Obama Should Withdraw Nomination of Eric Holder for Attorney General, Says Gallyprotest.org

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As part of its new, year-long Political and Educational Integrity Campaign, Gallyprotest.org is calling on newly elected President Barack Obama to withdraw the nomination of Eric Holder for the position of Attorney General in light of troubling signs of a lack of thoroughness and failure to pursue what should have been considered to have been routine information-gathering techniques, as part of Holder's investigation (as an outside consultant, hired by Gallaudet University) of incidents involving the October 6, 2006 sit-in of the Hall Memorial Building at Gallaudet University. An apparent failure to analyze the facts of the matter of the sit-in and make conclusions as part of a proper context of the totality of the circumstances is also evident, says Gallyprotest.org, in Holder's final report to the University, providing evidence toward establishing Holder's lack of fitness for the office of Attorney General of the United States.

On October 13, 2006, Gallaudet University announced in a press release that it was retaining the services of Eric H. Holder, Jr. to: "review the allegations that Gallaudet University's security officers acted with excessive force when responding to a bomb threat on campus during the takeover by students of Hall Memorial Building."

Then-university president I. King Jordan had been known to have a long association with Senator Tom Harkin, dating back to 1988, or earlier. After dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination for US President in 1992, Senator Harkin had developed a close relationship with Bill Clinton who soon thereafter become the 42nd President of the United States. This connection, enabled by Senator Harkin, between the Jordan administration and Clinton Administration, was well known throughout the Gallaudet campus community, leading many to suspect that the selection of Eric Holder, a former Clinton administration official, to investigate the events of October 6, 2006, at Gallaudet represented a choice which was less than ideal, and indicated that Holder's eventual report would perhaps be biased in favor of the Gallaudet University administration. Indeed, Holder should have declined the assignment on the basis of the prior existence of this connection between the Jordan administration and the Clinton Administration, says Gallyprotest.org.

Per the final report, Holder and his team interviewed just over 33 people, a figure which includes 23 Gallaudet campus police personnel, and only 10 student protesters. The beginning of the "Factual Findings" of the report quotes the then-Board Chair, Celia May Baldwin when she conveyed effusive praise of Jane Fernandes as the intended incoming president of Gallaudet. The Holder Report, however, does not counterbalance such effusive praise by including reference to other pertinent facts.

Gallaudet protesters (through the Faculty, Students, Staff and Alumni Coalition, FSSA) retained the services of attorney Edward Correia, who attempted to submit a letter to the Gallaudet Board through the required procedure of submitting it through then-Gallaudet President I. King Jordan's office. Mr. Correia reported however, that it was apparent that the Jordan administration did not properly forward his letter to the Gallaudet Board. This apparent failure to transmit Correia's letter to the Board was not mentioned in Holder's report.

Even more troubling is the fact that, while Mr.Correia made specific mention of the incident of October 25, 2006 involving the University's use of a front-end loader bulldozer (as reported widely in the press), specifically calling for the incident to be investigated, the Gallaudet Board did not expand the assignment given to Holder to include an investigation of that incident, and many would say that Mr. Holder should have declined the invitation to perform any investigations for Gallaudet University on that basis, says Gallyprotest.org.

The circumstances of I. King Jordan's presidency at Gallaudet, from 1988 to 2006, have been puzzling to many in the Gallaudet community, especially since Jordan began his tenure under very auspicious circumstances, as a strong supporter of the Gallaudet's traditional bilingual mission and the concept of Gallaudet being the center of Deaf culture in the United States.

