Friday, December 29, 2006

392: The National Deaf Economy, what?

Today's Question, for Deaf Community Members:

How do you see things in the nation as a whole for Deaf people? Are Deaf people more likely or less likely to be employed today than ten years ago? Are Deaf people more or less likely to be moving up the income ladder today than ten years ago? Are more or less of your friends employed? Is this better or worse employment? Have any of your friends lost jobs this year? What are your feelings about the future: fear? Confidence?

I'll post my thoughts over the weekend. Maybe in a vlog, if I have time; I want to do more.

Monday, December 25, 2006

391: For Your Hands Only: holiday possessiveness edition

What present did you earmark for yourself this holiday season? Come on, we all do it: we see something we've really wanted, we go "Oh no, I shouldn't!" and we do. For me it was a Koie slingbag, "the must for the urban warrior who needs a simple, uncomplicated backpack..."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

390: Working While Deaf; or, Existential Deafhood

Thursday at work my friend RD, whose daughter is at Gallaudet now, stopped me to tell about Sophie, Miss Limousin of France. This go-getting Deaf girl was fighting for the crown of Miss France when an interpreter got in her way. Not to be floored, she kept her smile and chose to try speaking for herself when she encountered a barrier. Shane Feldman has the goods, and a link to the video.

It's funny. I keep thinking about the word assimilation while watching the film. In my head I always sort of interpret words: assimilation always comes across as a sign that looks like fitting you into our puzzle. A few times in the last weeks I've seen the "Hearing World" abomination around, again. I'm starting to understand why people say that. It is only partially about doubts about ASL and Deaf culture. Mostly it's because, in this world, you often have to give something up, to get something else done. Miss Limousin had to make such a choice - when the interpreter failed her, she needed to find some way to get her message across. Some might say she should have asked for her rights and fought for a certified interpreter; others might say she should do what is right in the moment. To me it was always clear that she was Deaf and she was a Person. She was very much in control. And in some ways, it was a good opportunity for her to show she would try no matter what. That took courage, I think. Would YOU be willing to use your voice in front of millions? *eep*

The Hearing World Abomination is this: when people say you must do X because you live in a Hearing World! When you're working in TEH HEARING WORLD!!!!! and living in TEH HEARING WORLD!!!!! and fighting your ass off to keep up with and even be better than the huge assortment of jerks in TEH HEARING WORLD!!!! you just can't help but wonder what all the fuss is. We hear the words every day, without explanation. (They said it was a man's world at one point, too.) None of this, you think, is actually designed to make me happy or feel comfortable or anything like that. We should be able to tell people what we need in terms of communication and have that respected, or at least have that start a discussion on how to handle communication needs. We should also fight to find answers of our own. It is essentially a problem of "How do I make sure the mirror is reflecting me properly?" How do you make sure YOU are coming through the way YOU want to be seen, when you are no longer in control of your own words? I'm sure soon people are going to criticize Limousin, either for speaking or for signing: someone always does. But whether she was speaking or signing, Sophie Vouzelaud was trying - with passion - to create a clear picture of her self for judges - something we struggle with every day, we Deaf people fighting to work in environments with a majority - in most cases a huge majority - of hearing people.

New York has a reasonably-sized interpreting community and though I am sometimes thirsty for communication I am never parched. I can go to a hospital and know I'll have at least some visits interpreted. (I think the rate in NY State is something like 60% of medical appointments are interpreted, disappointingly low in terms of simple volume - should we only understand 60% of our health information? Isn't 60% a losing grade in high school?) And I can figure out how to get interpreters for events and venues more easily than those in states with less people to justify the cost. But I have no way of guaranteeing an interpreter will be able to take my words in ASL and make them very palatable words in English. That 60% of appointments are filled by quite a variety of interpreters... now I'm a writer. I care about my words. It hurts me when I go to gender studies classes and sign "The determination of gender roles is entirely arbitrary, but certain types of biologically-determined behaviors which have been classified as part of those roles are not," and have this terped to (and I had to lipread every word of it, and wince) "I want to decide what is the gender role, is it maybe, is it definite, biology decides, we behave in class to divide those roles, don't we?"

This is where existential deafhood comes in. How do we find our own answers for this problem? Deaf studies and deafhood give our lives and existences validity. All of our experiences should be recorded because they all feed into and are fed by Deaf culture in some form - from acceptance to resistance to celebration. ("It is what it is," my younger sister says, in the Deep Voice which means she's just uttered something from the Lifetime Channel.) We struggle for a perfect way to make the worlds fit together, but they don't. They did not come cut from one and the same puzzle; their edges do not meet. There is no deaf world and there is no hearing world. There is one world, with many inhabitants.

And it's okay. You don't have to force them to fit. (You don't have to accept what happens because they don't fit, either.) You don't have to jam the thing that looks like a thumb into the piece that looks like it has an eye socket. You can make your own collage, shapes of your own device, pieces lying on top of each other in three dimensions, layer on layer. I respect Miss Limousin for her choice. (What else should she have done?) I regret she has to make it. She had to make it because the OTHER clients - the judges - had no understanding of, or way to assess, the level of skill of the LSF interpreter, who might look perfectly competent in spoken French. Both sides in this instance need to realize the interpreter is there for both people. That LSF terp was there for the judges as well as the candidate... just as an interpreter in the Deaf person's working environment is there for the employer as well as the employee. Terps aren't at fault here. There's not enough of them-even today. But-accepting the least-common-denominator of access isn't a solution. And we don't have to let ourselves be pushed into impossible situations - like that of Miss Limousin. I admire her strength. Vive la France!

(P.S. Happy Holidays.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Interlude: Internet Scams and Deaf Culture

It seems we have finally achieved minority status: as erfo noted tonight, nigerians are now deafians:

British Deaf Association International
Headquarters: 60 Merriman Road
Blackheath London SE3 8RZ
Good day to you,
I am a representative of the UK Government in London. I will really love to pass this information to you and I hope you are the honest one that is ready and willing to take good care of 5-year-old deaf girl. Her mother came from unknown area in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire and they live in UK their mother MARIE HARTLEY died in Bomb Blast in London Terrorist Attacks on July 7TH 2005, and she left the sum of 3 million pounds in her account , now that she is no more the money automatically belongs to her only daughter, anyone that adopts the girls would be a beneficiary to the money inherited by the girl Named Elizabeth and when you convert the 3 million pounds into USA dollars its about 6.5million dollars.

We Are looking for an honest deaf male or female who is willing to adopt the girl and take good care of her and every 4 months the UK government will always come to check on the girl and how your taking good care of her. And such person will be given the three million pounds to take good care of the kids. Please write me back if you are interested so that we can contact the bank that whole the money as soon as possible and also contact the UK government so that they can sign and give you all the legal documents and also an agreement of adoption and legally keep the girl under your care, and also entrust the 3 million pounds the girl inherited from her parents in your care. Endeavor to contact me as soon as possible at, (email address left so the spambots can go nuts -ed.) so we can brief you on how to go about the adoption and also the requirements for the adoption. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards

It's kind of cool that people now use us in spam. Maybe next we can get the Brooklyn Bridge.

Monday, December 11, 2006

388: Review of Brilliant Traces

Brilliant Traces, by Cindy Lou Johnson. An oil worker's self-enforced isolation in a house in the Middle of Nowhere, Alaska, is disrupted by the arrival of an unbalanced woman in a bridal gown. Having had his peaceful limbo disrupted, Henry Harry refuses to allow Rosannah Deluce to leave until she finds reconcilation within herself. This latest production by the actor/director Frank Dattolo surprisingly pleases: the ethereal advertisements for the show made it seem like a bizarre trip (the insane bride, a la Lucia di Lammermoor, didn't help), but it's actually a tour-de-force of human psychology.

This play is performed in both English and ASL by New York Deaf Theater, and both translations are well-fashioned. Anne Tomasetti and Aaron Kubey provide the necessary character for this character-driven play-and then some! I was absolutely delighted by Tomasetti, who has the expressive range of Audrey Tautou and all of the charm; Kubey's performance resembles that of a more psychologically sophisticated version of Stanley from Streetcar, as his character convincingly moves from timid to terrifying. Indeed, the connection between the two actors strongly called A Streetcar Named Desire to mind, as their give-and-take of sanity and insanity goes from madness to lust to the kindness of strangers-a Streetcar where the prison of marriage is replaced by that of a blizzard, and this 'Blanche' arrives drunk-but quickly runs out of alcohol.

