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Gallaudet Students Protest New President

 
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 11:20 am
One theme that I keep seeing that might (or might not) have some truth to it is that she's seen as Jordan's personal pick, and that it was a predetermined outcome. If so, that would be bad on a couple of levels -- an unfair process, itself, and tarnishing Jordan's legacy.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 11:34 am
sozobe wrote:
I was thinking the same thing, Thomas. She's not a friend, exactly -- she is someone I know and who interviewed me for a job. She's very private and I wouldn't want to overstep.

I can see what you mean.

sozobe wrote:
From what I've seen, the feather-ruffling on Fernandes' part was not just audacity in the sense of doing things that are good for the university and heck with the people who don't agree; it was more towards not delivering on promises. As in, her style is/ was a problem, but there seem to be problems with her actual skills as an administrator that I haven't really seen addressed in the media coverage of this.

Have you seen them addressed elsewhere on the web? From the links people have posted here so far, I gather that the students' beef is mostly with the process, not so much with the persons involved. Of course, this could be an oversight on my part.

sozobe wrote:
That all coalesces into a picture of someone who is [insert sign here: the sign for "hearing", which is a finger rotating in front of the lips, placed instead in front of the forehead, which means "someone who thinks like a hearing person even if he/she is deaf."]

To me this sounds comparable to "acting white" in the Black community or the word "Jecke" that some Israelis disparagingly use for Jews of German descent. Are the implications similar? If so, this would increase my sympathy for her. The Republic of scholars is emphatically a meritocracy, not a democracy. I find it counterproductive and demeaning when its members with the least demonstrated merit make competent administrators jump through hoops to 'prove' they're 'one of us'.

sozobe wrote:
Hey, should I apply for the job? (KIDDING.)

You may be kidding, but from what I've seen online over the last 4.5 years, I can definitely see you in a job like this maybe ten years down the road. If this job would interest you, why not?

sozobe wrote:
More stuff in my in-box today... ugh. This is just SO bad for the Deaf community.

I may not be representative. But for what it's worth, speaking as someone whose gut reaction is antipathy for the protests, my thoughts are "yet another bunch of overzealous student activists", as opposed to "these Deaf people just can't get their act together now can they?"
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 11:45 am
Thomas wrote:
Have you seen them addressed elsewhere on the web? From the links people have posted here so far, I gather that the students' beef is mostly with the process, not so much with the persons involved. Of course, this could be an oversight on my part.


Oh, a whole lot of it is problems with her, personally. Most of it, I'd say. I'll try to backtrack and find some stuff about problems with her. (Will put what I find in the next post.)

Thomas wrote:

To me this sounds comparable to "acting white" in the Black community or the word "Jecke" that some Israelis disparagingly use for Jews of German descent. Are the implications similar? If so, this would increase my sympathy for her. The Republic of scholars is emphatically a meritocracy, not a democracy. I find it counterproductive and demeaning when its members with the least demonstrated merit make competent administrators jump through hoops to 'prove' they're 'one of us'.


We-e-elll, it is kind of like if the new president of Howard University was white, though -- or, to be more precise, was adopted by a white family, was extremely light-skinned, could "pass" for white, and wasn't fully comfortable with black culture.

Gallaudet is not just about scholarship.

Thomas wrote:

I may not be representative. But for what it's worth, speaking as someone whose gut reaction is antipathy for the protests, my thoughts are "yet another bunch of overzealous student activists", as opposed to "these Deaf people just can't get their act together now can they?"


Well, that's good. It's going well beyond the students, though, with the faculty votes and stuff like the petition. (Goal: 10,000 signatures. So far, about 4,000. Total student population at Gallaudet: 1,900.)
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 11:57 am
This is almost entirely about the process but shows how it goes well beyond the student protestors:

Quote:


Personal/ administrative stuff from here and there:

Quote:
We want a president who can address critical issues
at Gallaudet, from low academic expectations to poor community morale, in which Jane Fernandes during her 6-year tenure as Provost has demonstrated an inability to make significant progress. She has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation among the faculty and never followed through with her promised implementation of the Audism Mandates, failing to recognize deaf and hard-of-hearing students' communication rights.


