Shades of Political Golem Put Gallaudet University at Risk, Says Galleyprotest.org

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A committee of commissioners of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is set to conduct a visit to Gallaudet University on April 13-15, 2008, in order to monitor compliance with MSCHE standards. Gallyprotest.org is hereby calling on the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to investigate signs that Gallaudet University has made no progress in complying with key components of MSCHE Standard 4, the Leadership and Governance standard. Clear signs exist indicating that the status quo policies of the former Jordan administration have not abated, but have become more deeply rooted, a state of affairs which poses serious long-term consequences for Gallaudet University and the entire academic community.

A committee of commissioners of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is set to conduct a visit to Gallaudet University on April 13-15, 2008, in order to monitor compliance with MSCHE standards. Gallyprotest.org is hereby calling on the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to investigate signs that Gallaudet University has made no progress in complying with key components of MSCHE Standard 4, the Leadership and Governance standard ("The institution's system of governance clearly defines the roles of institutional constituencies in policy development and decision-making.")

Signs that a small, but entrenched group of status-quo administrators at Gallaudet University are engaged in an political, administrative struggle with the current Gallaudet president have been evident in the past several weeks and months, says Gallyprotest.org.

At Gallaudet, the current Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Administration and Finance has held his position since 1988 and is still today continuing to pursue the status quo goals of the prior Jordan administration, in spite of the clear political mandate to the contrary, which was provided by Gallaudet's authentic constituency, as established by the outcome of the events of 2006.

The specter of a de facto dual presidency looms at Gallaudet, created by the Board of Trustees' bylaws which have the effect of granting the CFO and the President equal levels of political-administrative efficacy at Gallaudet. Though the President has a "seat" on the Board, the President does not possess voting privileges, and the CFO serves at the pleasure of the voting members of the Board, not the President.

The current CFO/Vice President of Administration rose to a position of influence at Gallaudet as the result of former Gallaudet President I. King Jordan's ascension to the presidency in 1988.

Jordan's political maneuvering, in his effort to apply a revisionist interpretation of the historical roots of, and the political meaning of the Deaf President Now campaign, can be seen in an article that appeared in the Washington Post on September 12, 1988. The author, who interviewed key Jordan supporters (including Senator Tom Harkin) and reviewed Jordan's extensive prior comments, put forth an inaccurate premise which reflected Jordan's view, a view which incorporates the fallacy of reification in positing the historical existence of an American community of deaf people in an overarching audiological sense. However, "the deaf community" (or "deaf world"), in such audiological sense, is not an actual community, but is only an abstraction of the same type as the abstractions: "green-eyed people," "right-handed people," "brunettes," etc. To posit the existence of such types of human communities based on biological characteristics qua biological characteristics would actually be an exercise in racism, per the common dictionary definition of the term, possible benevolent intentions notwithstanding.

At the beginning of Jordan's tenure as President, both Jordan and Senator Harkin paid lip service in recognition of Gallaudet's mission (to serve visually-oriented Deaf people who sign), but their subsequent actions showed a mismatch between their words and their actions. Not only did Jordan proceed to mischaracterize the the historical roots of, and the political meaning of the Deaf President Now campaign, but Senator Harkin also cited the existence of the DPN as supposedly being justification for the creation of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), in order to, among other purposes, push for the acceleration of the research and development of cochlear implants.

Medical research has its proper and valued place, and Senator Harkin's later support for stem-cell research is worthy of praise, but his push for the widespread use of cochlear implants represents the beginning of a reckless, headlong rush into humankind's use of cybernetic technology, without the proper society-wide debate or apprehension of the significance of such technology and its proper use, says Gallyprotest.org.

In March of 1999, the Deafness Research Foundation (DRF) launched a new "National Campaign for Hearing Health," the purpose of which, in major part, was to advocate for the further development and use of cochlear implants. The actions of Gallaudet President I. King Jordan, subsequent to the launch of this campaign, indicate a probable unilateral, conscious decision on his part to change Gallaudet's mission to coincide with what he believed to be DRF's goals, and to influence "what it means to be deaf in the 21st Century" (Washington Post interview, 2006).

In the Spring of 2000, Jordan demoted the Provost at Gallaudet without giving a reason, then unilaterally installed his choice for replacement without any involvement of the faculty, contrary to the provisions of the University's shared governance policy. The new Provost then proceeded to give biased information to the New York Times (June 22, 2000), says Gallyprotest.org, having made the claim that no studies existed to show whether any method in deaf education (i.e., auditory or visual) works better than any other, despite the consensus among scholars that Deaf children who learn American Sign Language from birth on experience substantially greater academic success. Then in September of 2000, the Cochlear Implant Education Center was established at Gallaudet, as a division of the Clerc Center.

The fact that the implications of the events of October 25, 2006 at Gallaudet have been ignored and not followed up on is a fact which is obvious to all members of Gallaudet campus community. Such non-action and failure to impose appropriate employment consequences has had the effect of casting a pall over the entire Gallaudet community, it being impossible to ignore the fact of the involvement of the current CFO/Vice President of Administration who was a member of the CMT.

The specter of Jordan's eventual political rehabilitation being grafted onto the political scene at Gallaudet by virtue of extramural motivations and by non-explicit means, in a nonstandard exercise of governance, looms large--a prospect which could only lead to the creation of additional political and academic contingencies down the road which will be more deeply intractable than any that have existed so far, thereby putting not only the effective functioning of Gallaudet at risk, but also creating potential contingencies for the Academy and the entire academic community. As a case in point, the current "respect all ideas" theme of Gallaudet's new diversity plan shows evidence of such intentions towards Jordan's eventual preplanned political rehabilitation and the continuation of the old status quo policy of allowing the influence of special interests (e.g., the Deafness Research Foundation), which are not part of Gallaudet's constituency, to steer Gallaudet away from its historic mission.

The "respect all ideas" theme, by the plain meaning of those words, goes contrary to the spirit of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The 1940 Statement calls for the respect of the OPINIONS of others, i.e., people's judgment of the usefulness and worth of various ideas. To posit that there can be such a thing as the "respect" for ALL ideas, not just people's opinions about them, would actually have effects toward the impingement of the concept of academic freedom, not the enabling thereof.

Hence the Gallaudet community is faced with the possibility of the former President's political life being resuscitated, with him being allowed to create more political contingencies which would serve as being serious and long-term political obstacles, as an exercise in influence which is undeserved and uncalled for, in the style of a political golem made animate through the intervention and assistance of others.

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BRIAN RILEY

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