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Gallaudet Rejects Incoming President

October 30, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The board of trustees of the nation’s premier school for the deaf voted Sunday to terminate the appointment of the incoming president, who had been the subject of protests, the board announced.

The vote at Gallaudet University came after a daylong closed-door meeting that followed a month of protests by students and faculty members. Jane Fernandes, the school’s former provost, had been selected in May to take office in January.

``Although undoubtedly there will be some members of the community who have differing views on the meaning of this decision, we believe that it is a necessity at this point,″ the board said in a written statement.

Fernandes did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Protesters had said Fernandes, 50, was a divisive and ineffective leader as provost. They said the board ignored surveys by students and faculty during the presidential search that called her ``unacceptable.″ The faculty voted this month, 82 percent to 18 percent, for Fernandes to resign or be removed.

Fernandes had refused to resign, saying it would hurt the university to allow protests to determine the school’s leadership. She said she had become a lightning rod for those frustrated about changes in deaf culture because she hadn’t learned to use American Sign Language until she was in her 20s.

Celebrations broke out on campus when the decision was announced. Professor Diane Morton, who joined protesters for a rally at the university gymnasium, said students were ``elated″ when protest leaders received the e-mailed announcement.

``The leaders made it very clear that her resignation is not the end,″ Morton said. ``We still need to make sure that the presidential search process is fair, equitable, transparent and diverse.″

The board said trustees regretted the decision to reverse course on Fernandes’ appointment.

``It has certainly been a difficult and trying time for our Gallaudet community,″ the statement said. ``Now is the time for healing.″

It was the second time in 18 years that protests have forced presidents from office at Gallaudet. In 1988, students rallied on Capitol Hill, demanding the board appoint a ``Deaf President Now.″ Then-president Elisabeth Zinser resigned after about a week in the position.

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