Quote:
I would like to share the cause and effect issues here with you.
1. The Provost was appointed without communicating with the Gallaudet faculty members due to lack of the person oriented approach. Are we happy?
2. She has axed many good people except for the person who abused physically three different students at the Pre-college Program because of the political favoritism. Why could not she comply with the DC laws and the Gallaudet policy?
3. She had destroyed everything especially the staff and teachers' hard work on curriculum and extra-curriculum programs which were supported and spent by Gallaudet University at the Pre-college program without communicating or discussing. As a result the enrollment of students was disastrously declined. Did her power and politics hurt our spirit and morale?
Please let me ask youÂ…."How can she repair these previous problems by transferring from the negative environment to the positive environment? Doubtlessly Jane F. will be incapable of dealing with the issues due to her lack of person oriented skills and art of motivation and leadership. Gallaudet University could be a disaster if she is appointed as the President of Gallaudet University.


Quote:


Well, that's a flavor...

More here (almost all personal):

http://trimmingthefern.blog.com/
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 12:25 pm
Thanks Sozobe --

I didn't surf over to the blog yet, but the excerpts you have posted are serious issues with her as a person. If they are representative of how she does her job, that is an argument for looking for someone else.

Is there a public statement by the people who appointed her, specifically outlining what they think her merits are? Or is it all 'we made our decision, now suck it up?'
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 12:43 pm
I haven't seen such a statement. I'd be interested.

The one thing I'm fairly certain of is that this isn't a clear good guy/ bad guy situation. It sounds like there are plenty of problems to go around.

In terms of the last section I quoted, that was one that I had in mind when I said that I saw a lot of evidence of a Deaf person reacting to someone who is acting hearing. A lot between the lines. I'll see if I can give a translation (it'd be best-case from Fernandes' perspective):

Quote:


Seven majors is very, very small, and difficult decisions have to be made -- Gallaudet is not doing very well financially, for a lot of reasons.

Quote:


Not clear what "openly" means, here. It's entirely possible that they contacted her, listed their concerns, she responded sympathetically but said there just wasn't another option at this point and explained why, they requested some sort of meeting, she was busy and said that the situation was really not up for discussion, etc.

Quote:
we decided to request a meeting with Dr. Fernandes. We were expecting the opportunity to share our concerns with her and hoped that she would investigate the matter.


They were going over Kimmel's head and didn't accept her word on the situation, and keeping the major with such a tiny cohort was just not a financial possibility.

Quote:


Rather than allowing the divide and conquer technique to work, and recognizing that it was Kimmel's purview and that the students were attempting to go over her head rather than respecting her authority, Fernandes included her in the meeting. Why couldn't they express themselves openly?

Quote:
In hindsight, her presence shouldn't matter all that much given the fact that our concerns were not going to change with or without Kimmel in the room. But as students, we were terrified by the two stiff-faced presences that sat before us.


They were not amused. Time was being taken up on a fruitless attempt to change the unchangeable.

Quote:
Dr. Fernandes proceeded to explain that Kimmel had been invited because (to vaguely quote her) "I do not know much about this situation).


This is plausible.

Quote:
During the meeting, one of the students started to explain what his concerns were. He was cut off several times by Dr. Fernandes. After the second or third time of being cut off, the student stated that he was not finished explaining his concern.


This could be a prime deaf/ hearing disconnect. In Deaf culture, people can go on for a REALLY long time, with a lot of unrelated stuff, getting every detail in -- this is standard (and part of "deaf time", everyone's late for everything!!) I can see that Fernandes would try to keep him somewhat on topic without it being as malicious as described.

Quote:
Dr. Fernandes looked at him and very firmly (and with all the color drained from her face)


This sounds like hearing "professionalism" that Deaf culture doesn't like. (Subjective terms).

Quote:
stated that "we are having a conversation here. If you cannot have a conversation, this discussion is over."


I can EASILY (having been in many situations like this myself) see this playing out as: The students were initially not listening to reason, about why seven students are just not enough to keep a major. So she went ahead and took time out to meet with them personally as a good-faith gesture. They came in, aggrieved and not completely coherent, and she tried to keep things on topic. They reacted badly to that, and she says the above.

Quote:
She then started to attack another student in the room. Her comment to that student (who was taking notes) was "This meeting is confidential," to which the student responded, "We never agreed that this meeting would be confidential." The provost's response in kind was "We never agreed it wouldn't be." She also went on to say, "If you spread information about this meeting, I will take action." Her face was unfriendly, angry, and her demeanor stiff.


