Gallaudet President Removed After Protests Students at Gallaudet University are celebrating the board of trustees' decision to find another president for the school. The board had selected Jane Fernandes, a school administrator. But after months of protests by students and faculty, they've decided to dismiss Fernandes.
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Gallaudet President Removed After Protests

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Gallaudet President Removed After Protests

Gallaudet President Removed After Protests

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

And I'm John Ydstie. Most students at Gallaudet University, the nation's liberal arts college for the deaf, were celebrating last night. The school's board of trustees bowed to pressure and reversed its choice of a controversial administrator to be the school's next president. NPR's Joseph Shapiro has more.

JOSEPH SHAPIRO: Word spread quickly across campus. Students got the news by email and by checking the Web sites of deaf bloggers. Then they gathered on campus where they popped open bottles of champagne and greeted members of the board of trustees.

Unidentified Woman: (Through translator) Hello. My name is…

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Woman: (unintelligible)

SHAPIRO: The sign language interpreter speaks.

Unidentified Woman: (Through translator) I'm from North Carolina and I'm a board member.

SHAPIRO: Until this moment, the board had been the target of anger, not cheers. The protest started last May, the very moment the board announced Jane Fernandes as its choice to be Gallaudet's next president. Fernandes is a deaf woman with 11 years experience as an administrator. But her style and some of her decisions had made her very unpopular with students and faculty.

Protesters had blocked every gate to campus for three days earlier this month. Administrators responded by ordering arrests of 133 demonstrators. But the protest only grew and got angrier. Harvey Goodstein is another board member. He signed as an interpreter spoke.

Dr. HARVEY GOODSTEIN (Board Member, Gallaudet University): (Through translator) Everybody is hurt. Everybody is hurting. The board members were hurt. Students are hurting. Faculty staff is hurting. So we're really looking forward to some positive healing process to happen, and I think this is what is to come.

SHAPIRO: The board of trustees met in a day-long emergency session. Some felt they'd chosen the best candidate last May and to back off now would undermine the board's authority. But in the end, the trustees decided the only way to end the crisis was to start the presidential search all over.

Jim Petrusich(ph) is a graduate student. He rushed to campus to celebrate, where students had pitched tents and blocked the main gates for more than three weeks.

Mr. JIM PETRUSICH (Graduate student, Gallaudet University): Gallaudet University, it's just more than a university. It's a cultural center. So we need a leader for both university and the cultural center. So that's what we're going to get.

SHAPIRO: The president of Gallaudet is seen as a kind of ambassador to the hearing world, and students like Petrusich didn't want Fernandes in that role. Many didn't trust her because she grew up reading lips and speaking before she learned American Sign Language. And often when she spoke to hearing people she used her own voice. Last night, Fernandes expressed deep regret. She said, I love Gaulladet University and I believe I could have made a significant contribution to its future.

Joseph Shapiro, NPR News.

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