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Jane Kelleher Fernandes (born August 21, 1956 in Worcester, Massachusetts) is a deaf educator and was the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina Asheville. On April 15, 2014, Fernandes was named the 9th President of Guilford College. She succeeded Kent Chabotar on July 1, 2014, becoming the first woman to hold this position. On August 26, 2015, Fernandes was formally inaugurated as the first female and the ninth president of Guilford College. Fernandes was the former President Designate of Gallaudet University. On October 29, 2006, the board of trustees of Gallaudet University voted to terminate the appointment of Fernandes, who had been the subject of protests following her appointment as President Designate six months earlier.
Fernandes was raised in Worcester and is the daughter of Richard Paul and Mary Kathleen (Cosgrove) Kelleher. Her family chose to raise her in an oral education program, meaning her education focused on teaching her to speak. Her mother was deaf and was raised orally, as well. When Fernandes grew older she made the decision to learn American Sign Language (ASL) and develop her involvement with the deaf community.
Early career and involvement at Gallaudet University
After graduating from Iowa, she worked for Northeastern University before coming to Gallaudet as chair of Sign Communication. Her next move was to Hawaii where she established an Interpreter Training Program and served for five years as the director of the Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind. In 1995 she returned to Gallaudet to become the vice president for the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. In 2000, she was named provost of the university by President I. King Jordan, who appointed her without consulting the faculty, a move which Jordan called "a terrible mistake".
Fernandes in her application for the university presidency wrote:
Gallaudet’s mission holds both personal and professional meaning for me. I am a white deaf woman, the daughter of a deaf mother and a hearing father, with both deaf and hearing brothers, all of whom are white people. The generations of white deaf and hearing people in my family have never signed; they have always been oral people. Having grown up deaf, I came to learn Sign Language relatively late, at the age of 23, while I was a graduate student at the University of Iowa. From that time on, I have embraced signing and visual communication as the keystone of deaf education and now the uniting feature of Gallaudet’s diverse, deaf community. While we respect a variety of communication modes and languages among deaf people, we must also unite in affirming visucentric public discourse.
Gallaudet student protests
Immediately after the announcement of the appointment of Fernandes as Gallaudet president, scores of students protested against her appointment. According to The Washington Post, "Students objected to the appointment of Jane Fernandes, who is deaf and is currently the university's provost, because she did not grow up using American Sign Language. Some students also criticized Fernandes for not having warm relations with students." Opponents of Fernandes claim that the Washington Post article (and, in general, much of the media coverage), were unable to figure out the real reasons for their opposition, although a frequently published reason was that she was "not deaf enough." The protesters pointed to her past managerial actions that they felt were questionable and did not reflect qualities of a solid leader. Fernandes also attracted opposition due to a perception that she was insufficiently committed to addressing the problem of audism (discrimination against or persecution of anyone based on hearing status). The student paper took polls a few days before the selection. Of those faculty members who responded, 36% gave Fernandes an "acceptable" rating, compared to 53% and 64% for the two other finalists. On October 29, 2006, the Board of Trustees of Gallaudet University rescinded her contract to be the ninth President of Gallaudet and terminated her in her position as President-designate.
Fernandes is married to James John Fernandes and has two children, Sean William and Erin Frances.
Fernandes is the first female president of Guilford College, as well as the first deaf female leader of any American college or university.
- Jane Fernandes named President of Guilford College
- Guilford College Welcomes New President Jane K. Fernades
- Gallaudet Rejects Incoming President - Associated Press, October 29, 2006
- Myers, Bill. "Gallaudet chief says successor being punlished for old mistake," Washington Examiner, May 10, 2006, page 5.
- Thacker, Paul (October 18, 2006). "Gallaudet's President Has His Say". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
- Application of Fernandes Application at the Wayback Machine (archived June 18, 2006)
- Kinzie, Susan (May 3, 2006). "Gallaudet Names New President". The Washington Post.
- Kinzie, Susan (May 3, 2006). "Ideas Exchanged as Protest Continues at Gallaudet". The Washington Post.