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, blip.tv 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 deafread.com 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 DeafDc.com 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.

369: My Response to Dr. Jane Fernandes

Elisa reports today on a meeting Faculty had with Jane Fernandes:
When the faculty were informed Fernandes was ready, they all got together. MJ Bienvenu, a faculty member, told Fernandes that the purpose of the meeting was to let her know that 82% of the faculty wants her to resign and what she would do with this lack of support. Fernandes answered that she would not resign. The faculty asked her why. Fernandes said, “I’m the only one who can lead the university.”

Does she realize that at 18% her approval rating is lower than Nixon's? Nixon was a VERY popular President when he was elected; during the Watergate scandal, his approval rating fell to 25%. Fernandes is at 18%.
Bienvenu was blunt with her, telling her that she was arrogant for saying that. Fernandes said that she will stay, that she has support. The faculty asked, without 82% of the support of the faculty, what can Fernandes do as a leader? Fernandes told them that she had a plan and that she wouldn’t tell them what the plan was because she’s currently focused on current issues that are popping up and adjusting the plan as she goes. The faculty asked her, what if Gallaudet falls apart and closes before she can implement the plan? Fernandes said that she would bring Gallaudet back.

Two days ago Deaf in the City reported that Fernandes in an interview with the Washington Post stated:
" . . . I'm not really thinking of resigning, no. But I'm trying to think of how . . . to work from now until January to be in a position to be where I can be effective."
This seems connected. What will happen in January? How will Fernandes be more effective in January? Is this part of her SECRET PLAN? Why is it so important her plan remain secret? Why can't she talk about it to faculty, to her TEAM, in order to convince them they should support her? It must be something that would shock and anger the entire faculty-or galvanize the protest. It also contradicts much of what she says in her own job application:
I lead “from behind and within” while focusing intently on Gallaudet’s mission and the goals and actions we must take to fulfill it. I identify individuals who can successfully do the needed work and I put my energy into cultivating their talents. The fulfillment of the University’s mission and the achievement of equitable outcomes for all students are my ultimate objectives. Finding the right people to do the work is my talent. I would characterize my style of leadership as highly participatory and focused.

Highly participatory? When she won't tell anyone what's going on? Leading from behind? That doesn't sound like the leader of the only Deaf University in the world. Her application also talks about building bridges between communities. As I have said in other blogs, it is communication which builds bridges.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

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:

Dr. Norman:

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
BREAKING: Fernandes Threatens BOT with Fiduciary Duties?!

What are Fiduciary Duties? MishkaZena:notes that in the Washington Post they report Fernandes will threaten the Board with a violation of their Fiduciary Duty. What are Fiduciary Duties? From Wikipedia:

When a fiduciary duty is imposed, equity requires a stricter standard of behaviour than the comparable tortious duty of care at common law. It is said the fiduciary has a duty not to be in a situation where personal interests and fiduciary duty conflict, a duty not to be in a situation where their fiduciary duty conflicts with another fiduciary duty, and a duty not to profit from their fiduciary position without express knowledge and consent. A fiduciary cannot have a conflict of interest. It has been said that fiduciaries must conduct themselves "at a level higher than that trodden by the crowd."[1]

So what Fernandes is threatening through the reported statements on MishkaZena's blog would not be a MONETARY obligation but a conflict of intereston the part of one, more, or all of the trustees, possibly related to Fernandes herself. It could simply be because the Board support the Gallaudet Community's demands, which is a conflict of interest to their responsibility to support the President-Select.... It could be anything. We should wait and see. But the implications of this comment seriously bothers me. It may be in going public Fernandes has overplayed her hand-won't people call for an investigation, now that it's known there's some violation? There is also this, from the same article:
" . . . I'm not really thinking of resigning, no. But I'm trying to think of how . . . to work from now until January to be in a position to be where I can be effective."

