Crisis at Gallaudet University
October 11, 2006
Vol. 2 No. 49
Editor: Tom Willard
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DUE TO THE GALLAUDET SITUATION, DEAFWEEKLY'S
REGULAR EDITION WILL BE OUT LATER THIS WEEK.
Click here for Special Report from Sunday, October 8, 2006
Click here for Tom Willard's "A Few Ideas to End the Stalemate"
STUDENTS CLOSE GALLAUDET, ‘NO LONGER RECOGNIZE’ JORDAN
The protests at Gallaudet University took a dramatic turn early this morning when students shut down the campus by blocking every entrance. A press release from students called the action a “Coup d’Universite” and said, “A campus-wide lockdown in now in effect. ... We no longer recognize Dr. Irving King Jordan as our Gallaudet President. We are ousting Dr. Irving King Jordan ... due to the unethical actions ... which [have] sharply increased fear by intimidation on campus.” The Gallaudet University FSSA Coalition posted the students’ press release but made it clear that the shutdown was led by students. Faculty and staff trying to walk or drive into campus have been turned away, reported the Associated Press, but students are allowed to come and go. Late today, more than 40 faculty members issued a press release calling on President-designate Jane K. Fernandes to step down.
FORCED HUNGER STRIKE? CAFETERIA REPORTED CLOSED
Gallaudet’s 1,800 students may find themselves hungry today because the administration has shut down the cafeteria in apparent retaliation for the campus blockade. The students’ press release indicates that the campus lockdown does not extend to the cafeteria, the Mental Health Center or Student Health Services. Protesters allowed cafeteria workers to enter the campus this morning, wrote Elisa Abenchuchan (www.elisawrites.com), but someone sent the workers back home. I. King Jordan, who met with protesters at the front gate, was asked about the cafeteria shutdown and reminded that some students are diabetic. “They can go to SHS (Student Health Service),” Jordan replied. (UPDATE: Cafeteria has reopened. See here.)
SHUTDOWN BEGINS IN WEE HOURS OF MORNING
The campus shutdown started around 2 a.m. this morning after a midnight rally in the Hall Memorial Building. Protest leaders had been negotiating with the administration since shortly after taking over the Hall Memorial Building last Thursday night. A press release sent out at 1 a.m. this morning from the Student Body Government. Members of the school’s football team played a key role, said The Washington Post, when they decided that talks were moving too slowly and decided to escalate the demonstrations. “We were caught completely by surprise,” said university spokeswoman Mercy Coogan.
PROTESTERS ADD 23 MORE DEMANDS TO ORIGINAL TWO
Protesters have consistently made two demands: the reopening of the Presidential search process (with Jane K. Fernandes resigning) and no reprisals toward those involved in the protest. A new list of 23 other demands were presented earlier this week that would end the lock-down of Hall Memorial Building. The list includes provision of 24/7 protest safe zones, continued negotiation, a public apology from I. King Jordan for misleading statements, a direct line of communication with the Board of Trustees, unrestricted media access and an investigation of the Department of Public Safety in regard to two bomb threats in the past five days.
MONDAY MORNING BOMB THREAT DELAYS CLASSES
The second bomb threat in four days caused Monday morning classes to get off to a late start. An eyewitness report by Alison Albrecht said students were awoken about 6:15 a.m. to the steady beat of drums. Protest leaders, told of the bomb threat, agreed to leave the building if they were allowed to remain outside the doors and campus police were prevented from entering. Washington, D.C. police agreed. No bomb was found, and no other buildings were searched. The students “were very cooperative with the police,” interim Provost Michael L. Moore told The Washington Times.
JORDAN ISSUES LETTER SEEKING ‘CIVILITY AND RESPECT’
I. King Jordan sent an Open Letter on Monday that said, “I believe together we can restore civility and mutual respect to our campus.” Jordan said he has dispatched several top administrators to meet with protesters “in good faith, only to have their demands change.” He called on everyone “to come together to restore trust and a sense of security to a badly shaken community” and criticized demonstrators who disrupted last week’s ceremonies naming a building and art gallery after himself and his wife. Jordan’s letter was met with widespread criticism by activists who said he used the Gallaudet University Alumni Association mailing list to distribute the letter at the same time he is blocking GUAA access to their own list.
ALUMNI ASSOCIATION CREATES INDEPENDENT WEBSITE
Gallaudet University Alumni Association President Andrew Lange announced that the GUAA has set up its own website blog to get around restrictions imposed on its official site. “The University owns and controls the GUAA home site (www.gallaudet.edu/x179.xml),” said Lange. “We are unable to publish any news or information about what is happening there.” Lange said the GUAA is doing this project on its own and will not allow the Gallaudet administration or anyone at Gallaudet to have any input to the blog, though “they are free to make comments like anyone else.” Negative comments about any particular person will not be tolerated, he added. You can find the new GUAA website at www.guaanews.com.
