Gallaudet Board ends new president's appointment

Some members of the Gallaudet University community -- from the student body, administration and Board of Trustees -- are encouraging the university to move forward following the recent Board of Trustees decision to terminate the appointment of President-Designate Dr. Jane K. Fernandes.

After Fernandes was appointed earlier this year to lead the internationally known school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, students protested the decision, blocking the entrance to the campus for three weeks before 133 students were arrested.

Gallaudet graduate student Ryan Commerson wrote in an e-mail that he did not think Fernandes should have been appointed because "enrollment declined, [the] graduation rate dropped [and] morale declined" during her previous 11 years working at the university, most recently as provost.

Commerson also noted that the decision to appoint Fernandes was made in spite of "community outcry" and a "66 percent vote of no confidence from the faculty."

Board of Trustees chairperson Brenda Brueggemann explained in an e-mail that the Board's decision to reverse its appointment of Fernandes was based on several factors, including how their decision might shape the Board's governance role within the university and Gallaudet's role as a "'center' for the Deaf community, nationally and even worldwide." Also considered were the issues of campus safety and the impact of continuing protests at the university, Brueggemann added.

Commerson stated that the decision "lifted the campus morale instantly" and increased the sense of community at the university "because we all stood up together in the face of blatant oppression."

In a statement issued on the Gallaudet Web site Monday, Fernandes expressed her "deep regret" of the Board's decision but noted that she loves the university and hopes the community will heal.

Brueggemann stated that the Board of Trustees needs to meet soon to discuss future steps -- including restarting the search process -- but noted the difficulty of convening for a special meeting, as Board members are geographically dispersed nationwide.

"We are trying to [find] another meeting date as soon as possible," Brueggemann wrote. "I can not say at this time how the next search process might look or happen."

Commerson noted that students will now focus on working with the Board to develop a "transparent, equitable and fair" search process for future presidents.

Current President I. King Jordan noted in an online statement that the community members now "must all come together for the sake of Gallaudet, particularly for the sake of Gallaudet's students."

--staff writers Franny Corneliussen and Thomas Madrecki contributed to this article.

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