've got nothing against women. I think highly of women. But Jesus! Why not a deaf president instead of a woman president? We asked for a deaf president; we never asked for a woman. To make things worse, she was hearing. That was it! We really blew up. The crowd went wild and marched to the Mayflower Hotel, where the Board of Trustees was staying. As soon as we read that paper, we hit the streets.The four student leaders in the DPN protest weren't the official leaders during the first march to the Mayflower Hotel. Just that Jerry Covell was the only recognized DPN rally leader of which he became the de factor leader in the DPN protest. The selection for official student leaders was done after the fact in order to pool crucial resources from a variety of people and organizations. The four DPN leaders were selected after the first march on March 6, the day of the announcement when Zinser was selected to be the president of Gallaudet University. The ad hoc protest group marched towards the Mayflower Hotel by marching illegally on the streets of Washington D.C. without a permit. In the photo below shows Jerry Covell leading the protest down the street (click on picture to enlarge it). In the photo below Jerry Covell is in the middle of the front protest line with his horizontal stripped shirt and famous trademarked denim jacket.
Perhaps the reason Greg Hlibok (brother of Nancy Hlibok Amman who is a Phi Kappa Zeta sorority sister who is also deeply involved in the latest power struggle at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind) and others who joined later as leaders of the protest because it was then deemed "safe" to step up seeing the large turn out and the near unanimous support from the deaf community as they rallied around the cause for a deaf president. Tim Raurus was a former SBG President at the time while Greg was the new SBG President for only a few weeks before the protest began. Bridgetta was considered by some people as the "token" female leader not knowing exactly why she was selected. I would surmise that Greg Hlibok or Tim Rarus didn't want to get in trouble with the Gallaudet University administration by getting their hands "dirty" and instead took a "wait-and-see" approach before risking their academic careers. It was Jerry Covell who actually did the "dirty work" in the beginning to try and get the students' support for DPN rally leading up to that fateful day on March 6, 1988. He took tremendous academic risk for stepping up to become the first leader of the DPN rally. He prevailed. The rest is history.
The four student leaders of DPN appointed for the protest were Greg Hlibok (Kappa Gamma and chief of the Disability Rights Office at the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C), Jim Rarus (Kappa Gamma and senior vice president of sales at ZVRS), Bridgetta Bourne (supervisor of career center and transition services at California School for the Deaf-Fremont), and Jerry Covell (Kappa Sigma and coordinator of the Interpreter Preparation Program (American Sign Language) at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill). Jerry Covell was a natural leader of the protest. He had a knack in getting people fired up and was able to get his ideas across using fiery and inspirational words. The other two male leaders, Greg Hlibok and Tim Rarus, had their own strengths and weaknesses. Bridgetta Bourne was the fourth one installed to help round out the mostly male DPN leaders and put an inspirational female face on the DPN protest.
Once the leaders were selected the story goes that in the first few days into the protest it almost came to a halt with Jerry Covell threatening to leave the "Gallaudet Four" in the face of some of the DPN Committee members. It was believed his threat to leave had to do with the motives and agenda of Kappa Gamma brothers that Jerry found unpalatable.
The DPN Committee was responsible for the operational functions of the protest such as security, public relations, morale, etc. and consisted of Gallaudet students, alumni, faculty and staff members. Each of the four DPN leaders chose their own group of DPN Committee members. Both Tim Raurus and Greg Hlibok are Kappa Gamma members with Bridgetta Bourne-Firl who is a Phi Kappa Zeta sorority sister (note: PKZ considers Kappa Gamma fraternity as their "brother" group and Kappa Gamma sees PKZ as their "sister" group who some say they share the same zealotry on power and control, or so they say, and Bridgetta even married to Leslie Trosky Firl who became the Grand Rajah of the Kappa Gamma for the 1987 - 1988 school year). Jerry chose a more diversified group of people in his group. It wasn't long until Jerry's people quickly realized how they were out-leveraged by other people who had their own motives. The potential meltdown of DPN came in the first few days of the protest stemming from fraternity brothers and sorority sisters who wore their own Greek shirts. An effort to increase the visibility and advertisement of their own fraternity and sorority to try and inspire students who may want to join their Greek organization. Jerry knew it was a publicity stunt. Kappa Gamma Greek shirts worn were designed to be used as subliminal messages to the press and community. Kappa Gamma has an obsession about capturing leadership positions in various organization on Gallaudet campus.
It was the kind action and attitude that disappointed and dismayed Jerry Covell. He threatened to leave the group. Jerry flipped his two birds at the DPN Committee famously captured in a photo seen in Jack Gannon's book "THE WEEK THE WORLD HEARD GALLAUDET" which can be found on the top of page 55 in the book. Jerry was ready to walk out after flipping the birds at the DPN committee which probably occurred on the third day of the DPN protest at a time when there was a lot of media frenzy covering the DPN protest and people were getting national coverage. It must have been one heck of a serious conversation because everybody's face seen in the picture looked serious. This was in a roomful of Kappa Gamma brothers (click on picture to expand) who were a part of the DPN Committee. I'm sure some people will try and deny that the incident ever happened and the real reason why Jerry flipped them off.
Leaving the newly formed "Gallaudet Four" so early into the protest would have undoubtedly put the kibosh on the whole DPN protest and in danger of collapsing had Kappa Gamma brothers and Phi Kappa Zeta sisters insisted on wearing their Greek shirts during the protest period. The protest, as it was explained, was an opportunity for all of the deaf and hard of hearing people at Gallaudet University to come together as one "loud voice," and not about an opportunity to advertise their own fraternity or sorority. The DPN Committee relented and agreed to Covell's demand (or so the story is told). And the rest is history.