Again, hearing "professionalism" (being unemotional and formal in the face of extreme annoyance and time-wasting) is Deaf "angry".

Quote:
And beyond being hurt by her approach (one of the participants was so distraught that she left the meeting and went to a professor in her department in tears) we were beyond shocked.


Strikes me as overblown.

Quote:
What, we wondered, did we do that made her so angry?


Same. WAS she actually "so angry"?

Quote:
At the end of the meeting (which was very brief), Dr. Fernandes looked at us and said something to the extent of, "If you came here thinking that I would overturn Kimmel's decision, you were wrong. I support her decision."


That would fit with everything I've conjectured so far. Kimmel made the decision, it was her decision to make, it was a sound decision (I haven't seen any factual objections beyond seven students -- whether that's really enough, etc.)

Quote:
I want the leader of this school to be approachable, charismatic, and friendly.


That'd be nice. Hard to find, especially someone who is all of those things and boundlessly patient.

Quote:
But beyond that, it is so important to me that we have a leader who will listen openly to concerns and if not investigate the matter thoroughly


Some situations are so obvious as to not need a thorough investigation. Support of one's staff is also a good quality in a leader.

Again, that's just a possible interpretation. Could be she's really that bad. Just saying that I can see things going a few ways.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 12:55 pm
Actually, I keep mentioning 7 majors, but what the person really says is:

Quote:


So it could be (I'm wary of the phrasing) that only ONE would be left after the other six graduated.

All in all, it sounds to me like it could have been an eminently reasonable decision that they were unreasonably and over-emotionally reacting to. (Hmm, sounds familiar...)
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 12:58 pm
Interesting points about hearing-professional/deaf-angry mismatch. I have a slightly off-topic question to it. Are there any actual examples of people who run successful organizations with open-ended discussions that last forever and meander off-topic? Who don't stand by their decisions once they've made them? It seems to me that you just can't run a Gallaudet-sized organization without being professional / "angry". Do you know counterexamples who made the Deaf approach to management work?
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 01:20 pm
Hmm. I certainly tried. :-D I had something like 4% of Gallaudet's student body to deal with, and still worked 70-80-hour weeks and had no life. I implemented a bunch of policies to try to deal with things. Students would come in, plonk themselves down, and go on and on about things when I was in the middle of racing to finish reports that were due by 5:00 that day, and they'd get pissy when I tried to explain that. (Not all, but many.) So I'd close my door with a sign explaining I was unavailable on report days, and I had office hours at given times where people COULD just plonk down and talk about whatever and I did my best to listen and be nice and not think about all the other important things I could be doing with my time... ;-)

I don't know if something Gallaudet-sized could be run in a "Deaf" way. CSD (Communication Services for the Deaf, I think) is a large Deaf-run organization that's pretty successful, they don't really have to deal with the client/ student side of things, though -- everyone there is both Deaf and professional, is the impression I get. (Haven't worked for them) (yet... :-))
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 01:22 pm
Harrumph.
Thomas stole my point.
Sort of.

I was wondering if students at Gallaudet expect to be treated differently from students at other universities? are treated differently? Does the Gallaudet experience impact where/how graduates can work? Is there still a benefit to a university like Gallaudet? has it outlived its usefulness?

Pretty much regardless of whether I'm reading something written from the student or outside perspective, the students seem, well, whiny to me. Not gonna get much done like that.

University's supposed to help, in part, prepare you for life outside of academia.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 01:32 pm
I've said this before, but one exercise I did with my students in L.A. was to read them a news story about a worker at a factory who was fired. He needed to leave early, asked his boss for permission, was turned down, and then got a friend of his to take his time card and punch it for him at closing time, while he slipped out early. This was discovered, and he was fired.

I'd say all of this without indicating anything about whether he was hearing or Deaf, and then ask them what they thought. Hearing or Deaf? Invariably, the vast majority would come down on the "Deaf" side. "They wouldn't do that to a hearing person," "That's so unfair! He needed time off!" etc., etc.

Of course, he was actually hearing.

They were always shocked about that, and it started great discussions.

Students who graduated from my program had the victim mentality knocked out of 'em, and made great employees (she says, with no modesty, but seriously), but they came IN to my program with victim mentalities up the wazoo. Drove me crazy.

