Phi Beta Cons

Deaf Enough?

Is the incoming president of Gallaudet U. deaf enough ?

At Gallaudet University, the world’s only university for the deaf, a bomb threat kept the front gate shut for graduation ceremonies on Friday and families and guests detoured away from protesters’ tents scattered over a lawn, in signs of the tensions that have gripped the campus over the selection of the next president.
Jane K. Fernandes, the provost for academic affairs, was chosen to take over the top job next January, but a loose coalition of faculty members, students and alumni oppose her appointment. They say that she does not appreciate the primacy of American Sign Language at Gallaudet and in deaf culture and that she lacks leadership qualities.
Since the board chose Dr. Fernandes last week, the faculty has issued a vote of no-confidence in her; the chairwoman of the board has stepped down, citing “aggressive threats” she has received; and the board has spent the last few days not celebrating the end of another academic year, but holed up with protesters and mediators. …
Some of the criticism of Dr. Fernandes has focused on her fluency in American Sign Language, which she learned only at age 23. Early in the protest, one flier attacked Dr. Fernandes because “her mother and brother are deaf” and use spoken language. Dr. Fernandes has dismissed this as criticism that she was not “deaf enough.”

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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