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    Dear Democracy Now!

    Dear Democracy Now,

        It was with dismay that I watched your interviews with LaToya

    Plummer and Jonathan Kurs on today's program.  I am a faculty member

    at Gallaudet, and I am therefore deeply interested in the issues you

    discussed.  But your program seemed to me to take a completely

    uncritical approach to the version of events told by these two

    protesters.  I must tell you that this is not the whole story.  More

    than 300 members of the Gallaudet community, including myself, in a

    diverse group of faculty, staff, and students, joined a movement

    counter to these protests.  Some supported the appointment of Jane

    Fernandes, others did not.  But all had a very different view of the

    protests than the one presented on your show today.  Many more did not

    join our group because of threats and intimidation that made it hard

    for anyone on campus to oppose the protest.  Members of my group have

    received threatening e-mails and letters.  And lest you think that

    this is a simple case of conservative opposition to protest, you

    should know that among those opposing the protest were a large

    percentage of people whose social activism goes back many years.  My

    own history of activism and protest goes back to the anti-war protests

    against the Vietnam War, and has continued with work on behalf of

    women's rights, gay rights, labor issues, and so forth.  I have

    marched or protested for many causes in many cities, and been involved

    in campus sit-ins, "take back the night" marches, every national GLBT

    march in Washington, etc.  I am a contributor to WPFW radio here in

    Washington.  Others from our group, a few years older than I, trace

    their history of activism back to the civil rights movement.  We often

    turned to one another to remark that this was the first time we had

    found ourselves opposing a protest rather than participating in it.

    You need to ask yourselves why this is the case.

        The issues here are complex, and your viewers and listeners

    deserve to have more than one side presented to them.  A few examples

    of inaccuracies: the protest began with students of color, but they

    were soon pushed aside and even excluded from important protest

    organization meetings.  The Black Deaf Student Union distanced itself

    from the protest because of that exclusion.  The search process was

    not only relatively transparent, it was remarkably open: students,

    faculty, and staff had been invited to participate in the search

    process, and representatives of each of these groups served on the

    search committee which chose the finalists and recommended Fernandes,

    who is, after all, deaf herself.  The protesters demanded responses

    from the board on an independent investigation into the search

    process, but took it off the table when agreement had almost been

    reached.  Campus security entered the barricaded building to

    investigate a bomb threat, but were blocked in that attempt by the

    students who held the building.  The football team is widely know to

    have joined the protest in part to force the issue to a head so as not

    to endanger their status in this year's division competition.  The

    hunger strikers continued to take nourishment in the form of protein

    shakes, V-8, and chicken soup.  Some of these are small matters, but

    some are rather signficant..

        More importantly, within the short space of the two segments which

    you aired, the issues presented by Plummer and Kurs as leading to the

    protests included:  exclusion of people of color from the search

    process, a flawed search process, an unresponsive board of trustees,

    audism and racism, and Jane Fernandes's supposed lack of leadership

    ability.  There is some grain of truth to all of these, but in fact

    none of them really represents the whole truth.  Indeed, the central

    issue was probably the one most often denied:  the position of

    Gallaudet as the center of Deaf culture or ASL culture, which is

    gravely threatened by demographic, medical, and technological

    changes.  Jane Fernandes was rejected by a strong coalition of deaf

    faculty and alumni who either had personal axes to grind against a

    tough administrator, or who did not see her as a fitting symbol to the

    world of deaf culture.  These faculty and alumni coached and advised

    the student protesters not to give up their insistence on Fernandes

    resignation.  And many students hated Fernandes for punishing those

    students who were responsible for trashing a downtown hotel during

    homecoming weekend last year.  The unwillingness of the protesters to

    accept anything less than Fernandes's resignation meant that there was

    noever any compromise position for them.  And those faculty and staff

    encouraged the students to face arrest, but disappeared themselves as

    soon as arrests were imminent.  This was no simple case of the

    underdog attacking the forces of power.  And, in fact, Fernandes has

    done more in the last six years to address issues of racism and

    audism, and to establish institutional mechanisms and plans to

    encourage diversity and to advance in those areas, than any other

    administrator in the university.

     I would be happy to try to help you understand the issues involved

    here at greater length, but I cannot adequately do so in an e-mail.

    However, you need to be aware of the inadequacies of your report.

    Thank you for considering an alternative perspective,

    Barry Bergen



    Barry H. Bergen, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor of History

    Gallaudet University

    Washington, DC 20002

    202-651-5926 (v/TTY)