Monday, May 08, 2006

Only the religiously deaf need apply
Gallaudet Univ. President-Elect Draws Fire

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The newly chosen president for the nation's only liberal arts college for the deaf is drawing protests from faculty and students, some of whom question whether she is "deaf enough" to lead their school.

Last week, Jane K. Fernandes was named to succeed I. King Jordan as president of Gallaudet University. She isn't scheduled to take over until January, but already the school's faculty has called a meeting for Monday afternoon to consider for a no-confidence vote against her and students have carried out a weeklong protest.

Fernandes, 47, says she is caught in a cultural debate.

She was born deaf but grew up speaking, and she didn't learn American Sign Language until she was 23. She now characterizes herself as a "fluent signer" who can understand and be understood by everyone on campus.

"There's a kind of perfect deaf person," said Fernandes, who described that as someone who is born deaf to deaf parents, who learns ASL at home, attends deaf schools, marries a deaf person and has deaf children. "People like that will remain the core of the university."

She noted that 86 percent of the deaf and hearing impaired students in the United States now attend public schools because of improvements in technology, medicine and education…

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.
Gerry Spence

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