Originally sent October 31, 2006

As an outside group unfamiliar with Gallaudet University and the deaf community it is inappropriate for us to comment on what does or does not make a good president of the university. Those most qualified to decide what makes a good president are members of Gallaudet itself, its administration, its faculty, and most especially its students. So we do not presume to speak for or on behalf of the Gallaudet community, however for what its worth we do offer our support to the student protesters.

As students and young people we do hope our perspective is valued as to the process of selecting a university president and the legitimate inclusion of student voices in that process. A process that is critically flawed at all levels of schooling in this country. Whether by Boards of Trustees or Boards of Education, student voices, opinions and expertise are being ignored and silenced by the very bodies most responsible for their education. This we feel is unacceptable.

Observing the situation from the outside, it seems clear that the mischaracterization of the student protesters in the media and in the public is indicative of a larger disdain for students and young people throughout society. Despite plainly stated and well reasoned objections to Dr. Fernandes’ appointment the student opposition has been characterized as being from a bunch of whiney kids throwing a tantrum about whether Dr. Fernandes was “deaf enough”. Or charges that the students were militantly obstructing a fair, democratic process.

These widely held views express the fear in adult society of young people raising their voices and refusing to be silent, and the ignorance of adult society of the current lack of student voice and the need for it.

We applaud the reversal of Gallaudet’s Board of Trustees decision to terminate Dr. Fernandes’ appointment, but recognize the struggle won’t be over until structural changes are made that include substantive student voices at all levels of university decision making.

Sincerely,

Scott Davidson
President
National Youth Rights Association

Adam King
Vice President
National Youth Rights Association

Alex Koroknay-Palicz
Executive Director
National Youth Rights Association