This is one of those well-directed productions which, adapted for ASL, finds clever ways to include voice interpretation which add, not detract, from the production. Two grey-costumed interpreters fade into the desolate, minimalist stage, seeming to represent the former lives of the characters (Kathy Walley, who voices for Tomasetti, even wears a slightly ruffled dress, hinting at the wedding dress Tomasetti takes off earlier in the stage.) Frank Todaro, for example, looks at the recumbent Tomasetti early in the production in a way which echoes the later looks of Kubey. That the two voice actors are speaking different language from the actors only enhances the weird ghostly connections. It emphasizes the bond between the two lost ones, as they dance verbally and physically on stage. Ordonez' costuming is also well-chosen; Tomasetti's dress is replaced by a plaid-and-jeans uniform matching Kubey's, hinting again at the prison-like nature of their exile.

Traces is a long piece-as one audience member said, it's weird (especially in this age of meaningless reality tv!) to see two people just relating for an hour and a half. The ending, however, more than satisfies, though free of resolution; the lights go off with madness in Rosannah's face. Tomasetti and Kubey pull off what must be an exhausting performance, keeping the audience interested and involved in a way which previous productions seem to have had trouble doing-this reviewer, despite a winter cold and a corneal abrasion, nonetheless squinted to catch every word. You could feel it in the audience when Henry kissed Rosannah. Their passion quite literally rattled the set - and the audience, which sat talking about what they'd seen a solid ten minutes after the lights went up. It's no wonder this production is sold out.

Brilliant Traces. Performed at the Gene Frankel Theater. 24 Bond Street New York, NY; NY Deaf Theatre.

387: Davila's Speech: with coffee

So it has turned out to be the famous Dr. Robert Davila, who I unexpectedly like. (And sir, if there's any jobs available in your administration, let a man know!) Seriously, you can see video of his speech here, straight from Gallaudet. My thoughts as the man speaks:

There's some introductory speech (UPDATE: by Pamela Holmes, chair of the BOT), then Davila takes the stage at 19:34 (is it just me, or is Gallaudet intent on using outmoded video players? This was clunky...) He gave a very interesting speech.

He states he has to deal with the lack of open communication on campus by establishing a non-affiliated person for students/faculty to talk to, an email hotline (no word on if this is anonymous!), etc. etc. "We need to open things up for you. We need to make people feel like when they speak on this campus, they will be heard." (Yes, I did find the last sentence funny.) He wants to find ways to put such paying-attention systems into place, to aid his successor; Davila will, he states be president for 1 year.

This sounds good, but at this point I was reminded of Fernandes and Jordan repeatedly stating: We hear you. We just don't agree with you. And I remember reading that Glickman book on Deaf Health and Mental Health where the author stated he found his employees and clients were most comfortable when they were allowed to set the parameters of their own communication.

What I mean is there has to be more than listening, at Gallaudet. When a Deaf person can go to a hearing college, get an interpreter provided for full communication (like I had,) why go to Gallaudet if they can't understand all the teachers? The benefit is supposed to be barrier-free education. That's Gallaudet's value-added - what makes their education special for Deaf individuals. Gallaudet needs to get back to making the campus barrier-free. They need to go through the whole campus like a Deaf person and find out all the spots - like DPS which can't sign - and make them accessible. For so many reasons.

24:03 - Davila mentions a rumor going around in the blogs - already retracted by Ridor, as I noticed in my last post - that he is not supportive of ASL as a language. Kind of shows the power of reporting, doesn' t it? But also, Mr. Davila, as you say later, we're our own worst critics, and Ridor honestly and immediately retracted his statements.

Davila goes on to clearly - and honestly - explain the problems now facing Gallaudet, including the MSA problems. I was impressed with his speaking ability. His signing has personality, and he definitely has the Old Deaf running through him - not in a bad way - he's a pleasure to watch! He reminds me a little of Malzkuhn, and Doug Alker who was President of the BDA in England. Finally, a real leader, who isn't just reading from a script - he knows his subject, he looks at his audience... Could it be someone who signs well might be recognized by the world as a real leader?
We need to be our own worst critics because if we're not, other people will take that role - and that's not a position we want to be in. (38:21)
Mr. Davila - this is exactly my philosophy. This is the blog philosophy - we have to work hard on our writing and positions. I wish you the best of luck at the University over the next couple of months. Remember you have young minds to guide and grow, not herd and control. This is not a madhouse with inmates; this is a school with young people. When people tell others about their boundaries and limitations, they need to be listened to - and if not agreed with, respected. When Jordan and Fernandes forgot that, they had already lost, though the protest hadn't begun.

Davila goes on to actually confront the PART report (something Fernandes and Jordan had yet to do) and state the first part of the plan to deal with it - is to collect information, which (if you read between the lines) is exactly what Fernandes and Jordan failed to do. Kudos to Davila for dealing with this!

Around 39:50 - talks about going back to Congress to get funding "restored?" Wants to take advantage of the Democratic Congress. I wonder if he could say a word about savedeaftheater?

40:30 - this seems like a big bombshell to me - there is information badly needed which Jordan doesn't have available or has not yet made available to Davila. This is starting to anger me, because I see a pattern. Ridor has been accusing the Jordan administration of corruption for a while. I have not gone that far. But the failure of the PART report is basically a failure of accountability, and if you see exactly what Gallaudet failed, it mostly has to do with honesty and providing accurate numbers and paperwork. Bascially, you get points for writing your name down if you show up, okay? That's what this is about. I feel terrible for Mr. Davila - it's a horrible thing to take over a job and be so far behind in the work your program needs to accomplish, and requires a lot of sleepless nights.

43:23 - has a deep respect for faculty governance systems. Was a member of many, and understands their importance. Will be setting up discussion panels. (I wonder, will he be sending letters to parents about the protest? Parents of Gallaudet Students, I mean, because I remember reading somewhere that Jordan never reached out to parents who wrote with their concerns about the protest. Davila may need to take over that part of continuing and resolving the Unity for Gallaudet protest.)

44:39 - nice comment from Davila - that both the other candidates for this position have skills that he wishes to tap in the pursuit of resolving the issues he faces on assuming leadership of the University. Seems they are already both involved. I think he's giving a message to people: We have 18 months. Let's get busy. (Update: Marshall has thrown his weight behind Davila.)

Can you tell I warmed up to Davila? I really did - he's obviously a mentor to a huge variety of minds, which is what a University is supposed to be about. He looked at his audience like an experienced professor and leader, and he spoke with emotion, even passion in some places. Could this be the man - this man who speaks before the Hill with such success, while still retaining an excellent ability to sign - be a model for students to achieve Deafhood? Will he remove the barriers which have risen on campus?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

386: Who's Who For the Gallaudet Interim Presidential Position

So who will it be, friends and neighbors? Here's some first impressions after my first reading of their biographies and letters.

William Marshall, a dedicated leader of the Gallaudet University faculty, who has led the University Faculty Senate (the one whose votes of no confidence so harmed the Jordan/Fernandes position) for the last several years? His publications focus on adademic discipline, how to make a University run efficiently, dealing with politics and power structures. He would seem to be the "healing" option - the man who by familiarity with the community and academic world might be able to lead the Gallaudet community to understanding and healing from the political and social uproar of the past year. His plan includes structure for whoever takes over the Presidential position to ease into their role. He interestingly seems to have stopped publishing in 99 and not again until 2006 - wasn't this the time period Jane Fernandes was Dean of the University? It's probably meaningless coincidence... all in all he seems capable, slightly conservative, highly efficient. His ASL skills have come under attack (see for yourself) but I think this is possibly unfair-Marshall is hardly claiming to be a beautiful signer, unlike Jane Fernandes who Jordan called "fluent." And as Erfo says:
"Marshall doesn't sign too badly. He's got personality... and he obviously has a lot of Old Deaf running through him. I covered his face for part of the presentation; I'd say 70% legible... when any fluent signer gets on the stage at Gally legibility drops to abt 40%-60%."
The worst people say of him that I've been able to see is that he is stiff and inflexible - but maybe Gallaudet needs the comfort of routine and a strong direction.