Jerry Covell at one time did not belong to any fraternity. He actually tried to join Kappa Gamma and was a Kappa Gamma pledge in his first week of probation. But that didn't last long since he walked out on them. It was said that he was disgusted with what he saw going on inside during the pledging process. He wasn't afraid of Kappa Gamma as you can see with him giving Kappa Gamma brothers who were a part of the DPN Committee the bird. The following year after trying to join Kappa Gamma, he joined Kappa Sigma. At the time of the protest in March of 1988 Covell was the Grand Procurator of Kappa Sigma and in the Fall of 1989 became the Grand Master. One of the big reason why he joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity was because the fraternity never supported hazing from the very beginning. They believe in the simple honor and respect of their fellow human beings. From the 1990 Tower Clock Gallaudet University Yearbook, page 324, on Kappa Sigma:
The benefits they had to offer, frankly, were unequaled by any other organization I knew of and the concept of a warm, strong brotherhood that these men had shared caught my fancy. Another valuable plus about them: they don't haze. Their stand against hazing and the belief that pledging should be any enrichness and education of character rather than abuse and strict "training and re-education" of minds and bodies only served to further reinforce my initial hunch that this fraternity was the one for me.It was an open secret when it came to which fraternity did the hazing and which did not. But notice the power structure at the time. The Seven Ducks were all Kappa Gamma brothers. Two of the four DPN leaders are Kappa Gamma brothers with the third being a Phi Kappa Zeta sorority sister. PKZ is considered to be the sister Greek organization of Kappa Gamma who share the same ideals as Kappa Gamma.
In the 1989 Gallaudet University yearbook (1988 - 1989 school year) Tim Rarus was like all other Kappa Gamma brothers holding no title other than being a Kappa Gamma brother. In the next following 1989 - 1990 school year after the DPN protest was over and the first deaf president was finally put in place Tim Rarus suddently became the Grand Rajah of Kappa Gamma. Tim never held previously the Kamoos, Tahdheed, Mukhtar, Abbah Tekoth or Abbah Ganesa Kappa Gamma title. Though not to mean holding a certain title is a pre-requisite to become the Grand Rajah.
The power structure of Kappa Gamma during the mid to late 1980s was a crucial period in gaining the necessary influence within the community of Gallaudet University and the Student Body Government whose elected top SBG officials were mostly Kappa Gamma brothers. All of which coincided with the DPN protest in March of 1988 and the eventual success that sealed their power base, influence and authority. That is until charges of hazing and racism within their organization leading to suspension of their organization multiple times in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the unfortunate Nazi-like salute in the 1989 group photo which shifted more of their influence and respect away from them.
What is interesting is to see the make-up of the Student Body Government during the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1987/1988 SBG adminstration school year was led by Tim Rarus, president of SBG, and Hector Brual, vice president, who were Kappa Gamma brothers at the time. During the 1988/1989 SBG administration period they had Greg Hlibok, president, and Roger Kraft, vice-presiden, both were Kappa Gamma brothers at the time who just came off of the successful DPN protest several months earlier in March of 1988. For the 1989/1990 SBG Administration year Terry Wilding was the president while Roger Kraft became the vice-president, both were Kappa Gamma brothers at the time. Successive years with Kappa Gamma brothers holding top influential positions. The names and Greek organization can be verified in Gallaudet University's yearbooks.
Here's an example of the SBG make up during the 1987/1988 SBG administration year.
- Tim Rarus, President (Kappa Gamma)
- Hector Brual, Vice-president (Kappa Gamma)
- Debbie Trapani, Assistant to President (Phi Kappa Zeta)
- Heidi MacGlaughlin, Assistant to Vice-president
- U. Sung Chung, Special Assistant to President (Kappa Gamma)
- Stevie Gemmil, Secretary to Special Assistant
- Jolene Whaley, Administrative Secretary
- Craig Hanrahan, Business Manager (Kappa Gamma)
- Paul Rutowski, Assistant Business Manager (Kappa Gamma)
- Jennifer Nasukiewicz, Special Assistant to Business Manager
- William Millios, Director of Academic Affairs (Kappa Gamma)
- Ted Baldwin, Director of Athletic Affairs
- Jeff Bravin, Director of Public Relations (became a Kappa Gamma the following year post DPN)
- Liz Walker, Director of Student Relations
- Cayetano Adamo, Direct of Student Welfare
- Joe Hartung, Assistant Direct of Student Welfare (Kappa Gamma)
- Colleen Smith, Director of Housing Affairs
- Janet Etkie, Assistant of Housing Affairs
- Tade Cross, Director of Social & Cultural Affairs
- Missy Kaler, Assistant Director of Social & Cultural Affairs
- Ginger Smith, Assistant Director of Social & Cultural Affairs
- Debbie Burnaman, Director of Student Media
- Mary Chimelak, Assistant Director of Student Media
- Jennifer Cooper, Publicity Director
- Andrew Byrne, Proofreader
- Menchu Sanchez, Typist
- Christine Beckwith, Chief Justice (Phi Kappa Zeta)
- Terry Wilding, Student Congress Speaker (Kappa Gamma)
- Christine Ehrlich, Student Congress Vice-Speaker (Phi Kappa Zeta)
- Maureen Behrens, Student Congress Secretary
- Petra Horn, Parliamentarian
- Mario Hernadez, Sargeant-at-Arms
- Carl Schroeder, Advisor (Kappa Gamma )
As you can see in this example most of the males in the SBG were Kappa Gamma brothers holding top positions of influence and power. A pattern repeated throughout the rest of the 1980s and early 1990s. Much of these power and influence have gone beyond the confines of Gallaudet University into the field of education, technology, and social politics. That's another story, another time.
Now you know the interesting and yet unknown part of DPN history and the important role Kappa Gamma played in. Not to mention Jerry Covell's courage in helping set the DPN path in the right direction.