I would love to see the victim mentality addressed -- BUT, I don't think that necessarily has anything to do with the Deaf institution as a concept. I think having an all-Deaf (or at least all-signing) university is hugely important, for a lot of reasons.
0 Replies
 
yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 01:42 pm
sozobe wrote:
More stuff in my in-box today... ugh. This is just SO bad for the Deaf community. Evidently there was a vote of no-confidence from the faculty. Dunno if that will do anything.

Quote:
Faculty members then went on to vote 77 to 68 to ask Fernandes to step aside and 85 to 58 to call for the search to be reopened, with no reprisals against anti-Fernandes protesters on the Northeast Washington campus.


There is also a petition circulating:

Quote:
2. No reprisals for students, staff, faculty and alumni.



is there any reason to expect any reprisals, or is that just paranoid rhetoric?

like others, i know little about this topic, *but* what you've written about *professionalism* reminds me of African-Americans who weren't enthused about a Colin Powell candidacy for president because his parents were West Indian (for people who don't remember that far back, this is before Dubya was elected.) ironic that people who experience discrimination often practice it themselves against subgroups within their own minority group.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 02:28 pm
It does sound like there is a lot of pressure there, from both sides -- people feeling pressured to side with the students, people feeling pressured to side with the board/ administration. While I think (but don't know) it's unlikely that there would be actual reprisals, I think it's not totally paranoid, either. I also have the impression that it's pretty standard "protestors demand ___"-speak.

Unfortunately, oppressed minority groups being oppressive when they get the chance is very common.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 03:02 pm
Excellent blog here (written, notably, on April 27th):

http://www.deafdc.com/blog/adam-stone/2006-04-27/know-thy-name-jane-fernandes/

Quote:
But what of Gallaudet's identity? Jane described a vast array of views - should Gallaudet serve honor students? Or developmental students? ASL? Cochlear implants? Students of color? Non-signing students? There's a lot of mixed views of what exactly defines Gallaudet. "An inclusive deaf university of academic excellence," she said. That's what it's all about, people. Academics. You're not at school to make friends or participate in deaf-rights rallies. You're there to learn. This is a very important message I'm saying here. Gallaudet University is not the Washington, D.C. Deaf Club. Anybody who disagrees with that is probably going to have a problem with the Provost.


Amen, buddy.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 03:06 pm
Oooh, lots of good stuff on that blog, I encourage people who are interested in this to look around. Adam Stone is my new hero (and looks WAY familiar -- I think I've met him). First stuff I've seen from the Deaf perspective that I really agree with.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 03:14 pm
sozobe wrote:
Total student population at Gallaudet: 1,900.)

That must not help, the place being so small. I mean, 1900 students - thats like twice my high school. In such a small community, I can imagine things being taken personally, intrugue and rumor, and gathering in tribes or clans by not wholly rational criteria all running much more rife than at a more anonymous, larger university. In a larger institution any random new connection would probably just be a lot less likely to involve all kinds of histories people have with each other.

Also, the community being so small probably fosters a sense of it all being a big family, a home, so much more than just a university as functional learning tool. That can be a great help with a lot of different things, but on something like this it would backfire, cause it does probably foster a sense of entitlement. You know; it's our family, our clan you're talking about, that's the feeling you gave us, too - so you're not supposed to just suddenly go cut and hack in it!

Hell, I'm sure Craven can identify... ;-)
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 03:53 pm
This is fascinating ... cause it's about things that are so much more general, more deep-going, than just the incividual case -- indulge me while I go off on some tangent digression below, 'k? (Sorry)

sozobe wrote:
Oooh, lots of good stuff on that blog, I encourage people who are interested in this to look around.

Just read that blog entry, and now entering the comments that were posted I immediately recognize your explanations about Deaf culture and cultural misunderstandings. Like right here, in the first comment:

Quote:

I can see how that could be totally subjective, a result of failing intercultural communication rather than her actually having been "vitriolic" and "acidic".

(I can also see how that raises a dilemma. You want to judge a person for this function on his/her provable skills, not on personal prejudice; on what she can do rather than on whether you think she's nice. But on the other hand, to have someone presiding a Deaf university who apparently gets stuck in continuous intercultural miscommunication with (culturally) Deaf people is not, well, practical - and thats a concrete enough skill thing right there. Hmm.. difficult.)