Why January? What will make Jane Fernandes more effective in January? Can someone explain?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

367: Protest History Two

Monday, October 16th, 2006: Faculty and teachers at Gallaudet issued a vote of No Confidence in the Gallaudet administration. 138 (out of 168) voted they had no confidence in the administration. 76% of all eligible University faculty were present. This is a vote of 82%, compared with 64% back in May. Meanwhile, the protests continue, with more than 1,000 faculty, teachers, students and alumni at the gates, and emotions high after 135 of these people were arrested on Friday, October 13th. How did it get this far? I will try my best to explain, using links to blogs and news articles, the journey from April, 2006 to today – although you could say the journey really began in 1988. See the first part of this series!

When we left off, the Tent City of Gallaudet had closed, and emotions were confused around the country. But the Administration, despite being on vacation, had continued the work of trying to convince the world the protest was about nothing. Over the summer the National Association of the Deaf planned a conference: at this conference, faculty and staff from Gallaudet were forced to go through training in representing the administration, ordered to speak the opinions of their overseers, and even had to distribute a DVD listing Jane Fernandes' accomplishments. Deaf Bloggers went to NAD to counter the propoganda. It turned into a political, verbal war - the kind that happen between activists that feel strongly about issues. This war continued over the summer, as people all over the country began talking about audism and deafhood. Moreover, activism seemed to disappear over the summer, although the administration continued working; blogger RidorLive went so far as to say:

FSSA Is Dead: As of now, I regret to let you know that the FSSA is dead or in state of hibernation. They seemed unable to organize anything at this point. Even with the Board Retreat at Hyatt-Dulles in Herndon, Virginia — I was told that nobody showed up. It is typical of I. King Jordan to organize things like this during the summertimes to keep the Board from interacting with the staff, faculty and students at all.

It is my hope that the students will be able to instigate this in the fall semester and do something about the Axis of Evil. It is necessary to improve Gallaudet with a clean slate. With them on the board, Gallaudet is going down and down and down.

Returning to the campus, students discovered that new rules about freedom of speech and expression had been issued which seemed to specifically ban such types of protest as had been going on in May (see first part.) These rules were so strict that a teacher from Kent State wrote in to encourage I. King Jordan to relieve the pressure (to the person who commented on my last blog that "this is like Kent State" - I had no idea about this at the time!) These new rules were objected to by the Gallaudet University Faculty, Student, Staff and Alumni Association, with one group of teachers saying:
Faculty resistance to the “Guidelines” stemmed from the perception that the rules are so numerous, specific, and complicated as to make it virtually impossible to obtain permission to demonstrate or post signs. Furthermore, the rules are heavy-handed, rigid, and created without participation of the Faculty. Finally, the rules exacerbate the current climate of fear on campus.

Back at the University, students immediately demonstrated against Audism, amid what seemed like a heightened number of attacks on Deaf people nationwide. While these attacks had nothing to do with the Gallaudet situation, they exacerbated a feeling of fear and a need for coalition.

On the 29th of August the Gallaudet Student Body Government met again to discuss the situation at Elstad Auditiorium on campus. Simultaneously many faculty wrote letters to indicate their dissent and desire to reopen the search process for a new President; interviews began with those formerly in the running. Faculty seemed to want to join together, but were confused about their ability to even meet with each other under the new guidelines:

The declaration that we do not have effective administrative leadership on campus was met with applause. We have no control over what the Board hears about this meeting because we have no true, meaningful opportunity for dialogue.

Two professors pointed out that everyone attending the meeting could be fired for insubordination because Faculty Governance had not applied for a permit to meet and express opinions, as currently required by the President’s 28 June “Guidelines” memo.

They also mentioned in that letter their frustration that not all of the Board of Trustees knew sign language, and that interpreters had to be used every time they communicated with the University Administration. Later, a letter from the Clerc Center which Fernandes had previously administrated showed that she had employed similar Faculty-organization busting tactics and similarly chose not to listen to that faculty.

On the 20th of September, the Gallaudet Student Body Government issued a vote of No Confidence in Fernandes. Some student leaders emerged; most had been too afraid to come forward in the past. These student leaders were: Ryan Commerson, Tara Holcomb, LaToya Plummer, Chris Corrigan, Delia Lozano-Martinez and Leah Katz-Hernandez.

