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Classes and Protests Resume at Gallaudet University


Classes resumed this week at Gallaudet University, the nation’s premier school for the deaf, while faculty members voted overwhelmingly in support of students calling for the resignation of the incoming president.

The campus was closed for three days last week after protesters blocked all entrances. After 133 protesters were arrested Friday night, one gate reopened.

University officials demanded late Monday that two additional side gates reopen by 6 a.m. Tuesday, although they did not threaten specific action if the protesters did not comply.

Students remained camped out at the main entrance Monday but did not attempt to block access, partially out of respect for the twice-yearly faculty meeting, said faculty member Diane Morton. The turnout of 168 of the 221 members was the largest ever for such a meeting, Morton said.

The faculty voted 82 percent to 18 percent to demand that Dr. Jane K. Fernandes resign as president or be removed. In a similar vote last spring, 68 percent of the faculty voted no confidence in Fernandes. The votes are nonbinding.

“The opposition to her is growing,” Morton said.

Those opposed to presidency of Fernandes, formerly Gallaudet’s provost, say that she isn’t open to different points of view and that the selection process did not reflect the student body’s diversity.

Fernandes, however, has said some people do not consider her “deaf enough” to be president — a notion some students have rejected. Fernandes was born deaf but grew up speaking and did not learn American Sign Language, the preferred method of communication at Gallaudet, until she was 23.

She is scheduled to take office in January.

The faculty also voted no confidence in the Board of Trustees and outgoing president I. King Jordan. The vote against Jordan was 57 percent.

Jordan said after the vote that Fernandes would not resign.

“Jane Fernandes deserves to be the next president of Gallaudet University, faculty resolutions not withstanding,” he said.

The students who were arrested Friday night were freed after paying a $50 fine, and many returned to protest this week.

— Associated Press

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