- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

12:41 p.m.

Student protesters at Gallaudet University blocked entrances to the gated campus early today, escalating their protests against a president-elect they say lacks the skills needed to lead the school.

“Our leadership is flawed,” said Jesse Thomas, a junior who has been involved in protests since Jane K. Fernandes was appointed in the spring by the school’s Board of Trustees.

Students and some faculty say their input was not considered in the selection process, which resulted in a choice they believe was not the best to lead the nation’s only liberal arts university for the deaf and hearing impaired.

Some also felt that the field of candidates was not ethnically diverse.

Mrs. Fernandes, who was the university’s provost before her presidential appointment, has said that some people do not consider her “deaf enough” to be president. She was born deaf but grew up speaking and did not learn American Sign Language until she was 23.

Students began intensifying their protests Thursday by taking over Gallaudet’s main classroom building.

Since then, hundreds of students have camped out inside and around Hall Memorial Building, forcing school officials to move and cancel classes.

The school has about 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students.

Beginning at 4 a.m. today, the protesters blocked six entrances to the sprawling campus in Northeast, sitting on the paved roads inside the school’s gates.

Though students have been allowed to come and go, faculty and staff attempting to walk or drive into the campus have not been allowed to enter.

The school has its own security force, and Metropolitan Police officers at the scene said that they had not been asked to intervene.

Mrs. Fernandes is scheduled to replace outgoing President I. King Jordan in January.

Despite opposition to her appointment from some students and faculty, Mr. Jordan and the trustees reaffirmed their support for the appointment Friday.

The 21-member board is not scheduled to meet again until next year.

Mr. Jordan, who has served as president since 1988, said that discussions aimed at ending the dispute have failed because protesters have not been consistent in their demands.

Leaders of the student protest have called for Mrs. Fernandes’ immediate resignation and for a promise that the protesters will face no reprisals from school officials.

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