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Archive for Monday, October 30, 2006

Gallaudet calls for change answered

Board revokes appointment of president

October 30, 2006

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— The board of trustees of the nation's premier school for the deaf voted Sunday to revoke the appointment of the incoming president, who had been the subject of weeks of protests that at times shut down the campus.

The vote at Gallaudet University came after a daylong closed-door meeting that followed protests by students and faculty members, the board said. Jane Fernandes, the former provost, had been selected in May to take office in January.

The decision "feels very good," said student body president Noah Beckman, who helped lead the protests. Some students carried cases of beer across campus and shared in celebration with their professors.

In a statement posted on the university's Web site, Fernandes said she heard the board's decision with "deep regret."

"I love Gallaudet University, and I believe I could have made a significant contribution to its future," she said. "I hope that the Gallaudet community can heal the wounds that have been created."

Protesters had said that Fernandes, 50, was a divisive and ineffective leader as provost and that she was not the best person to address a lack of diversity, declining enrollments and low graduation rates.

They said the board ignored surveys by students and faculty members during the presidential search that called her "unacceptable." The faculty voted this month, 82 percent to 18 percent, for Fernandes to resign or be removed.

The demonstrators took over academic and administrative buildings this month, blocked campus entrances and forced the cancellation of classes. More than 100 protesters were arrested.

Fernandes, who has been deaf since birth, had refused to resign, saying it would hurt the university to allow protests to determine the school's leadership.

She has said that some people do not consider her "deaf enough" to be president because she didn't learn to use American Sign Language until she was in her 20s and relied on lip-reading through much of her education.

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