Greetings: NOTE this post has been updated with a copy of Dr. Davila’s response to the petition which he intends to serve as a response to all the signatories of the petition
you may recall a petition objecting to Dr. Jane Fernandes teaching in the Dept of ASL and Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University this spring was circulated. She will teach 2 sections of Intro to Deaf Studies which may be a required course for some majors.
The petition was mailed via certified mail to President Davila and Cathy Sweet-Windham (who is in charge of distributing it to the Board of Trustees).
I emailed Dr. Davila and Ms. Sweet-Windham to ensure they received the coverletter and petition – i received a response from Dr. Davila
Ms. Sweet-Windham replied that she did receive the materials and sent them to the board members electronically and the matter was discussed by the BoT.
Here is Dr. Davila’s response to my email asking if he had received the petition – I was given word that it is fine for me to post and it is intended to be a response to all the signatories of the petition
Date: Nov 29, 2007 12:47 PM
Thank you for your email. I did receive your letter and petition just before Thanksgiving. I have been giving a lot of thought to this matter during the Thanksgiving break. Please allow me this opportunity to share with you my thoughts about the concerns expressed by you and some members of our community.
While I understand the feelings you have shared about the return to campus of certain individuals, I must fulfill my responsibility to this university and ensure that Gallaudet University complies with the expectations of our accreditors and the higher education community. Every university in America, including Gallaudet University, is expected to be a place of tolerance where everyone is free to express their ideas and opinions. America, and its universities, is respected around the world for
embracing the diversity of people and the diversity of ideas.
As you may know, Gallaudet University has adopted a new mission statement that acknowledges that Gallaudet is a bilingual university and committed to promoting both ASL and English. We are currently working very hard as a community to better understand and define what it means to be a bilingual university.
Gallaudet University must demonstrate to itself and to its accreditors as well as to the diverse deaf community, in fact to the entire world, that everyone at the University is free to express opinions and ideas. For this reason, Gallaudet University must always be a place that welcomes all faculty, staff and students regardless of their opinions about the protest or any other issues.
I ask that you join me and Team Gallaudet in setting aside our past differences and working hard to ensure that our sons and daughters have the same opportunity to learn that you and I have experienced.
Robert R. Davila
This is my response to Dr. Davila’s email above re: the petition.
Friday November 30, 2007
Greetings Dr. Davila:
Thank you for taking the time to consider the petition so carefully especially during your break.
Will you be sending a collective response to each of the signatories on the petition? If not, could I have your permission to post your response below on the blog site which had the petition up?
I commend you for your stewardship of Gallaudet U. during a very perilous time. We are all incredibly happy that Gallaudet’s probationary status has been lifted and the new mission statement is clear and academically sound.
While I understand all of your points regarding a professor’s right to free thought and speech, it is in congruent to have a professor at a university professing statements to the public via the media that are not academically sound or valid. If a professor in the field of Latino Studies, African-American Studies, Gender Studies, and/or Holocaust Studies made similar statements about Latinos, African-Americans, Gays/Lesbians/Bi/Transgender, and/or Jewish people as Dr. Fernandes has been saying about Deaf people, ASL, and Deaf culture, the University would be negligent in allowing that professor to remain teaching in that field.
The petition is objecting to Dr. Fernandes teaching in the dept of ASL and Deaf Studies due to the inaccurate and damaging statements she has made regarding Deaf culture, ASL, Bilingualism and Deaf Studies to the press. All of us desire to move forward as much as you do – we want to be moving forward in a positive and effective way and to ensure no more damage is done to Gallaudet, Deaf culture, ASL, Bilingualism and the field of Deaf Studies. Dr. Fernandes’ quotes in the Chronicles of Higher Education undermining Gallaudet’s new mission and its bold and effective efforts to secure its accreditation prompted this petition. Had Dr. Fernandes not made such erroneous statements last month, the petition would not have been warranted.
Lastly, I would ask that you would make the same request of Dr. Fernandes that you have made of me (and I assume you are asking of all the other individuals who signed the petition) – to set aside past differences in the best interest of our future students. Furthermore, please note the irony in which you hail and protect Dr. Fernandes’ right to say and do as she pleases as exemplifying the University’s tolerance and embracing of diverse ideas but you simultaneously try to silence the petition signers own rights to express our diverse idea and show a lack of tolerance for our advocacy in this area.
Please know that I cherish you, your leadership, Dr. Fernandes, Deaf studies, ASL, Deaf culture, Gallaudet University and most especially our students. Thank you again for your response to my email. Please do let me know if it is alright to post your email to me and also if the signatories of the petition can expect a letter from you on this matter.