Unity for Gallaudet

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The Unity for Gallaudet Movement is a protest movement started by students, faculty and alumni of Gallaudet University and other sympathizers who do not support the nomination of Dr. Jane Fernandes as president of the university. I. King Jordan, Gallaudet University's previous president who was brought into the office as a result of the [1] Deaf President Now Movement announced his retirement for the end of 2006. His successor was narrowed to three possible candidates - the two that were eliminated were Ronald Stern and Stephen Weiner, leaving Fernandes the presidency.

Critics of the protest, including Jordan, claimed that the protestors felt Fernandes was "not deaf enough", because despite being born with a hearing impairment, she did not learn ASL until adulthood. However, many of the protestors objected to Fernandes on organizational grounds, claiming that she was not in touch with the students, and ill-liked by the faculty.

Ultimately, these protests forced the board of trustees rescinded its appointment of Fernandes. The board appointed Robert Davila as the interim president of the college for the next two years.

Spring protest[edit]

On May 1, 2006, Celia May Baldwin, the chairperson of Board of Trustees, announced Dr. Jane Fernandes as the 9th president of Gallaudet University. During the announcement, Ryan Commerson, a graduate student well known forpus security.[citation needed] As a result, there was an unspoken and unplanned exodus of weenie students and recent alumni to the center of campus from the auditorium and several other announcement viewing areas.[citation needed]

Sworn in that day as the Student Body Government president, the newly elected Noah Beckman got up on the same temporary stage where he was sworn in.[citation needed] He accepted strong suggestions from alumni leaders to move to the front gate of Gallaudet, echoing the historical Deaf President Now movement. That evening, students refused to move from the area, and when a couple people came up with the idea to bring tents to sleep in, Tent City was born.[citation needed]

This stage of the protest focused on the forming of the Faculty, Students, Staff and Alumni Association (FSSA). The FSSA was basically a council of representatives from each body, including minority organizations, which had a history of being overlooked by the administration headed by President I. King Jordan and Provost Jane K. Fernandes.[citation needed] FSSA council meetings were very emotional and angry meetings that vented years of frustration, claiming the administration used management by intimidation on all the representative bodies, resulting in disconnection from the true spirit of the University, which was to promote the higher education of deaf students all over the world.[citation needed]

Meanwhile, students rallied outside, but soon many were forced to leave due to closing of dorms and facilities for the summer after the Commencement Exercises. During the week and half protest, Celia May Baldwin resigned from the Board of Trustees. A memo released through the Gallaudet Office of Public relations stated the reason was due to personal threats being made toward her by community members regarding the selection.[citation needed]

Fall protest[edit]

On 20 September 2006, the Gallaudet Student Congress passed a resolution stating that they did not recognize Jane K. Fernandes as the 9th president of Gallaudet University.

Ryan Commerson, LaToya Plummer, Leah Katz-Hernandez, and Delia Lozano-Martinez were named as Faculty, Students, Staff, and Alumni (FSSA) spokespersons. Chris Corrigan was described as the "Mayor of Tent City" and largely responsible for rallies. Noah Beckman, in his role as Student Body Government president, and Tara Holcomb, as Student Body Government's Director of Ethics and Conduct, emerged as strong voices for the students the SBG represented. The participation of former SBG president/alumna Tawny Holmes and graduate student Erin Moran were also critical. They encouraged the students to speak out about Dr. Jane Fernandes as the 9th president. During October, Commerson essentially filled the role as the democratic leader of the protest, with Holmes as the active alumnus leader and Moran as the coordinator of Tent City. Alumnus Sean Moore was also involved in organizing the impetus to move forward the protest activities. Plummer was key in negotiations with the DC police and the short-lived Fernandes transition-administration.

On October 1, 2006, Tent City was in the process of being revived by students when they ran into problems. Campus workers had put down a highly concentrated liquid fertilizer called Earth Juice. The administration claimed that the fertilizing was planned months in advance.[citation needed] The next day, the Tent City was revived to protest the 9th president selection. Eventually the students seized the Hall Memorial Building (HMB),[2] and locked it down in order to prevent any classes from resuming and force the university administration to the negotiation table.

On October 6, 2006, officers from the Department of Public Safety raided the Hall Memorial Building in an attempt to break up the lockdown. The students later alleged that the officers assaulted several students. I. King Jordan has ordered an independent investigation.[3]

On October 12, 2006, police were called in to arrest the students.[4]

Black Friday: October 13, 2006[edit]

Marking a historical moment in Gallaudet history, 133 protesters were arrested for civil disobedience by the 6th Street gate on October 13, now known as "Black Friday". The arrests were due to insistent orders by I. King Jordan to the reluctant DC police, who tried to avoid as much involvement with the arrests for in their words, "Those students aren't doing anything wrong."[citation needed] While thousands of alumni and Gallaudet supporters watched, both via the internet and in person, each protester was quietly picked up and carried up by campus security officers across the line separating campus from the public street of DC into a DC Police white van.[citation needed] Protest leaders went first, followed by waves of students, alumnus and prominent community members. Tim Rarus, one of the 1988 Deaf President Now leaders, was one of the first people arrested. Just before he was arrested, he shouted "I helped put you in office, now you're arresting me!".[5]