Second para tho is more clear-cut:

Quote:

OK, am I getting this right? Super-small university; good name within the core Deaf community but failing to attract students from beyond; without such students the university can not financially survive. BUT - any move to attract anyone outside the core community is sensed as a kind of "betrayal", a threat to the core community's identity. With the implicit subtext being about how change, openness and transformation might well endanger that tight, family-like feeling on the campus.

"Steered us [loyal core people] to the curb and open the wide access for others to fill in" - whoever who's been involved in some small community with its inevitable clique tendencies hasnt heard that complaint at some point or other? "It was better in the old days!", "all those new people, they dont know what its really about", "I dont feel at home anymore", "theyve sold out our community, I dont recognize myself anymore in what its become like!".

A foreland like that can be devastating to people's sense of security, so I guess its a human nature kind of thing to resist tooth and nail. Even if it is clearly unreasonable or petty or even self-destrutive to do so.

I see parallels kinda tumbling over each other! Right here, a web community like this one, A2K - and Abuzz was much worse - everyone always lamenting the loss of the old, good Abuzz, and how all those newbies who are not "real" or dont "really care" or whatever, have made it lose its character, its all gone down the drain... yeah, web communities seem like a well striking parallel (by nature cliquey, breeding grounds of rumor, little respect for authority or tolerance for central(ised) administration, passion fuelled by how they are a home/refuge away from the bad world for many..)

Or, parallel five scales bigger, the Old Labourites in the UK, who (and I sympathise) resented Tony Blair's rather merciless drive to throw open the party's windows, ruthlessly efficientize it, open it to whole new electorates, from the very start ... it was necessary to win an election again after 18 years, he didnt have to sell out all socialist roots quite as integrally as he did, but in any case the Old Labour resentment, especially on grassroots level, appears to be driven by a sense of personal loss ("I dont feel at home in this party anymore ... what did he do to MY party") at least as much as anything content-wise.

Or, for that matter - another three scales bigger - what else is the resentment of white working-class Europeans who've "seen their neighbourhoods change" and are angry about it; "I dont feel at home in my own country anymore!", "the neighbourhood I come from ... we all used to know each other, watch each other's back ... but now there's all newcomers, the man at the bakery doesnt even say hello anymore!".

That kind of sentiment? Is that what we're talking about here as well? Only kind of pre-emptively, like - thats the path even the protestors themselves somehow dimly see out ahead, and they're kinda throwing themselves in front of what they are afraid might turn out to be a steamroller that'll change what they consider home? (The mass demos against the ultimately abortive French labour market reforms come to mind..)

I guess that kind of resistance against / resentment of any possible change that threatens one's "nest" must be one of the oldest human instincts - and there's plenty people (from Abuzzers to Old Labourites) who'd rather keep their place like it was, even if it means certain death in the long run, than accept change that might save the place, but would transform it unrecognizably anyway.

And I mean, they've got a point (all those people, I mean) - why willingly co-operate on the transformation of what you hold dear, just cause someone says it's "necessary" or "unavoidable"? They've said all kinds of things, in the past, that didnt happen either.

I mean, I get that in this case all of this reaction is waaaay pre-emptive/premature, but does it kinda fit into such a larger context, such parallels?
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 03:59 pm
Another comment...
Quote:
I would love to meet Ron Stern someday and shake his hands to get the vibes from him whether he is really the right person to lead the Gallaudet University or not.

Shocked

Oh dear.

Well, I guess one thing you can say is at least they're honest about it. I suppose this is how many Americans choose their President or Senator too (think MM and Bayh).

But it's so patently unreasoonable...
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 04:19 pm
More of that..

Quote:
Second of all, how can we trust her to "walk the walk"? [..] it's hard to believe she has the sincerity, passion, or people skills to act in true alliance with the Gallaudet community. [..] She does not have the mutual trust and respect needed to succeed in that role. [..] we cannot ignore that the overwhelmingly negative vibes that result from interacting with her [..] please don't forget the deeply divisive rift in the Gallaudet community that seems to follow her wherever she goes. Whether intentionally or due to genuine social and communicative ineptitude, Fernandes is the wrong individual [..]. She simply does not have the requisite people skills.

Basically .. "She's not nice. I dont trust her."

Its the John Kerry thing ... we dont care how much you know or how good you are, if we dont like you we dont want you as our president.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 May, 2006 04:20 pm
Surely the Gallaudet students know that the President's clear vision and resolve will lead us to victory in Iraq.
0 Replies
 
 

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