Saturday, December 03, 2005

Another Inane Letter by Provost Fernie

Sensing that she is losing the support from the student body as many lost the confidence in Provost Jane K. "Fernie" Fernandes' ability to administer the University policies, she wrote another letter trying to circumvent the issues as much as can be.

Let's face the music, Provost Fernie has to go.

But here is the letter of hers that was published in The Buff and Blue.
Dear Mr. Tropp

There is an uncanny mirroring effect in our letters regarding the goalpost vandalism and the Hyatt fiasco. In your response to me, you acknowledge that students are to blame but claim I am not responding with equal force and clarity to the problems with Gallaudet’s response. In my previous letter to you, I acknowledge that Gallaudet is responsible for communication breakdowns, but noted that students are not responding with equal force and clarity concerning that nature of property destruction and lack of respect for others as well as themselves.

In response to my statement that I “will work to improve communication access,” you respond somewhat cynically, “we’ve heard this time and time again.” Anxiety and cynicism are understandable, so perhaps more context will help you take the next step towards trusting my effort. Recognizing the deeply seated historical context of audism within the deaf community, and within Gallaudet University, will help you appreciate the steps I am taking now.

The start of addressing audism and racism on Enrichment Day was the culmination of a year of serious preparation. This day was only a start. But it underlined continued commitment to addressing audism and white privilege.

Based on the effort leading up to and including Enrichment Day, you will soon see initiation of a strategic plan with clear actions to effect change. This action-orientated leadership in sincerely addressing audism and white privilege is new within Gallaudet. Now, you can decide you do not believe me-and this might be a way to let off steam and release pain-but no change will happen if we remain with our gaze on the past and fail to channel the anger into energy for change. Instead, you can decide to join me and focus the rhetoric against audist practices-not against individuals but against the system.

You stated that “Gallaudet University is not the Grand Hyatt Washington, but a place where we supposedly have the right to full communication access.” I am keenly aware that the larger societal practices will make real progress in reducing audism a slow process. I also believe that institutions serving deaf people must be the frontline and the model for addressing audist practices. Again, you can believe I intend to follow through on my intention to improve communication access and reduce audism generally, or you can decide not to believe me and not give change a try. As difficult as it may be to trust the leadership you have now, not trusting has even worse consequences-the entrenchment of audist practices that polarize deaf and hearing people as well as students and administration. Your fear that things will never change could help assure that nothing will.

A better emergency response system could have included interpreters, but understand that more interpreters might not have meant more information for students in dorms. Emergencies do not function like other situations. The experience is traumatic for all involved. Even if CREs knew the information, they could not talk to every individual about what was going on. Staying calm and helping to restore peace is the first priority. The anxiety the goalpost destruction caused students is one more reason why all students need to understand why and how this destruction was wrong.

You suggest that the administration should have been planning a celebration, even before the end of the season. The implication is that with no celebration announced, it was understandable that the football team and fans took the matter in their own hands.

The second suggestion is that the administration failed to laud the winning record during the season, and that the football players were hurt by the lack of support. Perhaps a further implication is that, because their feelings were hurt, it is understandable that they decided to celebrate in their own way, even if it meant destruction of university property. It is naïve to expect everyone to know about a celebration before the season is over and to justify wanton destruction over an imagined slight.

I respond honestly to your first letter to work with you to create “real listening.” These responses to your second letter are another attempt to get both sides heard. But hearing a side does not necessarily lead to agreeing with it in every detail. Instead, these comments are a sincere attempt to show that I am grappling with your points. Addressing them carefully demonstrate a good faith effort to communicate. I believe we share points of common ground. I have questioned some points to stimulate thinking, and clarify ideas that may help us gain more common ground. Thank you for taking the time to read and think about what I have written here.


Jane K. Fernandes

Did you notice that her writing has improved tremendously? Probably with some assistance from her secretary, eh?



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