Daily Archives: May 9, 2006


Actually, it was in the news yesterday, read the article here.

Gallaudet University, the nation's only liberal arts university for the deaf, has a new "president-elect". Jane K. Fernandes is scheduled to take on the office of president of the university in January. There's a hitch - the rest of the faculty has already taken a vote of "no-confidence" and students have been protesting her presidency for a week.

Her "crime"? Not being "deaf enough".

Last semester I wrote a research paper on the "Psychology of Deafness" and included a little bit about the deaf culture.

I wrote, "A dear friend has a father and a stepmother who are both profoundly deaf. His dad began losing his hearing early in life and his stepmother lost her hearing totally as the result of an illness. They relate how they have been included in social events for Deaf people, but then are excluded and snubbed when it becomes known that they both have verbal skills and neither one of them were born deaf."

It's the difference between being deaf (not being able to hear) and being Deaf (part of the deaf culture).

Fernandes has been totally deaf since birth - but her parents are hearing. She grew up in a hearing, speaking household and reads lips and speaks, rather than sign. She didn't learn to sign until she was 23 years old and signs fluently.

One of the professors said, "She does not represent truly our deaf community..."

Fernandes says that there is a "perfect Deaf person." This "perfect deaf person" is born deaf and is born to deaf parents. The perfect deaf person grows up signing and does not speak. The perfect deaf person attends deaf school, marries another deaf person and has deaf babies. This does not describe Fernandes.

Protesters say that Fernandes is not respected on campus and cannot speak for the majority of its students. One student says that, "She has not won us over in six years..."

Bigotry rarely flows in one direction and the bias by the "Deaf" toward the merely "deaf" is well documented. But this is more than bias.

If the university board caves in to the protesters, this would be outright discrimination - not for being impaired; there is the same level of impairment - but for not being "Deaf", but rather being merely "deaf".

It's a cultural thing...