Robert Davila, a man who seems to play the center politically and has a fantastic fundraising track record, a respected academic leader of various institutions, a familiar face with Congress, a highly impressive resume... and extremely well known at Gallaudet (take this test!) He's the first Deaf and Hispanic man to receive a PhD in the United States, a feat which I applaud (and which my father would also; as an immigrant my father wasn't able to take advantage of education in America much.) Davila would seem to be the power option - the man who might be able to reconcile Gallaudet to the world and prepare for what, until a Democratic American majority took hold of the House and balanced the Senate, were hints and rumors of potential government cuts - such as those which rocked the world of Deaf Theatre. Perhaps his leadership qualities, diplomacy, political connections are the more important considerations.

Stephen Weiner was a guidance counselor at MSSD and a former New Yorker as well as a Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor in various other depts. Despite this, I don't know him very well - I was still revelling in being at a Deaf school for the first time in my life and annoying everyone with silly questions. At first glance, his resume doesn't appear as extensive as the other two candidates. Looking at it more closely helps you realize the structure is completely different. His research and publications are on Deaf clubs, Deaf people, Deaf society. I wonder if Weiner is meant to be the "community option" - the man who might reconcile Gallaudet to the extensive community (and its supporters) which turned out in the thousands to show support for their University during the protest. His having administrative experience is also as a member of Boards of various Deaf schools (including Lexington, which he himself attended), a doctorate in Education, and strong ties to the Deaf community. A review of his resume shows presentations nationally and internationally on a huge variety of subjects. His obvious commitment to his community might be what Gallaudet needs for the interim while the best Presidential candidate is sought.

Three very interesting people, who are also sort of refreshingly transparent. MishkaZena and Ridor also have their analysis (Ridor follows it up with a retraction.)

Why is this important? While the position will be short-lived, the Gallaudet community is hurting now - and needs treatment, counselling, the works. While the community is lying injured on the ground, people are hardening opinions about what happened. We need a voice to bring the community back together, prevent hemorrhaging of donations, maintain our political support, and keep the community on the path towards dealing with audism, both internal and external - and get the Gallaudet community ready for a new President and hopefully an upward climb. And as goes Gallaudet, so goes acceptance and opportunity for Deaf people around the nation. Sometimes we forget that without such a center of learning for Deaf people, we wouldn't have the exposure/visibility we do now. Regardless - they'll be announcing the leader soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

385: weds am poetry: the Lion in Cancer

Something unfinished I thought I'd share during busy times.

The reason I'm pacing the cage is:
it doesn't matter how good we are, how well we speak
there will always be some form of discrimination
there will always be the need for independence
there is never the confidence that one's projected oneself clearly
(am I looking docile and sheeplike when I read lips?)
there is never the freedom of being able to show emotion
(if I show my anger on that or this issue - could I lose my job -)

I see these walls
bowing but not breaking
I pace
like a lion: padded paws,
withdrawn claws,
chin to ground. No loud sound
makes me raise my lidded eyes;
and when they lead me to the ring
and make me sing (O mighty roar)
and chew my enemies to dust -
Still I am looking at the floor

Monday, November 27, 2006

384.5: VLog Revisited! Clearer?

I tried out Blip.TV bec. my friend Brein over at Signcasts claims their formatting is better in terms of compression than YouTUBE. Pls share your opinion if you have a chance - thanks!

VLog'd my Sunday Morning Rant


Sunday, November 26, 2006

384: Sunday News and VLog Rant

It seems Ridor isn't the only one experiencing job discrimination - this gentleman in India is another sufferer. It seems the job market for Deaf people is just dwindling these days. I wrote to Erfo this morning:
In a sense I do think it's okay to ask people questions about how they'd handle situations. But I do think this was discrimination because a) it's a deaf agency; they're supposed to educate, not pamper hearing people's illusions and b) once Ridor got to know people they'd know to call back with relay. Heck, they could program his voicemail to get people to call back with relay. You can get TTY's which automatically respond with PLEASE CALL BACK VIA TTY. A couple people on his blog suggested video relay, but that wasn't, to me, the point. The point is they raised a specious objection to block a perfectly good candidate for a job... and in the process revealed exactly how discriminatory people can be.

Sometimes I think I should just suck it up and be a good Deaf person and go collect my SSI check. But noooooooo, I really love my job, I really think it's possible to be a Deaf person and a professional, so I continue to go out there and fight the good fight... even tho sometimes I have to sit on my hands to keep from saying what's on my mind...

But that's what a blog is for. Here's today's rant, in an experimental vlog - would LOVE comments and suggestions for improvement!

More soon. Back to baby-gazing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

382: gallaudet, thanksgiving and the future

Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving. I want to mention some things I'm grateful for, and talk a little about the future and some dreams I have.

I'm thankful for my newborn niece Isabella and for the health of my tired sister! I'm thankful I live in a time where technology and unity have given us a powerful sense of connection, creativity, and control. I'm thankful to have lived in a time where twice in a century Deaf people have risen up and blown the lid off their prison and removed gatekeepers who went from protecting us to keeping us trapped.

Have you heard the expression "opened a can of worms?" It means to blow the lid off a situation of true complexity. It comes from the story about Pandora's box. Pandora was the wife of Epimethius, the brother of Prometheus. They lived in a time when the world was without fear or worry. Prometheus stole fire from the gods; Zeus punished him, but he would not submit. In revenge Zeus created Pandora, and sent her to Epimethius with gifts, including a jar. Pandora was gifted with curiosity, opened the jar, and let loose all the evils of the world - but also let loose good things, like hope and love.

The story is similar to my mind to what happened at Gallaudet. We opened a can of worms and exposed a situation of high complexity. We refused to let other people take care of us, and decided we wanted free will. Like Prometheus, we stole the fire from the "god" of the Deaf community, I. King Jordan. Like Pandora, we are gifted with curiosity, and though certainly in our struggle some bad things happen, we are struggling because of hope - hope for our own future as a community.

For now the lid is off the can. What do we do with our freedom? Well, let's look back to some of the problems raised in the protest and I am just going to brainstorm on ideas for how to deal with them:
  • AUDISM: the DPS. The DPS has reportedly had severe communication and cultural relation problems with the community at Gallaudet. They've been declared responsible for the death of at least one student, Carl Dupree. When students die or get tasered at other institutions people go nuts, have you noticed? When someone dies at Gallaudet, they assume that our "gods" have been taking care of us, and it must have been our fault. How do we resolve this? Do we wait for hearing people to solve it for us? Or should one of the points of the next few months be trying to get Deaf people onto DPS? Should DPS be 50% Deaf people? Could Deaf people partner with hearing people on DPS to create a cultural relationship program? It is NOT going to be possible to hire skilled signers on DPS - for one thing, they could probably make more money terping!
  • MEDIA: During the Gallaudet protest, I saw again and again people asking Dr. Fernandes about the viewpoint of her opposition. Why are Deaf people mad at her? she was asked, again and again. It took a while for people to talk to the protestors themselves. How can we change this?
  • AUDISM: other depts. at Gallaudet. We have heard again and again about financial corruption at Gallaudet. I've also heard that the finance/accounting people are almost all hearing. Is this just a rumor? Is this true? How many other depts. are almost all hearing? Does this create an atmosphere of isolation?
  • EDUCATION: I know that sororities and fraternities at Gallaudet do a lot of amazing community work (as well as have their share of fun!) Can they do community projects spotlighting problem situations at the University?
  • EDUCATION: Also, many big organizations like the ACLU etc. are ignorant about the Deaf community - they support minority groups, but Deaf people are a big question mark. I have been working to educate Democrats on - I've had a good response as people easily make connections to issues faced by other minorities. Who else should we be working with? We need to create coalitions so we have stronger political lobbies?
What do you think of these ideas? I know some people have already been doing amazing things. These are just brainstorming ideas. If they inspire someone, please, share yours! Whatever comes out of this blog, one thing is clear: any answers we find, we will be creating. We have opened the can of worms. We explore new territory every time we do.

