The Reunification of Gallaudet, Part One: Where We Are Now

Posted on 3 December 2006. Filed under: Reunifying Gally |

The Reunification of the Gallaudet University Community:
Moving Forward, with Respect, Love, and Hope

[Alternate Title: “The Reunification of Gallaudet”]

The Reunification of Gallaudet, Part One: Where We Are Now

At last, after months of crisis, we have taken the first steps toward resolution. We know now that Dr. Jane Fernandes has been removed as president designate for Gallaudet University. Some celebrate that resolution even as they move on to planning the next step. Others are dismayed by the removal of Dr. Fernandes as president designate. But there is one thing we share in common:

We stand upon ashes.

For the past six months, the Gallaudet family and the wider Deaf, deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing community has watched with horror, anger, and grief as our community has been torn in two. Never have we had such a deeply felt chasm in our midst. On the one side, we have protesters and their sympathizers who wanted for Fernandes to go. On the other side, we have those who have supported Fernandes and wanted for her to stay. And only one side has won their wish. The other feels anger and grief.

We have among us long-time friends who found to their shock that they were on opposing sides of a rapidly growing divide. And as the divide grew wider, some of these friendships became strained, or even shattered.

Those of us who once felt a profound sense of family at Gallaudet have, in many cases, become angered at our own, beloved fellow community members. The ties that once bound us have been burned through and snapped. We stand upon their ashes.

But although we differ in where we stand on the resolution that has been reached, all grieve alike for our bruised and bloodied community. And all feel a sense of loss. We stand upon the ashes of our innocence. We know now that Gallaudet is a community that can shatter. Can we ever rebuild?

Some will, and do, disagree. But my answer is a resounding, Yes.

Yes, because, deep down inside each of us is a thread that even the events of the past few months could not snap. Yes, because that single, unifying thread binds us more strongly than even the worst travesties could ever divide us. Yes, because that unifying thread is our love for Gallaudet: our Mecca, our beacon of hope, our home. That unifying thread is our sense of community with everyone who has ever studied, taught, or worked at Gallaudet—or who has wished they could. That thread is made of diamond and cannot break.

For that thread we stand on ashes, but not the ashes of destruction. For that thread, we stand on the ashes of hope.

Passions on all sides have become inflamed. But this is because we all share something in common: each of us wants to see happen what we believe is best for the Gallaudet community. We differ in our visions and conceptions of what that “best” means. But at heart, our goal is the same: for Gallaudet University to become better and stronger.

For that, we must move toward healing and reunifying Gallaudet. We cannot do it with blame and hate. We cannot do it by arguing who was right and who was wrong. But we can do it if we all make a sincere effort to show respect, from all sides toward all sides. And we can do it with love and hope.

Many who experienced what they perceived as Fernandes’ autocratic rule felt they were living in an atmosphere of hostility, and intimidation, and fear. During the past few months, this undercurrent of sentiment galvanized a large segment of the community into protesting against her appointment.

But, during this time, another group came to feel they were living in an atmosphere of hostility, and intimidation, and fear: those who loved and supported Fernandes. They felt oppressed when they felt they could not air their true opinions about her without the fear that protesters would berate and intimidate them.

All sides need a chance to communicate with openness and respect for those who believe differently. We must create an atmosphere in which people on all sides of the protests have the freedom to express their beliefs without fear of being harassed or attacked by those who disagree. We cannot heal as a community without it.

People on all sides of the protests have angrily declared that we cannot heal “until the other side apologizes first.” But none of us are free of all culpability. We can only begin the process of healing by first healing ourselves. We must each look within our own consciences to consider how we, as individuals, have each contributed to the division we now experience in our community. If apologies are to be made, then let the apologies begin with us—ALL of us, together.

Caring, compassionate people of high integrity can, and do, hold widely diverse opinions, perceptions, and attitudes. A person can disagree with us on topics that matter deeply to us and still have tremendous strengths to offer us. We cannot move forward as a community until we learn to embrace difference of opinion—even when it is deeply angering or painful to us.

[This is part one of a two-part essay. Part two will be posted on December 4.]

[This essay was written by Andrea Shettle, MSW (’92; G’00; former staff member)]

The Reunification of Gallaudet, Part Two: Moving Forward

[Want to submit your own essay for publication at Reunify Gally? It should be related in some way to reunifying or healing the Gallaudet community in the aftermath of the protests. If interested, review my Guidelines for Guest Bloggers and submit your essay to ashettle (at)]


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8 Responses to “The Reunification of Gallaudet, Part One: Where We Are Now”

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i”d like to know- Ms. Shettle-I’d really like tto know- your words” percieve?”. Dr. fernandes was, in fact, hostile. Please look at her record. True healing will begin when people stop minizaing the situation. Otherwise, we are just spining our heads.