On the 25th of September, a small group of Administration supporters issued a letter indicating they felt this was a battle between "purebloods" and "mudbloods" on campus. This seemed to continue the divisive work of the University President, who was continually saying "They think I'm not Deaf enough," pounding a meme home until it hurt. What does this theme even mean? Is it true? Who knows - that particular group never put forth definitions of any of these terms, but allowed people's imaginations to work, and much like the effects similar divisive comments have in Women's and African-American and Gay and Lesbian movements, (You're not gay enough/black enough/feminist enough) imagination can divide. This comparison fractured the community further and as Allison Kaftan has stated on her blog:

So now on top of discrimination and ignorance, we’ve just had another huge battle handed to us, courtesy of Dr. Jordan, Mercy Coogan, Dr. Fernandes, NBC, ABC, FOX, NPR, the Washington Post, CNN, and a whole bunch of other entities that have done us the favor of disseminating that wonderful phrase.

That battle will last us for years: the perception that there is a standard against which people can measure to find out whether they’re deaf enough. Decades of cultural work will have to be done.

Later, it was revealed by Ridorlive.com that one member of the Administration, Mercy Coogan, had been posting supportive articles about the administration under the nom de plume Aunt Sophie. The propaganda barrage was immense, and the climate of fear heavy.

Rumors began to fly about the re-establishment of the Tent City that had draped the campus in May. On October 1st, early in the morning, the Tent City was reestablished on the lawn by a small number of faculty and students who defied the strict rules on "freedom of expression." A few hours later, staff at the University were ordered to put fertilizer on the grounds. Allegations were made but never proven that this was an attempt to nip the protest in the bud, so to speak. Protestors pointed out that it was unusual to spread fertilizer on Monday morning when the campus had just reopened. Administration supporters pointed out it was important to keep Kendal Green, green. It was equally possible that a third party or uninterested student who simply wanted to make trouble had made the call; at this point blood seemed hot on both sides, so the issue was used as a two-edged sword. The Tent City was re-convened the next day. Protest leaders were informed that their City was illegal:

After the rally, SBG leaders met with Carl Pramuk and the SBG advisor. SBG leaders were told that if tent city is still up after 11:00 pm this evening, the contract between SBG and the Business Office would be torn up and Tent City would be banned the rest of this week.

On October 4th, 300 students walked out of classes and went to I King Jordan's office to speak with him. This was unannounced and Jordan was having a private discussion with an unidentified individual, and he slammed the door on protestors. At the same time teachers and faculty issued a statement requesting that the University reopen the discussion on the issues as had been promised in May:
Members of the Board of Trustees are the stewards of our university. Your discussions during this first week of October will make history at Gallaudet University and do much to determine its future path and the well being of its community. The Gallaudet community is looking for your leadership in forging a path towards excellence we can be proud of.

We ask that you reconsider your position and re-engage the community as you promised during those days in May.
This diplomatic letter had no effect. On October 5th the Student Body Government met with the Board of Trustees, which told them nothing could be done and that they were in a stalemate. That Friday night was a deadline the SBG had announced for discussions. At the appointed time students lined up outside of the Gallaudet Conference Center where the President was having a celebration of his work at the University. At 10 PM protestors asked if there was a response. They were told that the Board and President had no time to speak to them that night. In response to these refusals to communicate, students decided to "lockdown" the main academic building at the University, known as HMB, short for Hall Memorial Building. This was a controversial move that caused furor all over the country.

The next day students awoke to find Campus Security, not talking to them, but simply making a raid:

At 8 a.m. this morning, as students were sleeping in the SBG office, on the first floor of the already locked down HMB, officers from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) stormed in. Students were terrified, people were running everywhere, screaming. DPS started pushing and hitting students and threatening to spray mace. Some people were assaulted. Students who had been peacefully asleep, and abruptly awoken, were not resisting. We did nothing. The attack from DPS came totally unprovoked.