Oh - and happy tofurkey day. (I'm still a vegan at heart. Sigh.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

381: ASL, LSF, and Native American sign languages

NOTE: still in Ft. Lauderdale. Sister is having so many contractions she doesn't know what to do. I wrote this post yesterday on my blackberry while in the car at night and therefore incommunicado (someone needs to invent a deaf AND hearing-friendly light for the inside of a car. I'll be the first to buy. Enjoy my ramblings, and big love to Moi whose essay inspired this post! -Uncle Rainmound)

I read with interest Moi's post on "So Where Is ASL From Anyway?" itself a response to Carl Schroeder's post "My Ongoing Scholarly Pursuit." I'm with Moi: the evidence is that ASL was derived from LSF, particularly a coded form of LSF developed - and later rejected as a failure - by the Abbe de l'Epee. A lot of relevant information is in Lane's "When the Mind Hears." Here's my own contribution to the discussion, although for me it goes back to Massieu and Clerc, the golden boys of France.

These two famous students of the Deaf institute where the Abbe de l'Epee - and later Sicard - and finally Gallaudet came to work with Deaf people. Jean Jacques Massieu was the rebel who used LSF, coming from a family with six deaf brothers and sisters. Laurent Clerc came later and was the good boy who used "signed French" - a system developed originally by l'Epee and then renounced in his final work on Deaf education. In this final book L'Epee admitted his fake system was a failure, and the best means of education was through LSF, and seemed to hint that all coded sign languages must, because of the necessities of the visual mode, tend towards a natural signed grammar. (A hundred years or so later, we discovered similar facts about ASL and the various "signed codes" - the codes work for communication, but not for education. There's a difference between getting your point across, and becoming a model for understanding a new idea.) Gallaudet, however, preferred the more docile Clerc to the wilder Massieu; Clerc, educated in L'Epee's code, was easier to understand than Massieu, who grew up in a family of Deaf people and used LSF like Pollack used paint. Gallaudet found the code easier to learn than the language. What did he bring back? Clerc. It was Clerc's code that he learned, and what lay behind the code eventually developed into ASL: as I said, all coded languages eventually tend towards ones with real syntax appropriate for the modality of the language itself. As Allison Fanara reports, in a lecture by Paddy Ladd:
"Massieu and Clerc felt that there were two groups of languages - natural and artificial. Natural languages belonged to the Deaf and the savages. Artificial languages belonged to the hearing people. They believed that language was linked to Deaf biology. This was why Deaf people were more of a global group; they were the Sign Language peoples. Therefore, they were among the First Nation people, those who believed that they belonged to Earth, not vice versa."

It is true that, from the perspective of Massieu and Clerc, artificial languages belonged to hearing people - they were continually coming up with "new" ones. (L'Epee used a two-handed manual alphabet, derived possibly from one used in England.)

Another interesting question is: how much influence did Native American signed languages have on the developing American Signed Language? I do not know the answer to this but I suspect it is an answer derived from class. Most of the people at Gallaudet's school needed money to attend, and came from wealthy families; chances are they'd never have had a chance to socialise with Native Americans of any tribe. And look at this: here's a website with some French signs. (note - having problems getting this to work - any help?) Compare and contrast for yourself.

One other point. Does the American sign for "with" use the letter "a", implying a derivation of the word "avec"? This is debatable, but I don't think so - if only because the LSF "code" for the letter A is different from the American manual alphabet's code; in LSF, the thumb is extended in the manual alphabet. We'd need pictures from the time to figure out how it started, an as Carl Schroeder notes, there are few if any visual records from Clerc's time, although there are some alphabets scattered around from the 16- and 1700's.

The question is: is the "a" in WITH the alphabetical A, the handshape "a" (and handshapes are an alphabet of their own only partially derived from written alphabets) - or a derivation of the LSF version of the French "a"? Or possibly even a derivation of a French handshape which has nothing to do with the letter at all? You see the possibilities are endless, and of course they could have changed over time - we could have started with a French handshape that evolved into a French letter that moved to America and became an English letter and eventually turned into an ASL handshape... Language is fluid, and grows, and changes, and we understand it only when we understand the whole.
A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again. -Alexander Pope

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

380: cleaning house

Cleaning is useful for many purposes. For a start, it keeps the hands busy, so I can't talk, and I have nothing to do but think for a while: think, while looking over the stains of the last week, remembering the little frustrations, the big goodbyes. And Deaf goodbyes can take forever. We're a holding-on sort of people, I think.

My eye is cleaned, for example. My cornea was abraded by a contact lens the other week, contributing to the blogging hiatus. It's healed now, but I could barely see across the street for a week. It's the second time this has happened to me: the first was years ago in college, when some stage makeup mixed with sweat to create a potent sticky mixture binding my contact lens to my eye. I stayed in a dark room for three days afterwards, but what I remember most is the ride to the hospital, looking desperately out of the window, muttering to myself, "that's the last color blue I will see; that's the last pink."

This scotomaphobia has always been within me. It extends to everything I do: not only am I afraid of not, physically, seeing, but I'm also afraid of being deluded, or deluding myself. I'm afraid others will be deluded, and not be able to make clear decisions for themselves, and I feel sorrow for those who hide behind a world of fantasy. Blindness became a metaphor for me, for ignorance, for the darkness of a world denied. I think it may become such a metaphor for many Deaf people, as they struggle with various issues - Usher's Syndrome, for example, or various vertigo- and blindness-inducing conditions. There's also the psychological and psychiatric disorders which induce hallucinations. At a whisk any of us could lose our sight, and by extension the language which we so love.

So when my cornea had its dignity so injured, and I was suspended in a hazy bubble of vision, I spent each day and night with rapidly growing fear. I lay awake all of the following night thinking about the 9 buddhist levels of consciousness, trying to will myself into a state of alaya, because theoretically in such a state all communication is possible: you recognize yourself, at the cellular level, as having no difference from any other being, and accept the dichotomy without struggle that, simultaneously, you can be entirely unique. It's a powerful philosophical state which gives the mind an incredible clarity of vision.

A clarity completely out of reach, at least for most of this week. I substituted Pepperidge Farms for enlightenment, then compensated with a day of herbal green teas out of guilt for the processed crap in the chocolate. (You have to apologize to your body for the stuff your drama makes you do.)

Fuller-fed, I managed to find enlightenment another way: working on a play. Just a random one I started for fun. It's funny, but I can see ASL (and yes, BSL) signs in my head now: I don't think I was always able to. I experiment constantly in my head now with alterations, variations in structure between ASL number and grammar... I'm still a baby at it, but I went through this process with English, and I recognize it for what it is: it's the process of learning to construct writing, only with ASL. I'm playing with the guitar and making occasional riffs to see how it sounds.

Cleaning is useful for many purposes. You clean out your mind, when you sift through your memories and pay attention to your life. (This is one reason I hate television: how much meaning can you get from sifting through many hours of watching television? And people do watch such a lot of it.) I struggled to build a picture in my mind, looking for analogues to what I'm doing now, because I really want to improve my script-writing ability, and I want the ASL to be just as good as the English can be - simultaneously. I tried to make my memory into the film reel some writers say it can be.

I discovered, to my amazement, that I could. It took a little while of drifting, yes, but there was the classroom in the English department, and there was Joseph Rainmound, twelve years younger, experimenting with a computer program to randomly make poetry, not aware that, twelve years later, his older self would wince at the naivete that poetry was simply words put into clever places and that there were people with poorer knowledge of the construction of English than his who could write poems which far outstripped any new structural concept he could come up with. Yep, a little playing with BASIC, and a couple of books I found in the library, and all I needed to do was put in a list of random words and I would be Shakespeare. The words just came out funnily-placed, really. And they didn't always make sense. I found myself having to actually write. (I was a lazy bum, and followed Heinlein's theory that the laziest man had to be the most efficient, since he would find the quickest, best way of doing things so they would be done right the first time, and so that first time would be the shortest possible time it could take.)

In some ways it's sad to look back and see myself making fake poems through random word placement generators. In another way there's positive vibes from seeing myself at such a silly project. Remembering the illusions of my early childhood made me feel better about my sight today. I can see, in one way, much more now than I used to, in another. I'm certainly no longer blinded by certain types of naivete, although I suspect I'll have to battle many more. ASL gave me the context and content which a lifetime of study of English alone could not.

The memory also made me regretful... because in many ways naivete, the self-delusion which is innocence and so prized by certain people in this country, is a very comfortable place. But truly: would I rather have the more perfect physical sight of my youth, or the more focused mental sight of today? I know my own answer (although it would be nice not to have to use bloody contacts again.) Awareness of the universe comes from mental attention, not simply the physical strength of the gaze. This is why people close their eyes when they meditate. Awareness, the sixth sense every discipline calls for (yes, even the Buddhist traditions, and the Wiccan), is a sense which transcends all others. It helps to access it when the noise from those other senses is muted. It helped me separate my metaphor from the reality.

