- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2006

Gallaudet University will proceed with disciplinary action against students who led protests that at times shut down the nation’s top school for the deaf, officials said yesterday.

Gallaudet’s board of trustees has decided to let the administration deal with the protesters “as they would any other breach of the code of conduct,” university spokeswoman Mercy Coogan said.

The decision, announced in a memo to students and faculty Thursday night, was met with outrage by those involved in the fall demonstrations over an incoming president whose appointment was later revoked.

“I don’t think it ends at this,” said Diane Morton, a faculty member who joined the protests. “This is unacceptable.”

Last month, the university trustees put a freeze on disciplinary action while they gathered more information. This week’s decision lifts that freeze.

Miss Morton said that prior to the freeze, students who thought they would face only minimal punishment were stripped of university jobs or suspended from athletic teams.

She cited one student who was a resident adviser, a position that comes with free housing. After the student was fired from that job because of her role in the protests, she was required to pay back the housing costs and won’t be allowed to register for the next semester until she does, Miss Morton said.

Miss Coogan said each student would be individually adjudicated before any punishment is handed out.

“It’s based on evidence, and they’re innocent until proven otherwise,” she said.

Students and faculty members protested for weeks over the appointment of former provost Jane K. Fernandes to the president’s post, saying she lacked the necessary leadership skills. The board revoked her contract in October, following the demonstrations and hunger strikes.

Last Sunday, the board named Robert R. Davila, a former assistant secretary of education who previously taught at the university, to serve as interim president for up to two years.

Miss Morton said she was hopeful Mr. Davila would decide not to punish the students.

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