Once DPS officers left and we were able to collect ourselves together and survey the damage, we found several students had been hurt. We had been physically assaulted by the Gallaudet University Department of Public Safety. I cannot explain the state of mind we are in at this moment. We are shocked, extremely upset, and hurt bodily and emotionally.
Indeed, these campus officers could NOT speak to the students: there's a very short list of people in that organization who know any sign language whatsoever. Supportive tent cities began to pop up all over the world. Bomb threats were called in and this was blamed on students by the Administration, although why students would want to evacuate the building they were occupying was never explained. The incident raised emotions all over the country - indeed the world, as parents, faculty, and alumni sent in letters to the Administration appealing for a solution. The Administration encouraged the University to restore trust. Faculty were offered five minutes to speak to the Board of Trustees.

Monday, October 9th, the SBG President, Noah Beckman, worked on and negotiated with University Administration to produce a list of several demands. Tensions and hope were high. The original demands for the reopening of the search process remained; there were also additional demands for the creation of protest-safe zones and the lifting of some restrictions outlined in the Freedom of Expression guidelines issued in June. The racism students alleged infiltrated the original search process was also brought up again, a serious issue for many students. Eventually the students reduced all their requirements to one single need:
The students’ single resolution is reasonable. The student leaders agree to cease lockdown of the Hall Memorial Building if the President agrees to provide 24/7 protest safe zones and to agree to continue the negotiation process to address other issues. While there seems to be a stated University goal towards action to open the classroom building, to place a high value on education, and to respect the educational needs of students both in the protest and those who are not, President Jordan’s actions make it clear this is not his intention. Punishing the students seems to take precedence.

The request was denied and none of the other concerns were dealt with; the SBG responded with a letter explaining their efforts and frustrations, and indicating the lockdown would continue. Why was this one resolution so important? Perhaps because the students demanded at least the right to express their concerns.

At this point the Gallaudet football team made a statement. This champion team led by the famous Coach Ed Hottle, had had an incomparable 2-year winning streak. While these negotiations were going on they had finally lost their first game. Realizing that the prohibition against joining the protest was pointless if they were so freaked out about it they couldn't play football ANYWAY, they decided to throw their massive weight in with the protestors.

At this point on Tuesday, October 10th, Noah Beckman was still in the office with Jordan. It is not clear if he had been able to convey that the SBG's requests were denied, but with the increase in number that came with the addition of the team (and the mental weight of knowing that the looked-up to members of this important team had made a commitment to the struggle) the decision was made to lock down the campus as well as the HMB. This lockdown included the Clerc Center, although students were able to leave and return to campus, a fact later denied by University administration (although supported by teachers at the institution themselves.) Students were angered that they were being represented as helpless children. When the campus lockdown happened this night, there were several problems communicating with the Media. The Media did not bring any sign language interpreters themselves; and according to this statement by one member of Gallaudet's Interpreting Services, the University administration stopped paying for interpreters. (Later there were reports of firings within GIS for the revelation of this information.) Students were asking for donations, but in the meantime, several days passed before they began getting part of their message across.

On Wednesday, October 11th the campus was locked down. News about the protest began to trickle through to the media. Faculty issued statements supporting the right to freedom of expression. Supportive protests continued in cities all over the world, including Los Angeles. University Faculty requested the resignation of Fernandes in light of her inability to resolve the crisis.

On Thursday, October 12th, the lockdown continued. Parents came together to write a letter supporting the protest, angered that the campus police could not communicate with the students.

On Friday, October 13th, 2006, what some are now calling "Black Friday," 135 teachers, students and faculty were arrested for refusing to move from the gates and allow the campus to open. During these arrests, the 7th of which was Tim Rarus, one of the leaders of Deaf President Now, huge spotlights were used to blind Deaf students:
There's a bright light so they can't see the interpreters.
They blinding the students sitting
It's a spotlight (mz) (from a liveblogger during the protest
Read the liveblog of the arrests here!

And on Saturday, October 14th, 1000 were protesting at the front gate. At this point, 45 Tent Cities of support are growing around America.

Sunday, October 15th saw this amazing letter from mental health professionals in the Deaf community who I personally greatly respect.