The reality: blindness is simply a state, a quantum position, and nothing of which to be afraid. The awareness grew in me, and I began to see how this awareness could be useful for so many other things, how I could master my fear of medium heights, and possibly, one day, confront a cockroach without turning into an insane bloody-hatchet bearing madman...

Awareness is also very helpful, when you're cleaning. I must now go be aware of the floor. Time for scrubbing.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

thank you

to all the people who have put up with me over the last few weeks during my workaholic-ness: erfo, pacts, nicole, and bree who between them pretty much read everything i wrote before I put it up.

im taking a few days off of blogging to let the mysterious brain fluids refill my head. this will involve yoga, chanting, biking, drinking lemon-flavored fluids, and healthy food. after tonight.

happy samhain, everyone.

Monday, October 30, 2006

379: Gallaudet Protest Succeeds: President-Select Terminated

This post was put up on DailyKos. I'd appreciate any comments to improve it. I wanted to try to explain what I saw as clearly as possible to people who don't know the Deaf community.

Sunday, October 29th will go down in history as the day the Gallaudet Board of Trustees terminated the President-Designate of Gallaudet University and accepted two demands of four of the many hundreds of protestors who joined the ranks of Gallaudet's faculty, staff, students and alumni and marched on the nation's capitol 4,000 strong. This has been a long protest, about civil rights, shared governance, and fiduciary duties. Not to mention Earth Juice. Join us as we review what just happened...

Jane Kelleher Fernandes is one of the most controversial people in the Deaf community. The people she's worked with at the University for the past ten years which include the employees at the High School, MSSD, whose students are quoted in this letter where she used to be in charge, the faculty at the school in Hawaii where she formerly worked, have all issued statements opposing the selection of this individual as President of Gallaudet University. A variety of reasons (and a great analysis here) have been stated. They boil down to a history of failure at her previous projects, an arrogant attitude, and a lack of ability to reach out to the students and the community. Shared governance in the university was circumvented twice to allow her promotion. Students, Faculty, Alumni of the University have been protesting since May 2006, unable to trust a search process for President that seemed fixed and had delivered such an inappropriate candidate.

Simultaneously the protest of the search process and Fernandes herself seemed to merge with another and equally powerful protest, a movement which had been building at the University for a few years: to bring full accessibility to the University. Not all the faculty, administration, and very few (one or two) of the Campus Security know American Sign Language. Students have been injured, traumatized, and in one publicized instance killed because of this. Also there has been much research demonstrating that students learn better in a barrier-free environment. Opponents claim Deaf people simply want to retreat into their own world; advocates say the time of higher education should be as free of negative pressure as possible if we want the individual to develop into the most productive citizen possible. Since the President-Select, Jane Fernandes, has stalled in responding to these concerns, labelled under the group heading "Audism," for the last three to four years as Provost, pressure was already at an all-time high. The conjunction of these two issues has led to a huge ballooning of support for the protest in the community in ALL its aspects, from those who use ASL to those who do not.

She originally had quite an amount of support but this eroded quickly as her responses to the protest, including votes of no confidence by the faculty, have grown colder and more authoritarian, to the point of threatening the University's Board of Trustees to obtain support. 135 protestors were arrested. 1,000 protested at the University gates. 4,000 marched on the Capitol. Bulldozers mowed down students although luckily injury was light. It has been a long, strange fight. And now Jane Fernandes has been fired by the Board of Trustees. (See video with responses here.) But it's not over yet. We have at this point simply identified the current face of the problem and removed it.

Were our demands the right demands, as Erfo asks? What went wrong with the appointments of Jordan and Fernandes? How do we avoid these problems in the future? Are reprisals occurring amongst the faculty, as reports of firings spread like wildfire? What criteria do we need in place to ascertain that the leadership of Gallaudet remains uncorrupted and true to the ideals of research and academia? And Deaf academia in particular? What lessons did we learn? Where can we improve? The Audism mandates are, I feel, going to be a big part of this.

Right now, Gallaudet is still a University without a President. And without real leadership I fear that the "healing" people call for cannot happen.

Why did this protest happen now? I argue blogs are a huge reason.

Media Control-and breakthrough

For the last ten years Deaf people have been conspicuously absent from the media. Few Deaf people on TV, in movies, except for Sesame Street (Linda Bove was the first person I saw using American Sign Language.) Deaf Mosaic ended quite a while ago. The Media department at Gallaudet has been closed, and I'm reliably informed Gallaudet has published none of its own books on Deaf research in many years. (At the time of this writing you don't seem to be able to order anything from the Gallaudet bookstore, although the University has its own publishing department.) What this means is that the Deaf community has been closed off, in America, from the mainstream. (Recently Deaf theatre programs and actors have been breaking through, but the government has cut much of those funds. This kind of "closing off" typical of a "gatekeeper" mentality, and indeed over the summer the University put out stringent new rules about the expression of free speech.

Yet in the last year thanks to blogging and to the proliferation of youtube, and all their variants, Deaf people have begun to open the door again. Not only do people like Ridor, Elisa, and MishkaZena shine a light on the corrupt workings of "gatekeeper" administrations by reporting on the ground, we also have analysts like myself, Sandman, the folks at the ASL Community Journal, and writers at DeafDC have all turned into political pundits. There's dozens now, many of them great, too many now for even me to keep up! "Channels" such as DeafRead have brought all these disparate groups together. And hundreds of other voices have come up-I call them the "peanut gallery." An entire constellation of people have joined together into a living and breathing extension of a community. I'm not sure there's been anything like this in the world's history. It's not just blogging and signcasting. We speak to each other on our televisions without even thinking. Our blackberries and sidekicks get free maps to the world and medical dictionaries and anything else we like. Deaf people found a world of our own: the internet. And we've moved in.

At the time of Deaf Way II some, but not all, of this existed. Now it's commonplace. People check continually for the latest news, and while lately the focus has been Gallaudet, the deaf blogosphere is tackling every issue under the sun.

Jane Fernandes said the Deaf community is undergoing revolution. She commented she thought it had to do with herself and whether she was "deaf enough." This is a simplistic and sad view. It is accepted because people push a pathology of Deaf people as ungrateful and talentless. It is true that our Media revolution-the Deaf Blogging Revolution-has a lot in common with the Gallaudet protests in '88. The point of both these revolutions is for us to throw off the "gatekeepers" keeping our community down: we are trying to grow, and they are keeping us from water. It is NOT to build some fantasy-Oz where Deaf people live forever... as if I would leave New York, anyway.

It also symbolizes the American Deaf community's journey to adulthood-into what Dr. Paddy Ladd calls "Deafhood." Remember all of us united thanks to this Media revolution. Deaf, hearing, hard of hearing, CI user, all tribes came together into one Deaf nation, our differences at least partially erased by the Internet. 135 arrested. 9 hunger strikers. 1000 protesting at the University gates. 4000 protesting on the lawn of the Capitol. And Deaf people's blogs were there leading and reporting on everything. No middlemen. No gatekeepers. Just us, dealing with the world on our own terms. Nobody speaking for us.

It's called democracy. And it's kind of sweet.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

378: Don't Relax Yet

Jane Fernandes has been fired by the Board of Trustees. But it's not over yet.

A big part of the fight is over. Jane Fernandes has been asked to resign and Gallaudet has been spared an incompetent President. However, we have not won the war YET. We have just identified the current face of the problem and removed it. Our next step is to use our brains. What went wrong with the appointments of Jordan and Fernandes? How do we avoid these problems in the future? What criteria do we need in place to ascertain that the leadership of Gallaudet remains uncorrupted and true to the ideals of research and academia? And Deaf academia in particular? What lessons did we learn? Where can we improve? The Audism mandates are, I feel, going to be a big part of this.

Right now, Gallaudet is still a University without a President. And without real leadership, the "healing" people call for, which is really "making sure Gallaudet gets back to the head of the class in Deaf education," we will have to fight this fight again one day. Without real and serious thought, now, to put in place a set of principles by which we can ensure at least that any corruption is human corruption, not the corruption of those filled with Audism.