We have a very long road ahead of us to try to recover the damamges done to the Deaf community by the Pro-Fernades side-a very small , but vocal and powerful -side.
The vast majority of people were against her and her side.
Please do’nt mininzied us.

Blaming on JK for the “damamges” to the Deaf community?
Sorry but I think it is the anti-fernandes who damaged the deaf community by showing how low class the deaf can be for chugging the beer together, the president of all deaf land riding on a guy’s shoulder giggling like a hyena with unnatural eye popping while burning the JK cardboard.
You are losers, period due to too low moral standing!
If you wanted to delete my command, I will write this to many different newspapers with photos.

[EDIT: Text in this bracket was added about 6:15 pm EST Dec 5 ’06. To clarify the chronology here: in the morning of Dec 4, I blocked the above two comments, and then posted this one. Comments 4, 5, and 6 were all written while comments 1 and 2 were still hidden from public view. I hid comment 6 at around 6 a.m. on Dec. 5. But for now, as of 6:15 pm Dec 5, I’m bringing back all the comments that were hid. I have no time to do it tonight, but at some point later this week I will write another blog post discussing the chronology of events and the thought process that I have gone through in the past 24 hours. Please do comment on these events and where you think I should go from here.]

I would like to urge people to please adopt a tone of civility and respect toward other people when posting comments in this blog.

This means no comments that attack or insult people. No attacks on Fernandes and her supporters, either individually or collectively. And no attacks on the protesters and their sympathizers, either individually or collectively.

If you wish to express an opinion opposed to those expressed by someone else (whether me or another commenter), please find a way to express your disagreement in a way that does not involve attacking others.

I invite and welcome disagreement. Democracy requires that we learn to embrace differences of opinion so we can all learn from each other. None of us have a monopoly on the truth–we can only approximate the truth by inviting input from multiple perspectives. But when healthy debate degenerates into name calling, then this is where dialogue breaks down.
I tried to avoid censorship on this blog for as long as I could because I want to promote freedom of expression for people on all sides of the protests. But I must also balance this right with the need to promote a climate in which all people feel free to participate in open dialogue without fear of being attacked for holding opinions with which others do not agree. I did not feel that allowing personal attacks to occur in this blog would be conducive to creating a safe place for dialogue to occur.
In the interests of openness and transparency: I have now deleted two comments. One was from a protest supporter, the other from a Fernandes supporter. I will try to minimize my intrusion in your dialogue in this space as much as I can. But if further personal attacks occur, then I will delete those also.

If you disagree with my choice, then of course please feel free to say so, and say why. (If you prefer to use private email, I can be reached at ashettle (at) I welcome dialogue on the best strategy for dealing with conflicts in this blog space. I know I don’t have all the right answers, so I’m interested in hearing from people with differing perspectives.
Thank you.

Civility cannot be forced on to other people; it can only be taught and often by example. If you feel the need to delete messages whether pro or anti, then, you’re just as much part of the entire discourse problem as everyone else.

Thank you for your thoughts.

I am willing to consider alternate approaches to brute deletion of comments. Do you have concrete recommendations?

All right, I understand that you “deleted” my comment by putting it on awaiting moderation.
The protesters thought they were doing the right thing after brainwashing many little deaf children about how evil JK was. Who is meaner, JK or the protesters after all?
I learned that Gally is about to lose accreditation. Wow I never dreamed how stupid the students and staff can be. So long, again I want to say that NAD prez, the Gally prez wannabee, ha what a big joke that the deaf people could have in the history ever!

Well- I guess it will never be civil- “brainwashing many little deaf children about how evil JK was”? really. For the record- The commission is looking at the accredtation becuase of what has happened for the past 10-15 years (during the time that IKJ and JKF were in charge). If you look at the letter, it clearly states that they are looking at issues that people have reveal both before( the OMB report) and during the protests ( lack of shared governece, etc.) Blaming the protestes and making comments like that really shows you..does’nt it GWL?

And yes… I ( and many many many deaf ) do blame the IKJ adm. (pro-fernandes) for damanging us. we are going ahead, however, and this weekend will be a step in the right direction. You can, if you like be a part of this …and I invite you to get off the “angry” wagon, so to speak, and join us. The choice is yours.

[…] In a recent post, I blocked two people’s comments for a day, and then unblocked them. I said at the time (last week) that I would make a post in my blog explaining further. I was swamped at work all week, and swamped at home with a huge take-home final exam, so I couldn’t get to this before now. But my chronology of events and description of my thought process follows: […]

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