On Monday, October 16th, the faculty of Gallaudet issued the vote of 'no confidence' described in the first paragraph of this post. On Tuesday, October 17th Jordan issued a letter (note the date on his own letter is wrong, and it's only four days since Black Friday) with four statements: that the search process for the Gallaudet Presidency was indeed diverse, that Fernandes deserves the opportunity to try the University out (like a new car, as if they haven't seen her work for the past ten years!), that students will be punished because they have broken a code he basically rewrote over the summer in order to, well, punish them, and that this is nothing like the Gallaudet Protest. To this last he is entirely wrong. The Gallaudet Protest in 1988 was about oppression from hearing people who were acting as Gatekeepers to the Deaf Community. In 2006, we have the same problem: it is like there are two bubbles, touching each other, and Jordan and Fernandes stand blocking the flat surface where the bubbles touch. One bubble is the Deaf community. The other bubble? America.


At this point all is stalemate. Europe sends its love, and there will be rallies today in support of the protest. The Board of Trustees has split on the issue. Protestors still lie outside the gates. Homecoming has been cancelled. Faculty appear disgusted with the inept handling and letters of the administration (more on that in the future.) The administration seem completely oblivious to the concerns of the Faculty, Staff, Student and Alumni Association. Kenneth Berrigan is on a hunger strike. And as yet nobody has been able to explain why to many hearing people's satisfaction - although I'll attempt to, in my next post. Jane Fernandes has used the racist comment that we're judging her based on whether she's Deaf enough. She just gave an interview to the Washington Post on the radio. It wasn't captioned. (Transcript here.) More today as events develop, and an analysis of what's happening in the community because of this protest.

Monday, October 16, 2006

366: Monday Morning news & tea roundup

My History of the Gallaudet Protest, Part One seems to have gone over VERY well. It was crossposted at DailyKos a democratic site to raise awareness. As a result many Democrats are contibuting to and getting involved with GUFSSA. Do you know what? Not ONE person said it was wrong of students to protest. One of the more interesting discussions (remember Harvard University President Summers insulted women at the University?:)
I still feel there was a great chance Fernandes could have nipped this in the bud back in May. People were not so convinced then. Now several months later, with injuries on both sides, both sides are running on pride and spit.

I wonder. What would happen if this was Harvard and 135 faculty and students were arrested because of protesting concerns about the administration? What would be different?

by joseph rainmound on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 08:39:02 PM PDT
You know, at Harvard they didn't have to get to that point. They offed Summers' head as fast as the faculty could undermine him. Even after he offered a mea culpa.

by Prime Number on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 08:56:45 PM PDT
That was clipped for space, but you can check out the whole discussion on DailyKos. We were on the TOP TEN diary list for several hours! I also want to post pictures and more pictures! Two great photographers. Also as of 8pm last night the latest news from protestors on the ground after letters from the administration last night. And more and more student governments and Deaf Studies depts. at colleges and universities around the country are showing support. However criticism still mounts that the University was shut down; opponents say that this has made Gallaudet students little more than thugs, despite the University's repeated refusal to consider or allow shared governance since 2000. Think of the American political problems: we have a system of checks and balances, which is currently out of order. As it is faculty and teachers at many - if not all - departments of Gallaudet have submitted votes of no confidence and other concerns.

Tea: Chamomile. (My friend mentioned going caffeine free. I felt guilty about being on my third cup of coffee, so I decided to cut down. 3rd day clean of 'ffeine!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

365: A History of the Gallaudet Protest, Part One

Crossposted at Daily Kos.

Friday, October 13th, 2006: 135 teachers, faculty students and alumni of Gallaudet University were arrested in a protest. Gallaudet University is the only University for Deaf people in the world. The protest continues - at the front gates of the University, and almost a thousand strong as concerned alumni fly in and teachers and faculty gain the courage to join the protest. The protest is about many things now, as injustice has piled upon injustice, but it began with the selection of a 9th President who many felt was not appropriate for the position due to a personal history of the College as Director of Pre-College National Mission Programs and then Provost. How did it get this far? I will try my best to explain, using links to blogs and news articles, the journey from April, 2006 to today – although you could say the journey really began in 1988.

