Thursday 18th October 2006

None so deaf as those who won’t hear: British Deaf show support to Gallaudet University faculty and students.

On Friday 13 October, over 130 Deaf people were arrested in Washington D.C. in what has been labelled as ‘Black Friday’. Police were quoted as saying that the biggest mass arrests in Washington D.C. since the 1960s were authorised by I. King Jordan, President of Gallaudet University, where the protests were occurring. Arrests took place in the dark, creating a dangerous situation for protestors who rely on visual communication.

Protesters were objecting to the appointment of Jane K. Fernandes, President-Designate. They claim both a ‘rigged’ selection process and serious long-standing concerns about her administrative abilities, said to have alienated many people in her previous posts. They also insist that numerous calls of concern requesting that Fernandes not be chosen were issued to the Presidential search committee prior to the appointment.

The protest has been escalating since Spring 2006, and last Monday (16 October) 138 of the 168 faculty members present voted for a call for her resignation. The degree of protest, which has now lasted over 6 months, is unprecedented, spanning a wide range of people, both hearing and Deaf, and distinguished individuals and organisations right across the world.

As an indication of the scale of the protest 50 ‘tent cities’ have been established worldwide to show support for the protesters, and one is also to be set up in the UK.

By refusing to heed the scale of these protests, and seriously dividing a community, Jane K. Fernandes has indicated that holding onto power is more important than any damage incurred to the reputation of Deaf peoples worldwide.

Because Gallaudet University is the only Deaf university in the world, its influence, and thus its leadership issues reach far beyond its boundaries and take on international importance in representing the aspirations and the public image of Deaf communities worldwide. Therefore British people are also calling for “Unity for Gallaudet”, for the resignation of Jane K. Fernandes and the selection of a President more respectful of the wishes of the people he or she is required to serve.

To this end letters will be delivered to the US Embassy to:

Robert Holmes Tuttle is U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s,
David T. Johnson, Minister, Deputy Chief of Mission, London
Hon. Lynn Woolsey, Member Board of Trustees, Gallaudet University
Hon. Ray LaHood, Member Board of Trustees, Gallaudet University
Hon. John McCain, Member Board of Trustees, Gallaudet University
Hon. Ted Stevens of Alaska, President Pro Tempore
Speaker of the House is J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois

A copy of our letter to Gallaudet’s Board of Trustees, is enclosed here to give more background details; and we also provide a list of signatories, all of whom are respected Deaf leaders and people of the UK Deaf community.

Press enquiries please contact:

Click here to see our letter to Gallaudet University


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