October 16, 2006
Over the weekend Gallaudet president I. King Jordan authorized the arrest of 133 student protestors who barricaded the entrance to the Washington, D.C. campus of the nation’s only liberal arts college for the deaf. The protestors were instantly replaced by comrades and the barricade continues. President Jordan’s actions have angered many throughout the school community and the national deaf community as a whole. Below is a report filed from Gallaudet’s campus on Friday.
October 13, 2006: The protest barricade that closed down Gallaudet University, the nation’s premier higher education institution for the deaf, entered its third day today with few signs of an immediate resolution. The unrest has been caused by controversy over who will serve as the university’s next president.
Protestors milled around on both sides of the campus entrance on Rhode Island Avenue NE, in Washington, D.C. A rope stretched across the break in the tall metal fence surrounding the campus. Student protestors guarded it carefully, only allowing sympathetic students, faculty, staff, and alumni to enter the campus. Exceptions were also made for student leaders from nearby universities, such as the student body president of George Washington University and the president of the NAACP chapter at George Mason University, according to Andres Piedrahit, a senior majoring in finance and business who was born in Venezuela and raised in Queens, N.Y.
Meanwhile students immediately inside the fence repeatedly banged a huge drum normally used at football practices. The drum creates vibrations that can be felt by the deaf standing anywhere nearby, and was the only regular noise punctuating the lively, but silent, environment.
The fence was peppered with signs bearing phrases such as “Hell No, We Won’t Go” and “Thousands of protestors, Two Demands, One Goal.” The two demands referenced are that the newly appointed university president, Dr. Jane K. Fernandes, step down and the presidential search process re-open, and that student protest leaders face no repercussions. The one stated goal of the protest movement, known simply as the Faculty Staff Student Alumni Coalition (FSSA) is expressed on the t-shirts worn by many of the students, which feature a photo of a May protest, when Fernandes’ appointment was announced: “Unity for Gallaudet.” One could also glimpse through the fence the tent city where the most devoted protestors have slept for the last few nights.
Sympathizers outside included a student handing out a press release of FSSA’s latest demands, faculty supporters, school sign language interpreters, and staff members with more mixed feelings. Liz Stone, a Galludet development officer, said she supports a resolution to this issue because “it’s a painful time for the university.” While she stopped short of explicitly endorsing FSSA’s calls for Fernandes to resign, she acknowledged, “There is a lot of anti-[Fernandes] sentiment, and it’s going to be difficult with her staying to work here.” But she added, “Even if she leaves it’s going to be a very sad day.”