Quoting Jordan's March 7, 1989 testimony before a House subcommittee: "In the 1950's, hearing and deaf researchers at Gallaudet began to realize that deaf people in America constituted a unique community that had its own language, American Sign Language (ASL), and its own customs and traditions, different from those of the hearing majority. It has also been recognized that Gallaudet has been the center and the leader of this community since its founding in 1864. In addition, as a national university in the United States, it also has the role of educating its students to face the challenges of contemporary American life. This means that our students have to be proficient in English, mathematics, the sciences and the history and culture of their country. Thus, Gallaudet has always served a dual role, both as a center for the perpetuation and enrichment of the culture of the deaf community, and as a uniquely designed educational program to provide for the enculturation of deaf students into the larger society. The quality of deaf leadership in this country, most recently manifested last March (1988), is testimony to the success of Gallaudet in both its roles."

In the year prior, during Jordan's installation as Gallaudet's Eighth President, Senator Harkin signed part of his speech using ASL signs, easily winning over the hearts of members of the Gallaudet community by making strong statements supporting the self-determination of the Deaf.

Quoting Harkin's October 21, 1988 speech at Gallaudet: "The inauguration of President Jordan is the beginning of a new era for deaf people around the world. No more will deaf people tolerate the paternalism and the charity of those who seek to control their future. You ARE the masters of your own destiny."

Also in 1988, both Senator Harkin and President Jordan made strong statements supporting Deaf culture and American Sign Language. Quoting the transcript of March 21, 1988 hearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources:

SENATOR HARKIN: '...The Commission recognizes the existence of an identifiable, an important deaf culture, and suggests that this culture be tapped by educators to help deaf students understand and cope with their deafness. The psychological and sociological aspects of deafness need to be incorporated into the school curriculum. They must not be suppressed in a misguided effort to deny the differences inherent in deafness. There is nothing wrong with being deaf. The sooner children realize this, the sooner they will fashion for themselves lives of achievement and excellence. This is from the Commission's findings. I just ask you if you agree with this, and is this accepted in the field today, this concept?'

MR. JORDAN: 'Yes, sir. I agree with that finding. Gallaudet University has been a leader in research related to deaf culture and deaf language. For example, the scientific study of sign language actually began at Gallaudet University. (End quote.)'

In 1991, Senator Harkin began a long political association with a young lawyer from Boston named Andrew Imparato, summoning him to Washington, DC to do policy work, after his last year as a Skadden Fellow. This coincided with Harkin's and Jordan's slow changeover from their original pro-Deaf culture and pro-bilingual policies that they both supported in 1988 and 1989, toward a position of supporting a more corporate-oriented model of pushing for the widespread use of cochlear implants with very young deaf children, with this change on their part being the apparent root of the conflict that led to the major protest at Gallaudet in 2006.

Jordan and Harkin's change in policy preference first became evident during the 1991-1992 academic year. Both the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) fall under the umbrella of Gallaudet University's administration and are located on the Gallaudet campus. On August 27, 1991 a new policy was put into place in both schools, supporting the greater use of American Sign Language as part of a bilingual ASL-English program of instruction. Even though ample provisions were made for hard-of-hearing students to also receive lessons to improve their ability to make use of their residual hearing, Senator Harkin contacted President Jordan and requested that the new policy be rescinded.

Later, on July 25, 1995 the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) was founded with the stated of goal of the new organization being: "To further the productivity, independence, full citizenship and total integration of people with disabilities in all aspects of society and the natural environment." Many interpret the term "total integration" to imply that the AAPD was disinclined to support the concept of residential schools for the Deaf, which have been the traditional institutions involved in the transmission of Deaf culture and American Sign Language. I. King Jordan was one of the founders of the AAPD, while Andrew Imparato was made President and CEO in December 1999, a position he still holds (to-date).

Gallyprotest.org calls on the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Andrew Imparato was involved, in his longstanding informal role as Senator Harkin's political point man on civil rights issues involving the Deaf, in facilitating or advising Gallaudet University on the hiring of Eric Holder to investigate the events of October 6, 2006 at Gallaudet, and to consider whether Eric Holder's performance as outside consultant for Gallaudet in 2006-2007 entails negative considerations which would lead to the Senate's rejection of his nomination for the position of US Attorney General.

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BRIAN RILEY
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