- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2006

Protesters at Gallaudet University yesterday formed a human wall and marched through campus in their ongoing demonstration against the appointment of Jane K. Fernandes as president.

The stalemate between students and administrators over Mrs. Fernandes reached Day 16 yesterday, with both sides saying no immediate resolution is in sight.

About 90 students, alumni and supporters snaked through the 98-acre campus in Northeast as part of a “human chain” at noon, marching from College Hall, the school’s administrative building, through the student academic center.

Most of them wore black as tribute to the approximately 135 students who were arrested blocking a side entrance to the school Oct. 13, which protesters refer to as “Black Friday.”

Melissa Malzkuhn, 24, a graduate student from Fremont, Calif., participated in the demonstration yesterday and said she is “totally disgusted” with the school’s handling of the situation.

“When the protest started, it was so obvious and blatant — the lies and twisting of information that was going on,” Miss Malzkuhn said. “I cannot accept that anymore. Everything is continuing to escalate, and the whole reason for the protest is that Jane Fernandes is not a good leader.”

Mrs. Fernandes has been a university official for 11 years, the past six years as provost. She is set to take over as president in January when I. King Jordan leaves.

The school’s board of trustees appointed her last spring, and the student protests followed.

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 entrances to the school, the country’s only liberal arts university for the hearing impaired. The protests have included daily rallies, hunger strikes and marches on Capitol Hill.

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 said critics do not think she is “deaf enough.”

A majority of the faculty recently voted to say Mrs. Fernandes should resign or be removed from the post.

Much of the school’s homecoming activities last weekend were canceled by Mr. Jordan.

Because of the protests, which have disrupted some classes, the board of trustees is expected to meet tomorrow to review the selection of Mrs. Fernandes.

Mercy Coogan, university spokeswoman, said administrators haven’t been informed of the meeting, but are working feverishly to bring about a resolution.

She ceded that talks haven’t advanced much in recent days.

Earlier this week, students held a sit-in near the second-floor offices of Mr. Jordan and occupied the ground floor of College Hall, which houses the offices of campus administrators.

Willis Mann, an activist for the deaf and an alumnus of Gallaudet, said yesterday Mrs. Fernandes has been “divisive and polarizing” in her attempt to win over detractors. “She’s destined to fail because she does not have followers,” said Mr. Mann, 66. “It’s better that she resign now gracefully, instead of resigning in disgrace five years from now.”

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