Power To The People
Any cursory look around America’s college campuses today will yield the inevitable knowledge that gone are the days of socially conscious student-lead protest to end wars, gain civil rights, or to protest just for the sake of protesting.
Well, that spirit is once again alive and kicking, this time, at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. (the wiki on this school is here). It seems as if a large majority of the student population at this school (which is the world’s only liberal arts college for the deaf and hard of hearing) have taken issue with the incoming president (somehow deja vu), saying “Our leadership is flawed”. The protests started last spring when Jane Fernandes, then a Provost at Gallaudet, was appointed president by the school’s board of trustees. Things really escalated on 10.05.06 when the students took over the main classroom building on campus. This event came with the (inevitable??) student’s complaints of bullying by the campus police. However, since then, the campus has been virtually shut down due to campus entrances being blocked by cars, tents, and even a few human barricades.
The outgoing president, I. King Jordan, tried to restore the peace by issuing a statement saying “This illegal and unlawful behavior must stop”. While the legality of the blockade / protest may be up to some debate, the overall reaction to Ms. Fernandes’ appointment is not: it is quite clear the students feel that Ms. Fernandes is unfit or unqualified in some manner to lead the school. One student, in an interview with CNN, pointed out that Ms. Fernandes wasn’t “deaf enough”, going on to point out that while she was born deaf, she grew up speaking and didn’t learn American Sign Language until the age of 23. Other factors, though not immediately listed or stated, are also factor into the students’ protest.
It has been quite sometime since the students of a university dared to take their campus back. Many students sign up for, and attend, university without even a thought of what it is they actually mean to the administration. Were it not for the students, the university would not exist. If the university does not make itself as attractive to as many students as possible, declining enrollment or pressure from alumni (or both) will force the administration to make changes, starting very possibly with changing people’s jobs. It seems these students at Gallaudet realize something that many of us either fail to or fail to act upon: The school belongs to us.