IM this article to a friend!

May 7, 2004

Finalists set for dean of deaf studies

From: Tri-Valley Herald, CA - May 7, 2004

Ohlone College narrows field By Jennifer Kho STAFF WRITER

Friday, May 07, 2004 - FREMONT -- In a move that could mark the end of a controversy, Ohlone College has selected two deaf finalists for the position of deaf studies and special services.

"The committee all agreed on these two," college President Doug Treadway said. "They both had 100 percent of the votes of all the members on the committee. That's impressive."

The two finalists are Michael Kemp, a professor of American Sign Language and deaf studies at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., for 26 years; and Joseph McLaughlin, a vice principal of the British Columbia Provincial School for the Deaf, with 25 years of experience in academic and administrative deaf studies work, Treadway said.

One of them would be hired to replace Ron Burdett, who is retiring in July.

Burdett, who has worked at the college for 31 years, was the only deaf dean at a U.S. community college when he was promoted to the position of dean of deaf studies four years ago.

Members of the group Deaf Dean Always and some other deaf and hard-of-hearing students have said the new hire also should be deaf, while college officials said they can't legally discriminate against hearing candidates.

The controversy incited a student rally, the formation of a new student club called Deaf Dean Always, and the creation of a panel of eight students set up to interview the two finalists.

Thirty-one candidates applied for the position, and more than half of them are deaf, Treadway said, emphasizing that the search committee did not give deaf candidates preferential treatment.

"The committee definitely did not set up a separate criterion," he said.

The search committee selected the finalists at the end of April. Treadway and the student panel interviewed Kemp on Wednesday and McLaughlin on Thursday.

The students -- whose names have not been disclosed -- will give their analyses of the finalists to Treadway, who said he expects to make a decision next week, after checking references.

Jeremy Beaver, a member of Deaf Dean Always, said he is happy the new dean will be deaf.

"It just will be easier to relate to someone on a personal level when they already share something with us, namely our deafness," he said. "They are the ones who understand the struggles and needs that every deaf person is entitled to. Someone who has a background in deaf education, but who did not share the struggles of growing up deaf, would never be able to connect and understand the students' needs."

Both finalists seem qualified to fill the needs of the deaf studies and special services department, Beaver said.

"These are people who are deaf themselves, have an intensive background in educating the deaf and genuine intentions of bringing a new perspective to (the) program," he said. "It means a lot to me that Ohlone has taken the deaf community's concerns seriously and made efforts to include students. All the hard work has culminated in excellent results."

Staff writer Jennifer Kho can be reached at (510) 353-7013 or .

©2004 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers