Sunday, November 05, 2006
Has Jane K. Fernandes become a symbol of SCARE (Social Injustice, Coldness, Audism, Racism and Egocentrism)?
Has Jane K. Fernandes become a symbol of SCARE (Social Injustice, Coldness, Audism, Racism and Egocentrism)? October 6, 2006 There are waves of distrust and fear rushing through Gallaudet campus. Right now it is pointless to debate whether Jane K. Fernandes is a potential leader of Gallaudet since we all know the fact that the majority today does not agree with the selection of Fernandes. But the question is why? Selected documents (interviews, newspaper quotes, testimonies, etc.) have been gathered in this article to show the BIG picture of the protest. It is relevant to gather crucial facts through primary sources rather than relying on secondary sources which usually produce distorted views, possible misconceptions and skepticism.It has become increasingly obvious that the students, the faculty and the alumni have already set their unapproved tone about the future Gallaudet president especially when they confronted their experiences with her as a provost. Fernandes chose not to take the advice of university presidents that she needed to seek a position at another school since as a provost she had to make decisions and choices that weren’t popular. (Hearing Loss, September/October 2006). She knew the risks involved but went ahead to apply for the position. It is chaotic right now at Gallaudet thanks to her not following the invaluable advice of other university presidents. At first, I tried not to be one-sided when hearing negative comments about Fernandes so I relied on actual documents that include interviews, newspaper articles and short presentations that she gave as a provost and from eyewitnesses who were there. I only saw one of a very few positive articles on Fernandes as a provost and a list of supporting letters for her from the 9thprez.com website. On the other hand, there was a history of difficult relations between a group of faculty, staff and students. Based on testimonies from websites, Dr. Lynn Jacobwitz's presentation and an experience confronted by a parent in a letter plus countless letters by respectable deaf leaders in the websites such as gufssa.com., the sources on finding cons are overwhelming.Even my former high school student (an easy-going and cooperating type) told me that as a Gallaudet student, he couldn’t even work with Fernandes and had to withdraw the project relating to freshman seminar because of the hardship and struggle to get along with this provost. He later found out that he was not alone as it had been too common among the majority of Gallaudet students. The media has been receiving various messages such as demanding Fernandes to resign because she is considered “not deaf enough”. Some articles stated, “Although Fernandes was born deaf, protesters have claimed she isn't "deaf enough." (ie. not deaf enough article). Now recent news articles are showing that Fernandes is the one who is claiming that she thinks she is not deaf enough. During the interview with Fernandes found from the Examiner website, she said, “I am a victim of a deaf cultural war. I’m not the right kind of deaf person”. This quote reinforces her playing the “deaf card” and it is hindering the real reasons behind the protest to the public. One of the many reasons that Laurent Clerc Center teacher and staff disapproved Fernandes is that “Fernandes put a stop to the Teacher Evaluation System that was used for many years. When problems escalated, she had the revised TES implemented. Dr. Fernandes did not bother with follow-up review to make sure the process was just and fair.” One of the important qualities of an effective leader is to follow up with such project.Even before she became a provost, she was planted in the position by her supporter, Gallaudet President I.K. Jordan without following appropriate procedure. From the campus progress news website, Alison Aubrecht, who holds two degrees from Gallaudet and now works for the university as a personal counselor at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD), explained that “Fernandes was provost for six years and her performance was unsatisfactory, Fernandes was appointed by King Jordan without faculty participation, and the faculty gave her a vote of no confidence because she was unwilling to share governance with them.” I.K. Jordan even admitted he made this mistake six years ago in the recent interview. There is one (of many) video clip interview that brought me to a point that I can’t fathom the idea for her to be a world leader of today’s deaf culture and community. This video clip; David O. Reynolds from TVDEAF.com, has showed us that Fernandes has expressed that combining English and ASL can be practiced by individuals who are fluent in both languages as she is referring to simultaneous communication. Reynolds stated “it is like mixing oil and water”. Fernandes even admitted in this video interview that she is not fluent in ASL. Her signing ability may not exceed to the higher register of ASL level Imagine a not-so-proficient English–speaking Presidential candidate was selected to run an Ivy League college such as Oxford. What would the community think and react? However this is not primarily the reason for her to resign.One of the requirements as stated in the Gallaudet President qualification is that the President is to be fluent in American Sign Language and English. It is amazing how she managed to be an acting director of ASL Programs at Northeastern University in Boston and even a chair of the Department of Sign Language communication at Gallaudet long before she became the provost at Gallaudet where is the home is in the heart of Deaf Mecca. It is no question that on paper, her qualifications sound so appealing whereas the perspective by the Gallaudet community carries a completely opposite perception of who Fernandes really is based on what they have seen and worked with her in person. Statistics don’t lie and we all know we cannot ignore the numbers. Moreover, one of the American democratic principles is based on how majority rules in decision-making. It is amazing that she quoted, “I don't believe for one second that my resignation would help. I think that my resignation would hurt the university very badly, and I think that my resignation would result in years of instability in the governance of the university itself, and right now, we have a very strong and unified governance, and I need to be able to take control and lead the university.” How can she, with her standoffish reaction, actually think she can be an effective president for Gallaudet University that is swarmed by an opposing majority? She is hurting Gallaudet more by refusing to give in to the demands that are supported by the majority not only by the Gallaudet community but the world. Fernandes has transformed to a symbol of SCARE (social injustice, coldness, audism, racism and egocentrism) although she claimed that she has been working diligently to improve these areas but the perception of the majority of students, faculty, staff, alumni and constituents does not feel the positive impact from Fernandes when working as a provost. It is time for Fernandes to wake up and smell the coffee. Say SCARE no more!! Barbara Di Giovanni
Posted by Barb DiGi at 11:07 AM