Obviously, one issue is ASL. The President needs to be a better signer. This is not the only issue. We need a way for the University to be more accountable to the feedback of students and faculty when they express their needs (Some things are typical student things, probably, but I get the feeling there's real problems which could be easily fixed with competent leadership.)

There are other issues, such as a philosophy to lead the University in the coming age (we do NOT need a President determined to keep her plans secret.)

I admit to some regret, in hand with my friend Erfo. I would love to see a woman President of Gallaudet University. This is why, back in April and May, my posts were extremely neutral. I expressed the hope her aggressively patronizing attitude had changed and she had grown into the leadership of a University.

This proved a vain hope as month after month went by. My belief is that honest and open engagement with the students, as befits the abilities of a true educator, would have instantly ended any protest. Someone who could interact with students on that level, could not be someone they could object to.

We need to find a way to put this into words. The problem with audism is basically that it dehumanizes. When Jane Fernandes started her "not Deaf enough," business, she dehumanized us. How? Think about it. How many people became terrified of even saying they wanted a culturally Deaf person to be President? Whether or not this was a reason for the protest, shame is a nasty tool to use on a population. We need someone who respects Deaf people as people. This is more serious almost than ASL.

The only way to do all of that is to encode rights - a set of human rights for Deaf people. Rights that apply to everyone, so everyone has the freedom to find their own path to Deafhood. Clearly explained rights, so that lazy slackers can't take advantage of new freedoms. Rights such as the right to a barrier-free learning environment.

What things would you require of the new President of Gallaudet University?

377: This Is What Gally's PR Is Doing?

A few days ago it was reported at the Washington Post that Gallaudet had retained a PR firm:
Gallaudet retained Dickstein Shapiro , a Washington-based law and lobbying firm, to "educate" lawmakers about the situation on campus and lobby on appropriations issues.

"We want to make sure that people on the Hill understand the reality of what's happening on campus," said Amy Weiss of Point Blank Public Affairs , who was hired by the university to help with public relations during the crisis.

The reality of what's happening on campus? So what are the PR people reporting on? MishkaZena points to another Post article and there we can see what Gallaudet's money is being poured into:
As a small girl in Massachusetts, she took piano lessons for the discipline and structure, even though she couldn’t hear the music. As an undergraduate at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., without interpreters or support services, she became fluent in French. In graduate school at the University of Iowa, she embraced her identity as a deaf person; after learning American Sign Language, she won the Miss Deaf Iowa title, promising to bridge the gulf between the deaf and hearing worlds. Working with deaf children in Hawaii, she built a glowing reputation as she fought state officials who tended to view the deaf as mentally disadvantaged.

The article states she is "inner-directed" (a quote from her husband) and paints her as a quiet, misunderstood genius. It's complete bullshit. It does nothing to educate anyone about the issues at Gallaudet University. It's a fluff piece designed to make Fernandes look good and "win" her status as Gallaudet President - from the hearing community. She does nothing to talk to Deaf people themselves. She's spending Gallaudet money to make herself look good - and in the process designate all Deaf people as unreasonable, unrealistic, out of touch with the modern world - and most of all, not worthy of respect.

This is a terrible thing to do to the Deaf community, whether they realize it or not. At the least they could have given a more accurate idea of the debate - but no. She also chooses to continue to emphasize her "they think I'm not Deaf enough and I don't know how to convince them otherwise!" theme:
“I was educated in how to behave like a hearing person, and I did it pretty well,” she said. “But psychologically and socially, it took a toll. Like denying a fundamental part of who I am.”

After meeting other deaf people and learning sign language, her deafness ceased to be a source of embarrassment. The word she uses to describe the person she became is “whole.”

“Rather than try everything to cover up being deaf or avoid being caught as deaf, I was proud to be deaf and wanted everyone to know it,” she said.

Notice how she avoids talking about her 11 years of working at Gallaudet University and why all those people she worked with - over 80% of them, I believe - don't want her as the leader of Gallaudet University. Notice how it avoids talking about any of the issues raised by protestors - campus accessibility, the danger of having campus police not be able to sign, the lack of high standards for language skills for academics, etc. etc. If she was so good in all respects, why did her support base shrink and shrink over this time?

And at the same time as this drain on the coffers happens, departments at the University close. It seems Gallaudet's funds are doomed to be wasted on miseducating America, instead of educating Deaf Americans.

UPDATE: Check out another take on this issue at Berke Outspoken.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

376: How to Oppress Deaf People, Part II

Please read Allison Kaftan's excellent diary today on DeafDc. I want to echo her sentiments, and add some of mine:

Five days ago 4,000 people marched on the Capitol in support of this protest. There has to be some kind of ending soon.

We all are experiencing intense pain at the length and breadth of this protest. I cannot get past one thing. The Administration used a bulldozer on their own students. They have no respect for themselves, the institution, the population they serve, or the job they perform. They have broken any oaths they have made to the University and to its community. I cannot repeat it enough:

You do not use a bulldozer on your own people.

You use a bulldozer on lumber, wood, inanimate objects. Things you do not respect or care about. We are lucky the damage was minimal.

I understand they had to clear the gate. I spoke with MSSD people. I know the students had internships that day. They wanted to get out and go to their gigs, or whatever. They got to the gate when all this was happening. They saw people struggling with the campus police, the DPS. They saw the lack of communication protestors have been talking about. But also: young Deaf people see the world far more black and white than we do. They saw Deaf people getting beaten up by hearing people, and worse, without interpreters there to try to communicate with any students at the gate. I can only imagine what their reaction was. Can you? They wanted to join the fight. (I felt a moment of pride in MSSD students when I heard that: MSSD kids aren't cowards!) The school administration held them back. They went into the school and channeled their energy into letters of support for the protest and other projects. I am thankful. Our youth should not fight these battles, though I thank the good Goddess they're willing.

I am still working out how I feel about all this. But that horrifies me: what they had to see. Why they had to see it. When I try to justify the Administration's actions in my head in the name of peace, I have this story in my head. And I grieve because one of my dreams is for America to proudly hold up the Deaf community as part of its communities. I am proud my community is so strong: I am grieved that its youth now may see us always in conflict with an uncaring "hearing world."

This is not Israel. This is not a war between two ancient civilizations. But here too the American people have stood up for what they believe in. In Israel Rachel Cory stood for peace and died for it. In America one death led to the beginning of awareness that things still needed to change. Are we going to need to go that far for the right to determine, essentially, our own futures? To have Deaf people's education, at least, free of barriers and oppression?

Why do I offer you these words? They seem depressing. Because I think you are like me. You do not want to see this kind of fight: it's dirty, it's a barroom brawl, and it's getting nasty on both sides. We both want to see a peace. But this is getting down to the bone of principle now. This is getting down to the role and responsibility of a University's President to lead and protect the community. In Loco Parentis, no, but yes, the guidance of people who lead us through a more complicated education to the next stage of adulthood, and a career. Would you use a bulldozer on your child? Even on your neighborhood's children? I wouldn't. Not for the world. Do we need someone who would, as a President of Gallaudet University? And so I use these thoughts to give me fire. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by a strong University: a barrier-free education for everyone including barrier free "protection," and a barrier-free future. Wasn't it old "Bulldozer" Jordan himself who once said "Deaf people can do anything except hear?"

375: When Bulldozers Attack: Mailbag Suggestions

Protestors Read This! I have been insanely busy. Right now fighting for accessibility on both sides in New York... it's not easy. So I'm doing 12 hour workdays, if not more. However, MANY people are e-mailing me and commenting on my diaries on Daily Kos showing support and suggestions. One reader e-mailed me today:
Is it possible to ask the protest lawyers to obtain emergency injuctions against the university to prevent any representative of the university from approaching protesters without either
  1. qualifications in ASL or
  2. an interpreter present with them?

This is a health and safely emergency, students have been injured, and there is a strong history of students being killed and injured by DPS/DPP in situations involving a lack of access to communication in ASL to transmit warnings / engage in discussions / negotiations.

Your lawyer can argue that this injunction is to enforce what Gallaudet Admin should already be doing as a matter of course, to make Gally enforce their own communications guidelines,and that there are serious concerns over future interaction between DPS / DPP without ASL skills and the students.

At the least, you could seek injunctions against the named individuals above.

Also - on dealing with IKJ's PR firm = From the Washington Post, an extract:
But while Gallaudet officials may not have been able to gettheir message across to the students that she's the best candidate for the job, they have made sure that at least one constituency is getting their side of the story: Congress.

