Gallaudet University Is Protesting :: Homecoming Cancelled

Correction: Actually, Homecoming was postponed, not cancelled.

You have got to go follow this story.

…I love the deaf culture. There may be no disability culture with a more fervent following…

Students at Gallaudet University are protesting. No, not just carrying signs and such. They have taken over College Hall on campus. It is the 1960’s in D.C.

The Washington Post (radio) has an interview with some of the students and faculty.

“Now with us this morning through their sign language interpreters (Emphasis is mine.) are LaToya Plummer, a student at Gallaudet University, and one of the faculty members, Dr. Jeff Lewis, who’s with us as well.”

Yep, a radio interview with interpreters. I’d love to have heard that one. The audio is actually there. I missed it. Seriously, this is a great story.

LaToya Plummer explained the reasons behind the protest. “Well, the protest is all about a flawed process for the selection of the next president. It’s not only that but the lack of leadership capabilities that we’ve seen in Dr. Fernandes over the last 11 years.” (Source)

One of the issues is audism. Haven’t heard that one before, have you?

What is audism? A simple definition would be that it is a negative or oppressive attitude towards deaf people by either deaf or hearing people and organizations, and a failure to accomodate them. People who have audist attutides (sic) are considered to be audists. For example, the refusal or failure to use sign language in the presence of a sign language-dependent person is considered audism. (Source)

The following excerpt kind of says it all with regard to how strongly the students feel about this issue:

Jane Fernandez is the president-designate of the University who is scheduled to take office in January. Protestors (sic) deny that they ever charged that Fernandez, who learned sign language in her twenties, is not, as some put it, “deaf enough.” (Emphasis is mine.) But they do say that Gallaudet is more than a school. It is a symbol of what deaf people can achieve and the president must be an advocate for all deaf people. The student protestors (sic) and many faculty members are angry that they were excluded from the selection process. (Source)

We need to follow this story and think about how you would handle it if you were the media relations person for Gallaudet. I truly wish I could be there. I even tried to chat with Erin Caldwell, who is in D.C., to see what news coverage is like up there. Erin, of course, was asleep. The nerve of that girl. 😀

(Google Blog Search for Gallaudet and Technorati Search for Gallaudet)


0 thoughts on “Gallaudet University Is Protesting :: Homecoming Cancelled

  1. Erin Caldwell

    Haha — me asleep at 12:30 at night — that was rare! I apologize.

    Honestly, I’ve been swamped with client work lately and hadn’t heard much about this incident. But the DCist wrote about it here. I’ll keep tabs on this and let you know if anything big happens.

  2. Robert

    Thanks, Erin and Karine. I appreciate the links.

    Erin: Sorry, I just couldn’t resist poking a lil’ fun at ya’. I now you’re busy. Have you ever visited Gallaudet? It is a remarkable school. Perhaps the most uninque of all the deaf universities, and one of the few.

    Karine: Thanks for that link. They are doing a great job. Have you ever had any interaction along the way with Gallaudet? Their web presence is pretty nice. I like the “Faces of Gallaudet” section, especially.

    Thanks to both of you. As you can tell, I really get into these kinds of stories.

  3. Kristi

    Robert, I was reading your post and I found it very interesting. I could only stop and imagine something like this taking place on Auburn’s campus. Wow, talk about a major disaster. With our own troubles of finding a president I can somewhat relate to this incident. But if Auburn where to cancel a football game, I think it would be worse than a natural disaster. Anyway, I read the interview with the student and faculty member. I can understand where a school for the deaf would naturally want a leader to be deaf as well or at least be able to understand the special needs of a school like this. If Jane Fernandez has not been communicating to students and understanding their needs I would hope that the administration would recognize that and chose someone else better fitting for the position. Hope everything works out in the best interest of the students. I will continue to follow this story.

  4. Karine Joly


    I actually met two persons from Gallaudet at the CASE conference for Senior and Marketing Professionals last month.

    They attended the presentation Joe Hice (UF) and I gave about crisis communication (timely subject for them). It was a first for me to have interpreters “signing” what I was saying.

  5. Robert

    Kristi: Thanks. I’m thinking you’re right. If they cancelled a football game at Auburn, there wouldn’t be a protest. There might be a riot.

    It is an interesting story. Forbes reports today that students and faculty members marched on Capital Hill in D.C. “Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., are all voting members of Gallaudet’s board, but they have not spoken publicly about the 11-day protest.”

    The Washington Post reports that the protests continue and give further details.

    This may go on for quite awhile. Let’s keep watching.

  6. Robert


    That’s terrific. Seems that they paid attention to your presentation and implemented it with this controversy. Great job. Wish I could have been there.

    Their update page that chronicles news coverage is excellent.

    I see that the Washington Post has sided with the trustees on this controversy. Yet, the university is also linking to articles that represent all sides in the dispute.

    Having interpreters sign your presentation is a unique feeling, isn’t it?

    My “foreign” language in college was ASL. I find it funny that ASL – American Sign Language – was accepted as, or considered to be, a “foreign” language. I do believe that more schools should accept ASL as a second language equivalency.

    Sadly, I have ultimately lost my ability to sign well. As I shared with my students, I wish I had gone to live at the Helen Keller School (Talladega, AL) when I was just out of college. Immersion in the language is the only way to fully embrace it, for me – at least.

    Thanks, Karine.

  7. leah

    I am a student at Gallaudet. The corruption and management by intimidation is unbelievable here.

    The real reasons why we are protesting: Flawed presidential search process, and failed leadership.

    NOT “not deaf enough” or “cultural battle” as Gallaudet University’s Public Relations and Fernandes/Jordan has put it. They are doing that intentionally in order to distract the media from the real issues that would actually make the administration look rather unflattering. Subverting real issues into volatile cultural debate that really has nothing to do about the protest – sign of excellent leadership? I don’t think so. We have huge loss of trust in our administration after repeated lies fed to the media by our university’s public relations.

    Not only that, but the students and the faculty are also trying to bring charges against the university president I King Jordan for embezzlement and wrongful use of university money because it’s an open secret that a public relations company and spin doctor was hired to “doctor” the administration’s side to the media and twist around the protestors’ story. Ever wonder why the WP editorials were on the administration’s side?

    So what I’m saying is that – I’m glad you’re following the protests! However, I caution you about visiting the official university’s website and soaking up the wrong information from the website. Try to get the other side of the story from the official coalition formed from the protest: FSSA (stands for Faculty, Students, Staff, Alumni of Gallaudet University) at and excellent blogging at

    I promise you, you’ll get an entirely new side to the story once you start checking out those two websites. I recommend “MUST READ” on GUFSSA website.

    Thank you for your interest!

  8. Robert

    Thank you for the comment, Leah. I have checked out those sites as well as eyethstudios.

    I wish you safety and peace in your protest. Not familiar with the situation, I have no idea what side to take in all of this. So, I wisely choose to remain neutral. I will continue to watch the news from Gallaudet. I’ve placed RSS feeds from several sites in my reader and look at them whenever I can.

    Thanks for visiting and take care of yourself. I worry for the students and their safety.