Aftermath[edit]

On the next day, the number of protestors grew from 300 to nearly 1,000. Gallaudet alumni flew in to help the students. Tom Holcomb, a leader of alumni, had flown in earlier in the week in order to help out with the protest and organize a shift pattern.[citation needed]

National Association of the Deaf's president Bobbie Beth Scoggins of Kentucky cut her vacation short and flew in to declare NAD's support of the students' demands.[6]

On October 16, 2006, 168 of the 221 eligible voting faculty members at Gallaudet University attended a faculty meeting. This represents 76% of the eligible voting faculty and was the largest attendance ever.[citation needed]

On October 19, 2006, the Washington Post reported that "[o]f the 20 trustees, three of whom are members of Congress, perhaps as many as seven do not support Fernandes becoming president".[7] This article was the catalyst in shaking the Board of Trustees up and creating unease in their firm stand to not condone the protest for the first time.

On October 21, 2006, more than 4,000 people from around the nation attended a protest march to the Capitol, in Washington D.C.[8][9]

On October 29, 2006, the Board of Gallaudet withdrew its appointment of Fernandes, without naming an alternative.[10]

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Jordan defended Fernandes's remarks and denounced the board's decision and the actions of the protesters, saying, "I am convinced that the board made a serious error in acceding to the demands of the protesters by terminating Fernandes's presidency before it began."[11]

On December 10, 2006, the Board of Trustees announced that Robert Davila would serve as interim president for a period of up to two years.[12] He was formally installed on May 9, 2007, during a ceremony that included a speech by D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who spoke positively of the 2006 protest.[13] He stepped down on December 31, 2009.

On June 29, 2007, in the aftermath of the controversy over the university's presidency, Gallaudet was temporarily placed on probation by its accreditation organization, the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.[14] It was also reported that in 2006, the Office of Management and Budget had found that "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."[15] In January 2007, former president Jordan wrote an editorial on the topic that appeared in the Washington Post.[12] The Middle States Commission later reaffirmed Gallaudet's accreditation on June 27, 2008.[16]

On October 18, 2009, the Board of Trustees announced that Gallaudet's tenth president would be T. Alan Hurwitz. He began his tenure on January 1, 2010.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "DEAF PRESIDENT NOW ANNIVERSARY". Gallaudet University. Gallaudet University. 2003-03-13. Retrieved 2006-10-16. 
  2. ^ Ward, Derrick (2006-10-10). "Protesting Gallaudet Students Offer Deal To Administration". MSNBC (MSNBC). Retrieved 2006-10-16. [dead link]
  3. ^ Coogan, Mercy (2006-10-13). "Eric Holder to Lead Investigation into Alleged Use of Excessive Force by Gallaudet Officers". Gallaudet University. Gallaudet University. Retrieved 2006-10-16. 
  4. ^ "Student Standoff Continues At Gallaudet". MSNBC (MSNBC). 2006-10-13. Retrieved 2006-10-16. [dead link]
  5. ^ Kinzie, Susan; Otto,Mary (2006-10-15). "Gallaudet Reopens With Protesters Still At Front Gates: Jordan Is Criticized For Approving Arrests". The Washington Post (The Washington Post). pp. A01. Retrieved 2006-10-16. 
  6. ^ de Vise, Daniel (2006-10-16). "Deaf Advocate Blasts Arrests". The Washington Post (The Washington Post). pp. B01. Retrieved 2006-10-16. 
  7. ^ Kinzie, Susan (2006-10-19). "Gallaudet Trustees Split on Fernandes". washingtonpost.com (The Washington Post). pp. A01. Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  8. ^ Johnson, Kristy (2006-10-22). "Gallaudet stir spreads". washingtontimes.com (The Washington Times). Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  9. ^ Dvorak, Petula (2006-10-22). "From Gallaudet to Capitol, a March in Step With History". washingtonpost.com (The Washington Post). pp. C01. Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  10. ^ Susan Kinzie; David A. Fahrenthold, Nelson Hernandez and Judy Sarasohn (2006-10-29). "Gallaudet Board Rescinds Fernandes' Appointment". washingtonpost.com (The Washington Post). Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  11. ^ Gallaudet Chooses Interim President, Washington Post, December 11, 2006
  12. ^ a b Jordan, I. King (January 22, 2007). "Deaf Culture and Gallaudet". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Speech by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton at the Installation of Gallaudet President Robert R. Davila" (PDF). Save Our Deaf Schools. May 9, 2007. Retrieved 16 July 2012. 
  14. ^ Inside Gallaudet – Gallaudet University
  15. ^ On Probation, Washington Post, July 14, 2007.
  16. ^ "MSCHE Accreditation – Gallaudet University". Aaweb.gallaudet.edu. June 26, 2008. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 

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