- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

Classes resumed at Gallaudet University yesterday as hundreds of student protesters continued a sit-in at a classroom building to call for the resignation of Gallaudet’s new president.

Metropolitan Police and the campus’ public-safety officers investigated a bomb threat at the university for the deaf, where students have occupied the Hall Memorial Building in protest since Thursday.

“The students in Hall Memorial Building were very cooperative with the police,” interim Provost Michael L. Moore said, adding that no bomb was found.

It was the second bomb threat at the school since last week’s protest began.

Protesters took over the building to demand that incoming President Jane K. Fernandes step down and that a new administrator be selected to replace outgoing President I. King Jordan, the school’s first deaf chief executive.

Mrs. Fernandes, who has worked at the university for 11 years and has served as provost for six years, is scheduled to assume the presidency in January. She would be the second deaf leader of the 142-year-old university.

“The good news is we are making progress,” Gallaudet spokeswoman Mercy Coogan said yesterday. “There’s a lot going on, but we’re making progress and we hope for a solution soon.”

Many of the school’s 1,800 students have expressed no confidence in Mrs. Fernandes’ leadership and have opposed her appointment since the Board of Trustees selected her in May.

The faculty also gave Mrs. Fernandes a vote of no confidence in May.

University officials, including Mr. Jordan, have reaffirmed their selection of Mrs. Fernandes and denounced the student takeover of the building.

“Nothing excuses their assault on me and the disrespect shown to my family,” Mr. Jordan said yesterday. “Those who have acted unlawfully must take responsibility for those actions and will face the consequences of their actions.”

Student protesters have demanded that the selection process be reopened, that minority candidates be included for consideration and that no administrative repercussions follow their sit-in.

Protesters also have said that a police officer assaulted some students Friday night in Hall Memorial Building when responding to the first bomb threat.

The Board of Trustees has acted on that report of assault.

“The board has requested and we will have an outside investigator review this allegation,” Mr. Jordan said yesterday.

“I feel sure that many of you are as saddened as I am by the current discord on our campus,” he said, “but I believe together we can restore civility and mutual respect to our campus.”

Mrs. Fernandes said she thinks the conflict can be resolved.

“I am saddened and disturbed,” she said in sign language at a press conference. “I am disturbed that we have this serious division in our community. I’m looking forward to listening to everyone’s issue and working with them to resolve this. I know we can do this if we work together.”

Classes that would have been held in the building were reassigned yesterday to other buildings for the first day of midterm exams.

“Let us remind our students and colleagues in Hall Memorial Building that their actions hurt us all,” Mr. Jordan said. “We welcome dialogue, but we cannot allow a group of dissenters to lock us out of one of our own buildings.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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