- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

Gallaudet University students and faculty opposed to the protests that have disrupted classes on campus made a public appeal yesterday for order to be restored on campus.

“We have objection to the way the protest has occurred,” said Bobby White, an alumni and graduate student. “We have been threatened. We cannot learn in this environment.”

Mr. White was joined by about 40 other students, faculty and staff who expressed similar frustrations at a press conference yesterday, seven days after protesters locked down the 98-acre Northeast campus and the country’s only liberal arts university for the deaf and hearing impaired.

“They can protest, but we don’t want it to distract and interfere with education,” student David King said.

Some students and faculty have protested the appointment of Jane K. Fernandes since the school’s Board of Trustees appointed her in May to replace outgoing President I. King Jordan. They say a lack of diversity among the candidates and Mrs. Fernandes’ unresponsiveness to their needs are among their major complaints.

They were joined Monday night by more than 80 percent of the faculty who also are asking that Mrs. Fernandes resign or be removed.

However, Mrs. Fernandes remains steadfast in the face of the mounting opposition, saying yesterday that in January, she will become the second deaf president in the school’s 142-year history.

“I have no plans to resign,” she said. “I’m very confident that I am capable of working with this community. I hope the Board [of Trustees] will remain firm with their decision. I have given 20 years of my life for education for the deaf. I believe the protesters have the mistaken idea that I am responsible for all of the problems. But if I were to resign, the problems remain.”

Mrs. Fernandes, who has been a university official for 11 years and a provost for the past six, also said somebody threatened to shoot her.

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, students began blocking school entrances Oct 11.

About 130 students were arrested last Friday night after they were given several warnings to stop blocking a side entrance to the school.

Yesterday afternoon, about 50 protesters went to Capitol Hill. They wanted to ask for the help of Congress, which gives the private school federal money.

They plan to have a larger march tomorrow morning, similar to the one in 1988 that resulted in the ouster of President-select Elisabeth A. Zinser. Those protesters argued that two of the three finalists for the presidency were deaf, but the board chose the lone hearing candidate.

Mrs. Zinser, that an assistant chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, resigned and was replaced by Mr. Jordan, the school’s first deaf president, after seven days of protests, blockades and the march on Capitol Hill.

Some students have since turned on Mr. Jordan, saying that he has not supported their concerns and that he allowed the arrests.

Brenda Jo Brueggemann, chairwoman of the board of trustees, did not respond to messages about whether students will take part in the selection of future presidents.

“The protest will continue,” Bobbie Beth Scoggins, president of the National Association of the Deaf, said yesterday. “It is worldwide. If Jane Fernandes leaves, Gallaudet will not collapse.”

Mr. Jordan met yesterday morning with 26 parents, expecting to answer their questions. Instead, they said they only wanted to voice their concerns.

“Hopefully, we were heard,” said Zibby Bayarsky, of Riverside, Calif., whose daughter is a Gallaudet senior. “We asked him to give [Mrs. Fernandes] permission to resign. She has had 11 years to prove herself. How many years do you need to prove you’re a good leader?”

Alumni and visitors began arriving yesterday for the annual weekend homecoming. Mr. Jordan had canceled events, but protesters announced Wednesday that one would take place because alumni and friends were coming from around the world.

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