- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Outgoing Gallaudet University President I. King Jordan yesterday postponed weekend Homecoming activities at the Northeast campus, while faculty and staff increased their calls for incoming President Jane K. Fernandes to step down.

Mr. Jordan said the students, who have blocked most of the university entrances to protest Mrs. Fernandes’ appointment, have led officials to delay the Homecoming events. About 135 student protesters 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. As of yesterday, one entrance remained open.

“We regret that due to the fact that Gallaudet University is not operating under normal circumstances and the protesters continue to refuse to open all of the gates, we must postpone Homecoming and all related activities,” Mr. Jordan said yesterday.

But, students and alumni later said the annual celebration will go on — without official participation. The activities are set to begin tomorrow and end Sunday.

“We have assured our students that it will go on,” said Tara Holcomb, a senior who was one of the protesters arrested Friday.

“King Jordan is not able to control us any longer,” said Andrew J. Lange, president of the Gallaudet University Alumni Association. “We have alumni coming from around the world. We will invite alumni on campus.”

Students have protested the appointment of Mrs. Fernandes since the school’s board of trustees appointed her last spring to replace Mr. 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 a week ago.

On Monday night, the school’s faculty voted 138-24 that Mrs. Fernandes should resign or be removed from the post that she is set to take over in January. In addition, a vote of no confidence against Mr. Jordan passed by a vote of 80-60.

Yesterday, Bobbie Beth Scoggins, president of the National Association of the Deaf, said she was disappointed by the Homecoming postponement.

“This is indeed a very sad day for all of us,” she said at a press conference. It “is just another example of their administration.” Protests continued yesterday, as students continued to block the main gate at 800 Florida Ave. There were more tents around the gate, and a rope and lounge chairs blocked passage. There also was a canopy for 10 protesters who have gone on a hunger strike.

Yesterday was the fifth consecutive day that Thomas Simmons, 40, a business administration student from South Africa, said via a sign-language interpreter that he had gone without food in support of the protest.

Mr. Simmons and student Al Jimenez, 44, of Mexico, who so far haven’t eaten for 38 hours, said they would continue the strike, until the protesters win.

Although classes resumed Monday at the university and the elementary, middle and high school on campus, some faculty, parents and students said attendance was light.

Alumnus Tim Mohigan, 36, of North Frederick, Md., said only 5 percent of the students were attending class.

“They are concerned,” said Tami Hossler, whose daughter, Erica, 21, is a fourth-year student. “If they go to class, they may cause [protesters] to believe they are on the other side.”

The university’s public relations office reported that classes were proceeding as normal and that students are attending, but no estimate was made of attendance.

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