Gallaudet retained Dickstein Shapiro, a Washington-based law and lobbying firm, to "educate" lawmakers about the situation on campus and lobby on appropriations issues.

A peaceful group with nothing better to do might like to get together and go down to their offices and do a peaceful sit-in protest. Take turns holding signs outside their offices every day. We've learned that outside companies hate it when the people they're slagging off suddenly turn up at their offices.

If Shapiro resign their brief, it will get around Washington fast, and isolate JKF and IKJ even more.

What do you think, Readers? I myself am SHOCKED. Don't kick the population you're supposed to serve in the ass then go to Congress and say "Look at the bad deaf people! We're the good deaf people, so protect us!" Since Day One I have been begging the administration to talk TO Deaf people and protestors. Instead they have manured protestors and now bulldozed them... and today they've hired lawyers to tell Congress their side of the story. What do they think is going to happen even if Congress supports them? Are 83% of teachers going to change their minds? Are the students? Are the 4,000 who walked onto the Capitol?

That being said, if protestors are serious, you need to get your shit together and start letter-writing campaigns to everyone's senators and congressmen. Gallaudet students come from all over the country: the stake of these holders is national.

Make some simple "Did you know?" flyers about the protest. Start passing these out to people on the streets.

Has anyone contacted local Unions? This is a civil rights issue. The ADA and freedom of communication is a civil right. Unions are big supporters of that. And if people give you shit, saying stuff like "Oh, stupid protesting Deaf people," remember that hearing protestors started this country. We're just following suit. I close with this comment from Nonnie9999 on DailyKos:

i read about the situation at gallaudet... (2+ / 0-)

just last week. i hadn't heard about it until i read a diary here. it just so happens that my best friend lives and works in the dc area. we email each other everyday and talk about everything. she mentioned that the students were on strike at gallaudet and she was distressed that they were doing so. she had only seen the newspaper and tv accounts. i told her about the diary i had read and about articles i read after googling. i sent her the links and told her not to believe everything she reads in the papers. she was totally unaware of the students' side of the story (as well as quite a few of the instructors and alumni). she now sees the story in a whole new light.

isn't it sickening when the truth can't be told and discussed? instead, they just pr eveything to death. all surface, no substance.
by nonnie9999 on Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 08:36:10 PM PDT

See? Hearing people get it. This isn't just a "deaf people" thing. It's time for the protest to get some more allies. The ACLU?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

374: Out of Context: How To Oppress Deaf People Part 1

In my post about why the Gallaudet community is protesting, I talked about "gatekeepers" and how "gatekeepers" block the points of intersection between the Deaf community and other American communities. Today I want to talk about one method people use to talk about the larger Deaf community which helps to oppress them: Isolation.

Isolate the group. Instead of talking about the group as if it's a minority, talk about it as if it's special, with special needs and special help. This happens all the time with Deaf people. People talk about our community as if we exist in a vaccuum. Deaf Studies tries to place Deaf people in the constellation of other oppressed peoples. Paulo Freire's work showed you can only educate people in an empowering way by helping them understand their place in the world in the context of race, gender, class, and culture. People who speak about "Deaf people" as a special case oppress them. This is why I compare the community of Deaf people to Women, Gay people, Black people, Hispanic people, etc. In all these groups you have a core activist community, naysayers, really everything you have in the Deaf community. When someone like Fernandes isolates Deaf people, when they don't look at them in terms of other American communities, they open the door to "special needs" that only "Gatekeepers" can understand.
Example: Fernandes has repeatedly said she wants to "lead" Deaf people. (Note she doesn't say "teach" Deaf people. That might end up with them speaking for themselves. Can't have that.) She has also said she is the only one who can lead Gallaudet. What does this imply? This implies Deaf people are "special," need a special "leader," are unable to think for or speak for themselves, or even learn. To hearing people who listen to Fernandes, this kind of message reinforces the image of Deaf people as needing "help," "guidance," and "rehabilitation." To the Deaf community, it reinforces the image that we cannot lead ourselves, that the last 30 years or so of improvements in education and technology have groomed no leaders.

Would a Woman who wants to lead a Woman's college ever say anything like this? No. She would be shouted out by the many Women activists in America. Her comments would be called patronizing. She would be seen as an outmoded relic of the past. Her goal is obviously to keep herself on top and in control.
Example 2: Bobby Cox and others ask why it is culturally Deaf, ASL using people who seem to be most strongly against Fernandes. While there is a mix of groups in the protest, it is true that people from the Deaf community are in the lead. The focus of Cox's comment discussion was on the Deaf part of that phrase. Commentors ignored the "community" part. Yet this is important, and understanding how this works with other groups will help us understand how it works with ours. What is a community? A group of people who share information. Of course the Deaf community is most strongly against her selection as President: they have ten years of information to share. New students, who aren't in the loop yet, aren't going to know this for a while.

Think about Women at a Women's college. Of course people who've been there for a while will know the politics of that college and people's individual histories. A new student will not have this information, and will not understand why people are upset until they do research. And this is what's happened at Gallaudet, as people learn more and decide there's reason to become involved.

But we can't see this when Deaf people are isolated and part of a vaccuum. When we compare to other types of communities, it becomes obvious. Yet most people still talk about the Deaf community as if it's special. It is unique, yes. But so special that the same rules of human interaction and oppression, etc. etc etc don't apply? Of course not!

Part of the point of Deaf studies is to get beyond this. Instead of special people with special needs, we are trying to become a minority community demanding equality.

Monday, October 23, 2006

373: Gallaudet In Trouble: whose fault?

In the latest twist at the Gallaudet protest - reportedly Jordan sent out the following memo which tries to blame the protest for problems with accreditation for the University:
October 22, 2006

TO: Members of the Campus Community
FR: I. King Jordan
RE: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

As most of you know, we submitted our five-year Periodic Review Report (PRR) to the Middle States Association (MSA) on June first. This Report was developed by a 14-member committee of faculty, staff, students, and administrators. A draft of the report was reviewed by the Faculty Senate, which provided feedback that was incorporated into the report and a draft was made available to the campus community for review and feedback as well. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is scheduled to act on our PRR in November and make a decision about reaffirmation of the University’s accreditation.

Last week, the vice president of the Commission contacted me and informed me that the Commission is concerned about the protest that led to closure of the University for three days and that there is concern about how this affects compliance with accreditation standards.

I have been asked to submit a response to MSA’s concern in early November so that the Commission can incorporate it into their deliberations. I will share my response with the campus community.

I know you are aware of how important MSA accreditation is to the University and to our graduates as they seek employment and further education. I will keep you informed of any further communication and action by MSA.

In this memo he tries to blame the protest for causing problems with Gallaudet's accreditation. But Gallaudet's been having problems since Fernandes was illegally chosen as provost, without the usual involvement of the University Faculty! And a big part of the problem is that they are ignoring the needs of students, as Ridor points out in his recent post:
Some people said that they disagreed with the idea of civil disobedience and that we should open a dialogue with Fernandes, Jordan and all that silly putzes. I understand their views but they are wrong. Know why? We already did. I used to volunteer for the SBG’s Deaf Issues Department and I had been observing different departments within the SBG who made a lot of efforts to recommend many things that can enhance Gallaudet’s place in the society.

The recommendations has been consistently *ignored*. Sending the letters to them has been unanswered. Bringing up the issues in meetings with ehse administrators always resulted in things like, “Oh, that is good idea. I’ll bring it up with others.”
Look at this e-mail from Jordan as recently as February 2006, months before the protest began, where he tries to backpedal:
“The Provost and I knew that the OMB assessment was taking place over the past year. But when we inquired about Gallaudet’s participation in the process we were told it was primarily about the ED’s oversight responsibilities, and that we were not invited to participate in meetings, help interpret data, or even allowed to comment on preliminary findings. In other words, we had no direct involvement in the OMB assessment.

“Fortunately, the PART rating had no negative impact on Gallaudet’s appropriation request, but it could have a temporary effect on the University’s image. That is why it is important for every member of the campus community to understand the true purpose of the OMB report, which is to evaluate the ED’s oversight responsibilities relative to Gallaudet’s federally funded programs. Gallaudet has been serving people who are deaf and hard of hearing for nearly 150 years and our thousands of successful alumni are proof that, regardless of what this report says, ours is an extraordinarily effective University.

