368: My Response to Dr. Jane Norman
Dr. Norman posted an open letter on DeafDC.com today. This part of her letter made me think:
My colleagues, work with Dr. Jane Fernandes in a peaceful, positive, productive non-sabotaging manner. Think of Deaf children throughout the world. Turning against one of our own is not going to help us. She is one of us. Whether you deny it or not, the days of using the white deaf yardstick are long gone. It has been said that Gallaudet has serious issues with audism and racism. That is true. Few would deny it. To change this we must work together. And the truth is, there is no one more willing and ready to work with you on these crucial problems than Dr. Jane Fernandes and I.
We will benefit by working with all toward the common good of Gallaudet.
This is my response below:
I would like to hear your perspective on why you believe the protestors are behaving as you claim. You state protestors have been heard. Protestors claim their requests are denied. Before the lockdown at Gallaudet, the Administration refused to listen to any of the SBG's requests. You seem to feel the perspective is without value, because you do not agree with it. Why, then, would they do this? I should like to hear your rationale. Do you really believe all these people are protesting out of stubborn childishness? Please back up your words with documentary proof.
I appreciate your comments, and would like to see an end to this stalemate, but to say that the protestors should accept you do not agree with them, is also to say you must accept that they do not agree with you. 82% of the faculty and the Clerc Center do not agree with you. They have had ten years of experience working with Ms. Fernandes, and she is not a stranger who should simply be given a chance, as you insinuate. Nobody has responded to concerns about her track record, when they are raised: they resort to the same message you did, a confused garble about Deaf community and culture which I feel does more to alienate us from the rest of the world than it does to bring us together. The fact is plenty of concerns and frustrations about Fernandes have been raised which have nothing to do with her status as a deaf or Deaf person. In fact there are people from every tribe in the Deaf nation among the protestors: hearing people, deaf people, Deaf people, people with implants, people without, people learning ASL, interpreters, etc. etc. This is not a protest from one tiny bit of the Deaf community, although certain specific actions might be.
And on the other hand - your comments seem to contradict Fernandes' own vision. She envisions a University with "communication diversity." This seems to me like Babel Tower. Your recommendation is that protestors focus on "promoting ASL for all Deaf children throughout this nation and sign language for all Deaf children throughout the world;" shouldn't they begin at home? Isn't Gallaudet to be the example for the nation?
I agree with you that the way forward must be together. As a team. There must be more listening and responding on both sides. As it is one criticism of the administration is its adherence to a party line instead of an honest discourse. Neither their message or meaning has changed. This is the source of much frustration in the community by the gates.
Also, I understand your list of things which you feel the Deaf community should focus on. We have united because of this particular issue. I believe our unity will continue after this issue is dealt with. I encourage you to reconsider. The events at Gallaudet are powerful. They will not be resolved by the divisive tactics of this administration.
Joseph Santini, M.Sc., Deaf Studies