FSSA Protest : Unjust in Every Sense
It was with much hope that you will read this thoughtfully and carefully.
Subject: Press Release by I. King Jordan in response to Faculty Vote Tuesday, October 16, 2006, 9:00 a.m.
"For those of you who have voted "no confidence" and called for Dr. Fernandes' resignation, I say this is a very sad day for me personally and for the Gallaudet University community. I have had to make difficult decisions during my 18 years here, but none so difficult as during these last few days when I was forced to ask the police to help reopen the gates of our campus.
During my entire presidency, my decisions have always been based upon what I believed in my head and in my heart to be in the best interests of the University, even when those decisions were difficult—and in this instance—very painful. The education of our students and the safety of everyone on this campus have always been and continue to be my top priorities.
How did we come to this impasse? I am quite amazed and deeply saddened at the anger and vitriolic demands and demonstrations on campus. The continued accusations by the protesters that their demands are not being heard do not ring true. What they mean is that we have not agreed to their demands. They say that the rift they have caused by their intransigent demands couldbe healed by simply acceding to the demand that Dr. Fernandes resign. That will not happen.
In a civil society do we give in to the demands by a loud and vociferous group intent on having its way at all costs? In a civil society do we lose sight of the rights of the many who have come to campus to be educated, to be respected and free to choose their own beliefs? In a civil society do we allow a mob to close our school buildings and our gates risking the safety of those on campus? In a civil society do we permit some members of the campus to hold the university hostage to their demands? I think not.
Shutting down the campus affected students from pre-school through university and graduate school. Shutting down the campus affected families with infants and young children, as well as senior citizens from receiving services from our audiology clinic. My plea to the protesters was that they conduct their dissent with administrative and board decisions without disrupting the rights ofthe majority to their education. I considered that to be a reasonable request. But somehow that has been turned around to put the onus ofthis discord on me and Dr. Fernandes.
Let me again try to set the record straight. First, the Presidential Search Committee represented the spectrum that constitutes Gallaudet's community and was under the leadership of a Board member who was also an alumna. The 17 committee members included five people of color as well as 13 deaf and hard of hearing and four hearing individuals. Of the six candidates to be interviewed, all were deaf and three were either women or people of color. These are facts that have been completely misrepresented by the protesters.
Second, let me be clear, Dr. Fernandes will not resign. She is eminently qualified to be the next President of Gallaudet University. She has been a change agent on campus, which has alienated those who like the status quo. She has introduced unpopular, but necessary, high academic standards for faculty and students and those actions have made enemies. She has been vilified and made the target of ugly accusations. The resolution unfairly prejudges Dr. Fernandes. She has been president-designate since May, and will not take up her full duties as Gallaudet University's president until January 2007. She deserves the opportunity to carry out the responsibilities of the presidency before others judge that she is unable to do so.
Third, on the issue of reprisals, there is a difference between "reprisals," which the dictionary defines as"retaliation," and being accountable for the consequences of one's behavior. The University does not engage in reprisals, but it does hold people accountable for illegal acts, destruction of property,and other actions described as unacceptable in the Student Code of Conduct or in the Administration and Operations Manual.
Finally, I have repeatedly been told that since I came into my presidency as a result of a student–led protest, I should be in sympathy with what the protesters now demand. This comparison is false. In 1988, the movement was about deaf leadership for the world's only deaf university. It was a civil rights issue. It was a protest for an ideal. In 2006, this protest is not for anything, but is against a person. This protest is happening because some people do not want Dr. Jane Fernandes to be the next Gallaudet President. She is deaf, she is qualified, and she issupported by the Board. There is no real parallel between the two protests, except that there are protesters. Jane Fernandes deserves to be the next President of Gallaudet University, faculty resolutions notwithstanding. I continue to support her right to beGallaudet University's 9th president.