Bob Davila Selected As Gallaudet Interim President

Posted on 10 December 2006. Filed under: Announcements |

I just got this in email:

The Washington Post

Sunday, December 10, 2006; 10:12 AM ET

By Susan Kinzie, By Susan Kinzie

Davila Offered Gallaudet Post, Sources Say
Renowned Deaf Leader Would Start as Interim President in Jan.

Robert Davila, a nationally known deaf leader, has been offered the job
and is expected to be the next leader of Gallaudet University, sources
said, starting as interim president of the school for the deaf in

Davila recently retired after a career that included teaching,
administration at Gallaudet and the National Technical Institute for the
Deaf and serving as assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of
Education. Many have said he would be the best advocate for the school
on Capitol Hill and beyond, and admired his path from poverty and
illness as a child of immigrants, to accomplishments and leadership as a
voice for Hispanic and disabled people.

“Every place he’s gone he’s made things better for deaf students,” his
longtime friend and former colleague Joseph Fischgrund said yesterday.
“That’s what Bob does.”

Sources with knowledge of the decision, who spoke on condition of
anonymity because the hiring process was to be kept confidential, said
the board of trustees will announce his selection this afternoon.

Gallaudet’s board spent hours yesterday interviewing the three
finalists, who also included two professors at the school: Stephen
Weiner and William Marshall.

Weiner, a professor of communications studies, is a former dean who is
well-liked by colleagues and students; many said in recent days that he
would be the best choice to heal the campus after divisive protests this

Marshall has been chairman of the department of administration and
supervision at Gallaudet for more than 20 years and spent a decade as
chairman of the faculty senate. Supporters said he would make the school
leadership more inclusive of everyone on campus.

This weekend marks a turning point for Gallaudet University: The interim
president, who will serve for up to two years, will be the first new
leader of the school for the deaf in nearly 20 years. Davila will start
next month, when longtime President I. King Jordan steps down. The
school will launch a new search for a permanent president in 2007.

The job — whether interim or permanent — is likely to be a difficult

The last presidential appointment sparked months of protest — including
students blockading the university, faculty members voting no
confidence, 2,000 people marching on the Capitol and more than 130
protesters arrested — before the board rescinded its offer to former
provost Jane K. Fernandes in October.

Not only will Davila need to reunify the campus, but he’ll face
questions that go to the very core of Gallaudet’s mission and its
future, as deaf education changes and scrutiny of the school increases.

This year, the federal Office of Management and Budget rated the school
“ineffective,” in part because of chronically low graduation rates. A
new assessment is being done after the university challenged that

Last week, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education postponed a
decision on the school’s accreditation, announcing that representatives
will visit next month and questioning whether the school has met
standards of enrollment, leadership and integrity.

The private university in Northeast Washington gets about two-thirds of
its funding from the federal government.

Several people involved in the demonstrations that began in the spring
when Fernandes was named incoming president said earlier yesterday that
the interim president will be accepted without protests. They said the
search process seemed fair and the candidates qualified.

Davila had support both on campus and nationally.

“There are lots of people and lots of students [for whom] he’s served as
an inspiration,” Fischgrund said yesterday. “Look at his own background:
He began life in a migrant camp and became assistant U.S . secretary of
education. The list of firsts goes on and on, and each one is because he
sees a challenge — he sees a way to improve education, and he takes on
the challenge. He’s been remarkably successful at that.”


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