The Beginning of the Protest: May 2006

In May I King Jordan announced his impending resignation as President of Gallaudet University. Soon after he accidentally introduced Provost Jane Fernandes as President Jane Fernandes. Soon after that the search process for selection of the President ended.

No, I didn’t get the order wrong. This was one of the problems. Freudian slip or not, it made people nervous during the search process for a new President. Fernandes, then the University Provost for six years, was not the popular choice. It was reported that:

...a recent Faculty poll showing that Dr. Fernandes has an acceptability rate among the Faculty of only 36%, while the other two finalists had much higher acceptability rates of 53% (Stern) and 64% (Weiner)

There were also accusations of racism in the search process:
Did you honestly believe that deaf people of color and any reasonable person would agree with your “assertion” that race was NOT an issue when we find a candidate who met the most important profile requirements, has been in possession of an earned doctorate from a respected university for over 20 years and happens to be a person of color and yet is deemed inferior or not a better candidate than a white man who we believe should have been screened out in the very first applicants screening process for the simple reason he did not possess a doctorate degree for a position that absolutely requires one?

But much controversy specifically followed Jane Kelleher Fernandes.

Fernandes' History

Jane Fernandes came to Gallaudet as Director of Pre-College National Mission Programs, now called Clerc Center, a high school and elementary school for Deaf children on the campus of Gallaudet University. At the time it was the most progressive Deaf school in the country. Deaf children were achieving impressive levels of education in the school, equalling if not surpassing hearing peers. Dancers and actors from the school appeared at Presidential inaugurations at at the Kennedy Center. The list of misfires and terrible examples of leadership written by the Clerc Center faculty recently is impressive. Teachers and students left the school in droves.

When she became Provost in 2000 amid controversy that the University decided to circumvent the usual shared-governance search process involving the faculty in her selection, Fernandes was soon faced with a situation on campus: a growing movement to understand Audism, a form of discrimination against deaf people based on biological or cultural difference. (some of my own thoughts here. The Student Body Government in developed a set of mandates, based on research completed in the 30 years since the Stokoe revolution, about the use of American Sign Language on Campus, and suggested the need for better evaluation systems for faculty and staff on campus to achieve the fully accessible environment promised on the University webpage. This was revolutionary; while Pre-College National Mission Programs had been famous for a fully-accessible ASL environment, where all teachers could sign all the time (none of that funny business about having conversations right over the heads of children, which is not conducive to positive feeling or learning) this is still uncommon in America, where support for the new concepts derived from Stokoe’s research was still slow in growing, though European countries were several years into their implementation.

Students report that Gallaudet campus police and even some Professors cannot sign ASL fluently. The Audism Mandates encouraged the administration to determine the ASL fluency of incoming students and provide education on the job so that their skills could be bettered. The same would be required of students. Notice the emphasis on raising standards for staff AND students – a minimum proficiency level in both languages, and a campus-wide ASL/English mentoring program. This was community-based effort at change at its finest. It came about despite, not because of, the environment at the college, which has never chosen to recognize ASL as the official language of instruction at the University. The benefits are obvious – a barrier-free environment where the student can learn without a support system such as a notetaker or interpreter, where the teacher can be a direct model for the student. Not to mention the increases in safety and health, with a Sign-Language using medical staff and campus police. Some have compared the psychological effects as being similar to the difference for women, going to a women’s college, or gay teenagers at a special school, or prodigies at a school designed to fit their needs. Without these barriers, the students learn more quickly and their education is of higher quality; they can then bring a higher level of skills to the work force – as well as their unique perspective. (I realize this is a lot to take in: this protest has become the nexus of many, many issues.)

An additional concern about Fernandes was Gallaudet's failure at program assessment during her tenure as Provost, raising concerns about Gallaudet's federal funding.

When the Gallaudet Board of Trustees’ selection of Fernandes was announced on May 1st, 2006, there was a public outcry. At first people were bewildered enough to seem in shock; but almost immediately an organized protest formed into a tent city on the campus.

