Deaf Students Protest Gallaudet U. Presidential Selection

WASHINGTON – A student protest took place on Oct. 6 at the primarily deaf Gallaudet University in response to the selection of what students called a “mainstreamed” university president.

More than 200 students and faculty occupied one of the main campus buildings of the campus after the board of trustees, the students claim, ignored their objections to Jane K. Fernandez’ appointment.

Students criticized the newly selected president as having an uneven grasp of sign language. Furthermore, a black presidential candidate was not among the three finalists, prompting student accusations of racism in addition to audism, the label applied to any activity that may be construed as prejudiced against the deaf or hard of hearing.

The protesters have also accused the school’s police force of abuse and insensitivity. The claim came about after campus police rushed the occupied building in response to an anonymous bomb threat that later turned out to be a false alarm. When the police entered, they were unable to communicate with the students and were accused of roughly handling them as well as spraying them with mace.

School officials, however, deny the use of pepper spray.

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