By ABBY GROSS
October was a noisy month at Gallaudet University, a school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in Washington, DC. A few months after new president Dr. Jane K. Fernandes was appointed she was voted out of the position by the board of trustees, in response to student protests.
Dr. Fernandes has been deaf since birth but grew up reading lips instead of using sign language, which she learned in her 20’s. Much media coverage of the protest has focused on the idea that the student population opposed her because she was not “deaf enough” to represent Gallaudet.
However, in recent years, Gallaudet has struggled to increase the diversity of its student body and keep enrollment numbers steady. The rate of students reaching graduation has also been falling. Students say that they had been unhappy with Dr. Fernandes’ leadership as provost and that they did not believe she was the right person to be president.
Throughout the protest, students blockaded campus buildings and took over one building. Some went on a hunger strike, and 130 were arrested.
This is not the first time Gallaudet students have taken an active part in determining who their leaders are. In 1988 they rallied for their first deaf president — and succeeded. Now they have succeeded again.