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December 4, 2006

Gallaudet University – Quiet for Now

From: Epoch Times - New York,NY,USA - Dec 4, 2006

By Nivedita Wagh
Epoch Times Washington, D.C. Staff

After two months of protests around Gallaudet campus by setting up a tent city, going on hunger strike, and attending marches, rallies, etc, the Faculty Student Staff and Alumni Coalition (FSSA) finally got what it wanted: the rescinding of the contract of the new Gallaudet President-to-be, Dr. Jane K. Fernandes.

On Sunday, October 29, members of the Board of Trustees convened at Hyatt Hotel in Dulles, Virginia to vote on Dr. Fernandes' pending future. Media and students/staff were not allowed inside the hotel, yet many stood outside, waiting with bated breaths. After what seemed like an eternity, the Board of Trustees (BOT) announced that they voted to revoke Dr. Fernandes' contract for the presidency of Gallaudet University.

This time, unlike the "silent" protests, shouts and yells of celebrations were heard across Gallaudet campus as well as deaf communities across the country. One student was at a restaurant, ordering dinner, when she was paged of the news, so she decided to take a "doggie bag" instead. "I wanted to eat together with my friends on campus and celebrate together," she declared.

Immediately after the announcement, FSSA was told to dismantle the tent city and clean up the grounds. A sign was put by a student in the front of Gallaudet entrance: "Open by 5 p.m.," indicating the entrance(s) would be open to all. Students eagerly looked forward to resuming the normal life of being just college students again.

Two Resignations Follow

Amidst the celebrations, two members of the BOT resigned. One was U.S. Senator John McCain from Arizona and the other, Professor of English at Ohio State University, Brenda Jo Brueggermann. They both stated that they were against voting for ousting of Dr. Fernandes, and in Senator McCain's case, his resignation was in protest to that decision.

"I cannot in good conscience continue to serve the board after its decision to terminate her appointment, which I believe was unfair and not in the best interests of the University," McCain wrote to outgoing President I. King Jordan on Monday night, according to the Washington Post (Nov. 8).

In addition, Ms. Brueggermann said another reason was that she wanted to have more time to focus on her career and her personal life, instead of often being called into meetings.

"Since I became Acting Chair in May 2006, my personal life, and my professional work as a scholar, teacher, and administrator at my own university, have suffered considerably. I can no longer justify these personal and professional costs," says Brueggermann's letter of resignation to the BOT.

Although Dr. Fernandes will not be president in January, she still has her tenure in the American Sign Language (ASL) Department. No one is saying what her plans are. The BOT will proceed to select a few more members before going to the next step: searching for an interim president. Only after they select an interim president, will they then proceed for a presidential search, starting from square one.

All seems to be well and quiet now, but the turmoil has not completely gone away. The start of protests last semester sparked some old issues that had not been resolved for years: the decline of the graduation rate and the poor academic standards at Gallaudet. The Gallaudet administration stated they would tackle those issues only after the BOT selects an interim president.

© 2007 Epoch Times International