The Tent City has become legendary in the Deaf Community now. You must understand the interest Deaf people around the world have in Gallaudet University. Right now, 1000 Protesters stand at the front gate of the University. Tent Cities have sprung up in Deaf communities and Deaf Studies depts. at Universities around America and the world. This article on Inside Higher Ed. explains the reasons for the intensity of the protest at that time:

There’s no doubt that with the departure of Jordan, Gallaudet will assume a new direction. In the 18 years since Deaf President Now, we’ve shown the world that deaf people are in fact capable of doing anything except hearing. That’s the Catch-22. DPN made it possible for deaf students to go to any college in the United States and be successful. Gallaudet has stayed symbolic, inspiring those who go to Princeton, but not always attracting those same students. We have always been the best deaf university in the world, because competition is so thin. But we’re not satisfied with that. We want the best and brightest students, the ones who now have educational opportunities that were never available before. And that’s why we need a president with all the right qualities, not just someone who shares our deafness.

The faculty issued a vote of no confidence on May 9th but this was rarely reported in the media:
The Gallaudet University Board of Trustees’ announcement on May 1st of the selection of Dr. Jane K. Fernandes as president-select shook Gallaudet University and the global deaf community. Immediate responses from diverse groups and individuals on and off campus indicated a profound sense of betrayal, disenfranchisement, and powerlessness.
The immediate response was: These are just culturally Deaf people with an agenda. The FSSA protestors were accused of vandalism and tensions were indeed very high. The FSSA responded with a statement that their group was diverse, but the meme took, and soon almost all the newspapers called it "a squabble about what it means to be a Deaf person." Fernandes was raised outside of Deaf culture and did not come to it later in life and does not use American Sign Language, but a code called SimCom which was popular late in the 20th Century before SimCom was generally considered to be a confusing failure in education:
Research has shown that Simultaneous Communication (often referred to as "TC" or "Simcom") compromises both English and American Sign Language. The user's native language generally dominates the other. This attempt to use two languages in two different modes simultaneously (like trying to write Chinese and speak English at the same time) presents a mixed and confusing model.

While ASL does have strong ties to the Deaf cultural identity, it is not the sole indicator, and here it obviously has greater importance than the administration is admitting. In the more recent protests in DC, for example, when being arrested, one man turned and shouted to the crowd: “I am doing this for my two children.” Students wanted to see progression in the leadership of the University also. For them, Fernandes, using an outmoded system, represented the past. This is also the reason for the identity-politics meme: one commonly-spread fear is that ASL-using Deaf people do not learn to read or write. (Note: I use ASL.) Also, Fernandes as provost had not responded to the Audism Mandates, which again was part of the fight for improved communication at the University. Many were sure the vote was rigged. Faculty resigned, particularly Celia May Baldwin over the controversy.

After the no-confidence vote by the University Faculty, Fernandes reiterated her commitment to not leaving; she planned to become President. The Gallaudet FSSA affirmed their commitment to the protest; although they negotiated throughout this period with the Board of Trustees, the general consensus is that the BOT did not address their concerns:

And, while we appreciate that the Board of Trustees recognizes the importance of a diversity plan to enhance our multi-cultural community, we are dismayed that they have entrusted the responsibility for facilitating this plan to Dr. Fernandes. Although Dr. Fernandes claims diversity as her strength in leadership, she has demonstrated that she lacks awareness of how her approach thus far has been controlling, non-inclusive, and lacking in transparency and equity. She has not only failed to unite the Gallaudet community, she has divided and severely hurt our community with her identity politics and inequitable diversity strategies.
Although there were calls for people to do something about the issue, the stalemate continued until May 31st, 2006 when the University closed. The Tent City closed also: protestors went home, promising to return in the fall, despite some who said they should stay on campus.


I lifeblogged the arrests in a diary here the other night.

For me this is about many issues. It has ties, for me, to science-deniers around the country, to oppression, to union-busting (Fernandes encouraged the Clerc Center faculty organization and programs to disband), to shared governance, to civil rights inasmuch as communication access under the ADA is a civil right. Tomorrow will be part 2, as I try to put together the events of the last month at the University.