This is bullshit. The PART report is a new report, but they have a website with clear indicators of what they're looking for. Why are their requirements such a surprise? And as you can see here on the government's webpage although Jordan has promised to fix the problem, Gallaudet still has a rating of 16%:

Programs receiving this rating are not using your tax dollars effectively. Ineffective programs have been unable to achieve results due to a lack of clarity regarding the program's purpose or goals, poor management, or some other significant weakness.

* Gallaudet failed to meet its goals or showed declining performance in key areas, including the number of students who stay in school, graduate, and either pursue graduate degrees or find jobs upon graduation. For example, Gallaudet graduates who find employment commensurate with their education declined from 90% in 2001 to 69% in 2005.
* The Department of Education lacks a schedule and mechanism for monitoring federally funded programs at Gallaudet. The Department does not conduct site visits on a regular basis to Gallaudet, document its use of funds, assess program data quality, or the University's compliance with its governing legislation.
* The Department of Education has not evaluated the federally funded programs at Gallaudet to ensure that they are operating effectively, addressing the needs of their service population, addressing their statutory purpose, and achieving results.

It said that today - months after Jordan and Fernandes promised to repair the damage. And today Gallaudet Protestors are demanding a fully accessible campus-that the DPS, for example, who are supposed to protect them, be able to sign. Isn't this one of the needs of the service population? Maybe the REAL problem is that the Gallaudet Protest demonstrates that Gallaudet is NOT meeting the real needs of its service population- and people are noticing.

Moreover - Fernandes herself threatened the Board of Trustees with a violation of fiduciary duties. That tells me there are/were serious problems at Gallaudet which have nothing to do with the Protest which are not being addressed. But as Jordan's February letter shows, this program has a history of problems - which involve both President and Provost. Now they're trying to use the protest to get out of responsibility for their failures. Even the protest itself is a result of their failure to deal with student concerns.

372: Monday Protest Tips

Usually I look through the news for info about Deaf people but the news is full of Gallaudet today. I want to ask you a question. When you see an article that doesn't interview the GuFSSA side - that only talks to Fernandes - do you email the newspaper? Do you email the magazine? Are you contacting authors to point out they do not give a fair and balanced view of the issues?

Even TIME magazine asks Jane Fernandes to explain her opposition, instead of the opposition itself! 4,000 Strong and they still listen to ONE WOMAN'S OPINION. And you know what her opinion boils down to? That we're sick. Living in fantasy. Want to go back to the old world. Or maybe we're just afraid of implants. (I notice Jane hasn't got one.) That's what she's implying. The creative reporters do the rest.

Protestors! You need a group of hearing allies and Deaf computer jockeys to work hard on responding to this message. Otherwise you are going to remain looking like selfish children, which is how they paint protestors and all Deaf people right now.

I am so sick of Fernandes making the Deaf community look like trash.

Friday, October 20, 2006

371: new dailykos posting

Just posted my 370 diary on DailyKos, with the following change:
If a group of gay people protested that a gay leader was doing terribly, and the leader said, "They think I'm not gay enough," what would happen?

If a group of black people protested that a black leader was going terribly, and the leader said, "They think I'm not black enough," what would happen?

This is what happens when Deaf people protest that a Deaf leader is doing terribly, and the leader says, "They think I'm not Deaf enough."

Check it out. Be interesting to see how other communities react.

370: Why Is The Gallaudet Community Protesting?

Why is the Gallaudet protest happening? Why has the entire University risen in arms? In Dr. Paddy Ladd's book, Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood, he explains that throughout the history of Deaf people, going back to, oh, the 1600's, there have always been institutions and places where a group of "gatekeepers" block the point between the Deaf community and everyone else. By negotiating what goes in and out, they have tremendous power over both communities. They inflate their egoes with this power: they are the people who know how to make the magic happen, who know how to "manage the Deaf." They also create an atmosphere of oppression.

Here in America we have our own "gatekeepers." Of course it works a little differently in America because our history is different, but the principle is the same. The appointment of Fernandes as Provost by circumventing shared governance approval by the Faculty was only a foreshadowing of what was to come later. And her comments to the Washington Post that she is the "only one" who can lead the Deaf community is similarly ominious.

"Gatekeepers" rise because of the communication differences of the Deaf community. They manipulate the politics of difference to create spaces for themselves. Often in Europe, "gatekeepers" were superintendents of schools, missioners in churches who helped run Deaf clubs. In the past these "gatekeepers" were always hearing people. During Deaf President Now we fought for a President who was physically deaf hoping he would at least understand our needs because they were his own. He has responded by distancing himself from our community and turning into the very type of person DPN protestors were trying to get rid of. So, too, has Dr. Jane Fernandes, with her comments of "not Deaf enough," their decision to block the use of interpreters by students, all of their strategies are "gatekeeper" strategies. We want someone to speak to us, not for us - and especially at Gallaudet University, we need someone who can teach Deaf youth to speak for themselves. All kinds of Deaf youth. This is what I mean by capital-D Deaf: it is something my supervisor at work, who is hearing, can do: the ability to see d/Deaf people as, well, people: something key to the concept Ladd calls Deafhood:
Deafhood is not, however, a 'static' medical condition like 'deafness.' Instead, it represents a process - the struggle by each Deaf child, Deaf family and Deaf adult to explain to themselves and each other their own existence in the world. In sharing their lives with each other as a community, and enacting those explanations rather than writing books about them, Deaf people are engaged in a daily praxis, a continuing internal and external dialogue. (p.3, "Understanding Deaf Culture" by Ladd)

This is why I wanted to see a Jane Fernandes walking into protest groups back in May, sitting down with them, and figuring out what the hell is going on. That kind of proof would probably have ended the protest. That would have turned her from a "gatekeeper" into someone who empowers, a person who lifts up people who still, yes, experience discrimination, and come to Gallaudet so they can experience barrier-free education and grow strong as they can before going back into a pretty tough world. When the protestors took the gates it was more than a metaphor.

Now, it is true Fernandes has a reputation for raising expectations. But these raised expectations are useless without also raised standards for communication, especially when it comes to Deaf people. When you have Professors who can only speak in pidgin sign language, it doesn't matter how well-published they are: you wouldn't let someone teach Foucault in baby talk. And truthfully, when you are a "gatekeeper" you are interested in maintaining class systems, groups within society. It enables you to manipulate the society more. When Fernandes said she was "not Deaf enough," she was exploiting the divisions within our own society to create a support base for herself.

That is why protestors want unity for Gallaudet. It is difficult to continue to be a "gatekeeper" when everyone on the other side works together: the gate gets crashed.

This is the bridge between the Deaf President Now protest and this one, though Jordan said they have nothing in common. They are about the same thing: it is only that our understanding has improved. Now we target the behavior, not the person. It really doesn't matter if someone is hearing or deaf (although it's probably better to have a deaf person in the position, for role model and inspiration purposes at least.) It matters if they create a barrier - or tear one down. When Fernandes decided to have a radio interview, without captions, wasn't she putting up a symbolic barrier? A hand in the face of the Gallaudet community? Does she have more commitment to the Washington Post than she does to the teachers and students she's been working with for almost ten years?

This is the heart of Deafhood: this willingness to be part of the community while still being yourself. To talk to each other. Look at Ridor, look at Elisa, look at MishkaZena, look at me, look at Erfo, the bloggers on DeafDC... some of us have implants. Some of us were raised Orally. Some of us are Deaf people from Deaf families. And we have built this amazing community online, despite our differences. And many, many of us have no confidence in Fernandes, because of these things I have outlined. Former Fernandes supporters have spoken to me, traumatized by her demeaning "not Deaf enough" comments, and I note that Feldman on is also bothered by the fact her recent radio interview was not captioned. This is why the protest is happening: we want someone who will talk to us, despite our differences, and help our community continue its climb.

(it's sorta buff and blue)

Next: How to Crash the Gates

Addendum: I wrote this essay two days ago. In the meantime, Fernandes has continued "gatekeeper" behavior. People ask why she's so desperate to hold on to her position. Erfo mentioned something to me today which makes sense: Where would she go? Zinser was hearing and could go to work anywhere she pleased. But where would Fernandes go? Especially now? I really doubt anyone with her style of management would get anywhere in a hearing organization. Besides, as Eric Ketchum does, a hearing employer would check her resume - and find it wanting.