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?


Ridor said...

A minor correction -- Fernandes was NOT asked to resign. She was terminated, in other words, she was fired.

My suspicion is that when she made a comment slamming the students as terrorists/anarchists, the Board finally saw how divisive she can do as a leader of Gallaudet. But we'll never know for sure.

But you're right, the war is not done. Many students, alumni, faculty and staff that I met all night long -- they all contended that we have to keep going and ensure that we address the issues to avoid the similar situation in the future.

ASL proficiency, Audism, racism and the make-up of the BOTs has to be addressed.



Anonymous said...

I agree. We have not won the war yet!! The removal of Jane Kelleher Fernandes from the position is only a first step toward genuinely reforming Gallaudet University. The Agents of Colonization and their Byzantine power structure must be uprooted next. Otherwise they will grow back on our heads blocking any further progress.

The Board respectfully asked the students to continue with 'cleaning up'. So why not do that?! The Board declared that the best interest of the school was the removal of the designate. Therefore whoever worked for the designate, often with undignified methods, worked against Gallaudet interest! Therefore, consequences are expected to take place.

We have every reason to celebrate, but we need to keep in mind: the empowerment of the Deaf community at Gallaudet is not yet complete until reforms -- based on self-determination and cultural autonomy -- are not worked out and are not implemented. Only the success of reforms can crown our efforts with a sense of genuine achievement.