- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Protesters yesterday declared that Gallaudet University will be open this weekend for its annual homecoming celebration, defying outgoing President I. King Jordan’s decision to postpone the event.

“Gallaudet’s homecoming will go on as planned,” Andrew J. Lange, president of the Gallaudet University Alumni Association, said at a press conference after a meeting involving faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni.

“We will be celebrating and taking back Gallaudet University,” Mr. Lange said.

Mr. Jordan on Tuesday postponed homecoming activities because, he said, protesters had closed most of the gates to the Northeast campus, making it difficult to celebrate.

The protesters — students, several members of the faculty and alumni — are demanding the resignation or the removal of Jane K. Fernandes who is scheduled to take over as university president in January. The protesters blocked the gates starting Oct. 11. About 200 to 300 protesters have appeared at daily rallies on campus.

Faculty leaders had asked to meet with Mr. Jordan yesterday morning. But, MJ Bienvenu, chairwoman of the university’s Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, said they did not receive a response.

“A face-to-face dialogue will help,” Mrs. Bienvenu said.

Mr. Jordan was expected to meet with parents at 9 a.m. today.

Other speakers said yesterday that homecoming was attracting alumni and supporters from across the country and throughout the world. Celebrations are planned specifically for alumni who graduated in 1956 and in 1981.

Students have protested the selection 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.

Mrs. Fernandes has been a university official for 11 years, the past six years as provost.

“For 11 years, Jane Fernandes has had the opportunity to prove her leadership,” said Mr. Lange, adding that, because of their experiences during that time, most faculty and staff are opposed to her presidency.

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 last week.

On Friday night, about 135 student protesters were arrested 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.

On Monday night, more than 80 percent of the faculty voted that Mrs. Fernandes should resign or be removed from her post.

At yesterday’s press conference, Donalda K. Ammons, a foreign-language professor at Gallaudet, said Sorenson Communications, which provides video relays for the deaf, will postpone the groundbreaking of a language and communications center. Sorenson donated $5 million to construct the center.

Also, several students held letters from alumni and Gallaudet supporters who oppose Mrs. Fernandes’ appointment.

Classes are continuing despite the protest.

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