Students and faculty AT Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., erupted in protest when the board named Jane Fernandes president in May. The long-time administrator and current provost for the university, known for teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing undergrads, is being criticized for her management style. Protestors charge she is a top-down manager who is out of touch with the campus community and who rubbed faculty the wrong way when she was appointed provost six years ago. They also are disappointed that the finalists were all white, eschewing Glenn Anderson, a black man and former Gallaudet board member.
Protestors made signs ("You can't have a leader with no followers"), picketed, and even pitched tents outside the university's gate during the days after the spring semester ended to send a message to administrators. The faculty took a vote of no confidence in Fernandes. While leadership and governance decisions are usually the board's domain, Gallaudet's students say their president is much more than their leader; he or she is the deaf community's ambassador to the hearing world.
Fernandes has asserted that she is exactly the type of leader Gallaudet needs at this time. She will be the first deaf woman to lead the university and only the second deaf president in the IHE's 142-year history. She and others have stressed that the nine-month search process was fair and that protestors should support the board's decision. She now wants the chance to do the job. Fernandes is scheduled to take office January 1, 2007. -J.M.A.
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