ALUMNI URGED TO COME TO CAMPUS FOR HOMECOMING
Gallaudet’s Homecoming is next Saturday, October 21, and 15,000 alumni have been called upon to attend and join in the protests. “We must show the world that GALLAUDET belongs to us all!,” said an announcement. “Fill the tank, pack the kids, URGE your family, friends to go to GALLAUDET for homecoming.” The announcement says to meet at 11:30 a.m. on the Gallaudet mall, an hour before the alumni parade. However, a student message from this morning says not to wait until next Saturday. “We need mass numbers. Do not wait until HOMECOMING. Come now!!! Ok? Thanks.”
FERNANDES: I THOUGHT THINGS WERE GOING WELL
Jane K. Fernandes thought things were going well at Gallaudet University until a week ago, reported The Washington Post. “I was surprised by the intensity” of protests, she said, since things had been quiet over the summer and she was trying to move forward. Fernandes expects to start her new job January 1, and her supporters say she’s the best hope to bring the university back together. “I have a huge responsibility,” said Fernandes, “to be president of a university for all the different kinds of students we have here.” Her opponents say she’s simply not strong enough to lead. “What is her plan?, wrote GUAA President Andrew Lange. “And what is she waiting for?”
TENT CITIES POP UP, RALLIES HELD ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Tent Cities in support of Gallaudet’s protesters have sprung up in about a dozen cities throughout the United States and in Canada and Denmark. An updated list of Tent Cities and rallies can be found here. One notable absence is Rochester, N.Y., home of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Rochester’s lack of involvement is questioned by one blogger at http://deafeye.com.
PR DIRECTOR EXPLAINS MEDIA LOCKOUT
Mercy Coogan, Gallaudet’s Director of Public Relations, responded to faculty member Mark Weinberg’s public questions about the ban on media on the Gallaudet campus. Coogan apologized for not responding sooner, saying, “It was ‘code red’ in my office all day and late into the night.” Coogan explained that “it was decided to keep [media trucks] off campus because “the mere presence of the trucks would add fuel to an already chaotic situation.” She added that reporters and camera crews were allowed to enter. “You have to admit,” she said, “that the protesters have been very effective in getting their position out to the media without satellite trucks.”
INTERPRETERS BANNED? NOT SO, SAYS STATEMENT
Demonstrators have charged Gallaudet’s administration with prohibiting university interpreters from interpreting for them, making it harder to communicate with the media. The FSSA sent out a request Friday saying interpreters were needed to “even the playing field.” The request noted that PR Director Mercy Coogan gave media interviews without interpreters, shutting students out “in spite of the fact that it was happening right in their midst.” A statement from Gallaudet Interpreting Services, however, denied that the administration was playing favorites. “GIS has not, and will not, refuse to render services to any individual based on his or her affiliation to an organization.” Upon receipt of an account code or personal credit card, GIS will assign interpreters, based on availability, at the standard internal rate.
PARENTS REASSURED IN LETTER FROM INSIDE HMB
A letter to “Concerned Parents and Guardians” was distributed Sunday by faculty, alumni and staff inside Hall Memorial Building offering assurances that protesters “are well, both physically and emotionally.” Donations have kept students well fed and they are studying and doing homework, said the letter. “They are, however, very tired and worried about their academics.” The letter went on to explain that students called on faculty, staff and alumni for help by after campus police “stormed the building.” The decision to stay and help resulted from “the strong, unwavering belief that supporting students is our primary job and the absolute right thing to do.”
WASHINGTON NEWSPAPERS PROTEST THE PROTESTERS
Two newspapers in Washington, D.C. came out against the Gallaudet protesters this week. An editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post said protesters are “not entitled to hold hostage the educational hopes of their classmates” and went on to say protesters were “absurd” to grumble about a building being named for I. King Jordan. Jane K. Fernandes, said the writers, “faces an unenviable job” but is “well qualified in every way.” The Washington Times headlined an editorial this morning, “Calm down, Gallaudet.” Said the writers: “Mr. Jordan’s effort to keep the university on the right track during this ugly experience is laudable.”
BERNARD BRAGG PUTS MAJOR BEQUEST ON HOLD
Internationally acclaimed actor and Gallaudet alumnus Bernard Bragg said in a letter this week that he is putting a major donation on hold until the current situation is resolved. Eight years ago, Bragg made a bequest through his estate to establish the Bernard Bragg, ‘52, Endowed Chair: Deaf People in the Theater Arts. “I have decided it best to put the bequest on hold until this crisis is resolved,” said Bragg, “so it will not be affected by all of the confusion.”
DONATIONS NEEDED TO ASSIST PROTESTERS
Many people have asked how to make donations to the protesters. To donate money, cash or check, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate food, contact email@example.com. Donors are advised to contact both, “since everything’s crazy today.” Services and items needed include legal services, interpreting, water, snacks, meals, poster supplies, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, games and more.
WEBSITES FOR MORE INFORMATION
In addition to sites mentioned above and in Sunday’s special report, here are a few more sources of information:
The Buff and Blue (Gallaudet student
newspaper) Special Issues:
Eye_M-Hodgson Photo Xanga –
Photos from the protest:
The Gallaudet Protest: What You Don’t
Know – Blog of an anti-protest Gallaudet student:
Mishka Zena’s reporting on
the Gallaudet protests:
Carl Schroeder’s Kalalau’s
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