Sunday, October 29, 2006

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.

1 comment:

Carl Schroeder said...

Joseph,
You're correct! We need to set up a watchdog group to combat with public relations. Visit our letter to NCHE. We need to contact all Higher Education Assoociations and seek their advice and support.