- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

Classes at Gallaudet University are scheduled to resume today amid protests and what appears to be an unwavering commitment among students and faculty to force incoming President Jane K. Fernandes to resign.

“I was opposed to the protest,” said freshman Victoria LeBlanc. “I felt it was interrupting my education. Now I realize this wasn’t wrong. If we try to do it peacefully, it will take forever. It’s time to get after the administration.”

Students have protested the appointment of Mrs. Fernandes since the school’s Board of Trustees appointed her last spring to replace outgoing President I. King Jordan. The students say a lack of diversity among the candidates and Mrs. Fernandes’ unresponsiveness to their needs and concerns are among their major complaints.

The protests stopped during summer break but resumed this fall and included a student takeover Oct. 5 of Hall Memorial Building, where many classes are held. After bomb threats forced them from the building, they began blocking school entrances Wednesday.

About 130 students were arrested Friday night after they were given several warnings to stop blocking a side entrance to the school, the country’s only liberal arts university for the deaf and hearing impaired.

“After a week of fruitless negotiations, we were forced to reopen the campus with the help of the Metropolitan Police,” Mr. Jordan said. “I want to be clear that we did not choose to arrest the students. They chose to be arrested.”

He called the incident “one of the saddest of my life.”

Yesterday, eight D.C. Fire Department trucks responding to a report of smoke inside Fowler Hall drove through the protests, which are now mostly in front of the school’s main entrance of Florida Avenue Northeast.

Two students said that a school security officer saw smoke and that rubber was found burning in an elevator room in the basement.

Despite the emotional turmoil that the situation has caused, the students and their supporters seem as resolved as ever to oust Mrs. Fernandes.

“Dr. Fernandes doesn’t listen to students,” said Bilal Chinoy, a senior from India who plans to expand education for deaf people upon returning home. “Dr. Fernandes doesn’t show concern for students.”

Bobbie Beth Scoggins, president of the National Association of the Deaf, flew yesterday from Frankfort, Ky., to give support for the protest.

“This is not a student protest,” Mrs. Scoggins said. “It is a National Association of the Deaf protest. It is a people’s protest. …The board of trustees must take over the administrative responsibilities. Otherwise, the incidents will escalate.”

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