WASHINGTON - The board of trustees of the nation's premier school for the deaf voted Sunday to terminate the appointment of the incoming president, who had been the subject of protests, the board announced.
The vote at Gallaudet University came after a daylong closed-door meeting that followed a month of protests by students and faculty members. Jane Fernandes, the school's former provost, had been selected in May to take office in January.
"Although undoubtedly there will be some members of the community who have differing views on the meaning of this decision, we believe that it is a necessity at this point," the board said in a written statement.
"It has certainly been a difficult and trying time for our Gallaudet community," the statement said. "Now is the time for healing."
This is what I have to look forward to as I get deafer.... I'll never be deaf enough.
Stepping back, I can see the administration would have more, ah, status with students and faculty if the member could sign in an up to date way.
Though everything being equal, couldn't they have 'translators' sign for them?
I've been trying to remember about student power in a regular university. There's some, but not - that I remember - that they got, say, to pick the Chancellor...
Deafness and the Riddle of Identity
By LENNARD J. DAVIS
The recent demonstrations at Gallaudet University did more to launch deafness and deaf culture onto the national scene than any event since the release of the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God. Media reports of hour-by-hour dramas unfolding on the campus, culminating in a shutdown of the university, evoked in many people's minds the student revolution of the 60s. But in the hearing world, from blogosphere to op-ed page, observers expressed confusion about what the issues really were and why there was so much turmoil and anger over the mere choosing of an upper-level administrator.
That administrator, Jane K. Fernandes, selected to be president, was quoted widely as saying that one of the reasons she was such a lightning rod for criticism was that deaf students and faculty members perceived her as "not deaf enough." That charge was quickly rebutted by many within the deaf community, who said that their opposition to Fernandes was based not on her degree of deafness but on her leadership style, decisions she had made in the past, irregularities in the selection process, and her inability to quell the agitation at Gallaudet.
But the "not deaf enough" issue is alive and well among deaf scholars, students, and activists. Even though Fernandes may have exaggerated that accusation to bolster her own position, and even though her detractors denied its relevance, the charge formed at least part of the subtext of students' anger and is a topic of debate within the deaf community. Now that passions have been spent and an interim president, Robert R. Davila, appointed, it might be useful to examine what deaf identity might be and how that identity fits in with current notions of other identities based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. Even with all the recent hoopla about deaf issues, most people probably aren't paying a lot of attention to what goes on within the deaf community. But the discussions there can point the way to a new and better understanding of identity in our postmodern world.
I am arguing that defining the deaf or any other social group in terms of ethnicity, minority status, and nationhood (including "deaf world" and "deaf culture") is outdated, outmoded, imprecise, and strategically risky. We would be better off expanding our current notions of identity by being less Procrustean and more flexible. Rather than trying to force the foot into a glass slipper, why not make a variety of new shoes that actually fit?
In that scenario, for example, people who are "one generation thick" could find commonality. So people with disabilities, deaf people, gay people, and children of deaf adults could say: We represent one potential way out of the dead end of identity politics. We are social groups that are not defined solely by bodily characteristics, genetic qualities, or inherited traits. We are not defined by a single linguistic practice. We need not be defined in advance by an oppressor. We choose to unite ourselves for new purposes. We are not an ethnic or minority group, but something new and different, emerging from the smoke of identity politics and rising like a phoenix of the postmodern age.
What does it mean to be "not deaf enough"? In Fernandes's case, the accusation meant that she was not a native signer of American Sign Language (ASL). Fernandes learned to sign later in life; she is best described as a user of Pidgin Signed English (PSE), a blend of English and ASL. So she cannot speak with the "accentless" signs that would read, to a native signer, as the most elegant ASL. In effect, she would be speaking sign language the way that Henry Kissinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or perhaps Borat speak English.