JKF Petition – Response to Dr. Davila's Email

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

Dear Patti:

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.


Patti Durr


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Pamela Conley
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 10:10:15


    Thanks for your update.

    “We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.”

    The above quote by an unknown writer was used by Martin Luther King when he wrote a letter to his colleagues while in Birmingham City Jail. Despite all his expertise and good will, the fate of Gallaudet does not lie in only Dr. Davila’s hands, but also ours. We are fighting tyranny that continues to exist at Gallaudet, which represents a microcosm of our American society. We are merely asking Dr. Davila to understand our true motives and act accordingly.

    How can Dr. Davila ask us to set aside the past differences? Let us remind ourselves what had happened last year. For protesting the unfair presidential selection process, student protestors sat bravely at gates and faced hostility. Protestors were chastised by Jordan for inappropriate demonstrations. Don’t forget the Black Friday arrests! Many Tent Cities across the globe were set up in response to this inexpressible cruelty. We even had a march in Washington, DC. No, no, Dr. Davila, we will not forget the brutal injustice brought upon us until our demands for social justice are met.


  2. LaRonda
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 11:38:22

    Well written letter. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to the response if any.

    ~ LaRonda

  3. Ella Lentz
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 13:12:41

    If we do not continually examine the serious situation the Deaf people are in now (from infants to college students to senior citizens) and keep promoting everybody to explore what it means to be a healthy and excellent Deaf leader (including Dr. Davila), we will simply be stuck in the status quo and allow further harm and destruction to our people, now and in the future. We must not do that! We must keep on challenging each other and the system and bring everybody up to a place of dignity and strength AS DEAF PEOPLE, not as individuals with hearing loss.
    Thank you, Patti, for all you have done with your blogsite.

  4. pdurr
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 14:56:49

    pam – lovely quote from MLK Jr
    sacred heritage of our nation and our echoing demands – wonderful

    free speech, assembly, demonstration are a corner stone of this country indeed and all oppressed groups have had to advocate continuously for the US to live by the creed “We hold these truth to be self-evident… life liberty and the pursuit of happiness”

    hard to be happy when u see in the Chronicles saying bilingualism will be the doom of Gallaudet from a professor in the ASL Deaf Studies dept

    laronda re: any response – we will see see

    i dont know when and were academic freedom was deemed to weigh more than academic integrity – dont really think thats the way for gallaudet to go given “integrity” was one of the citations it got from middle states

    ella: brilliant comment – i would amend the statement on “from infants to college students to senior citizens” to include from embryos and lives yet to be created given the recent crisis in the UK

    i think challenging the system peacefully and persisently is very important and i would NEVER attempt such if i thought it would actually cause Gallaudet harm

    i have been marveling at how university administrators r valuing frees speech (which often is bordering on hate speech) for professors and our guest presenters/performers while simultaneously trying to restrict students free speech to protest or have petitions

    shows the falseness behind their rhetoric of tolerance and diverse ideas

    never thought i would see the day when the good ole U.S.A. sets up “free speech ZONES” and puts peaceful protesters under surveillance

    while at the same time protecting discrimination based on race, gender, age, etc

    in the video shorts i posted on the days after Black friday – 2 of my favorite moments

    1 student signing – “We shall over come”

    and another saying “Gallaudet is to Deaf people as Israel is for Jewish People”



  5. Jean Boutcher
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 20:04:00


    The petition we signed indeed did work! You are our saviour!

  6. Paotie
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 04:50:47

    You said:

    “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.”

    And there’s complaints about a Deaf school banning vlogging by employees. “Hearing colonism” one idiot proclaimed.

    Well, well, well .. so this is how it works: the ONLY people who can say things about Deaf culture are those who are “experts” and only have good things to say. If you say something bad, you will be ridden out of office, removed from your job.

    Apparently, the only good Deaf culture is a Deaf cult – everybody has to be of the exact same mindset.

    *shrugs innocently and kicks a small pebble*



  7. pdurr
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 07:18:58

    jean – dont think the petition had anything to do with JKF getting the provost job at UNC but the timing of both announcements was odd indeed

    paotie – if a professor of geography declared the world was flat and offered no academically sound material to support her/his “opinion,” s/he would not remain teaching that subject

    if a professor declares that ASL is inferior, that Deaf people who support Deaf culture are anti-hearing world, exclusive, and clannish and is quoted doing so in publications that target universities across the country, would this professor be demonstrating currency in the field of which she was to be teaching – ASL and Deaf Studies

    in no way is the petition saying remove this person from Gallaudet because we dont like what s/he says – the petition does not talk about I K Jordan and Karen Kimmel who both said plenty of “bad” things against Deaf culture. they are not assigned to teach ASL and Deaf Studies

    The true experts on Deaf culture examine both the good and bad aspects of any oppressed culture. we certainly do have both aspects. the experts do not proclaim inflammatory and inaccurate rhetoric.

    expert – a person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject.

    perhaps u r not aware that there is a whole academic field and discipline called Deaf Studies and American Sign Language – its not just a hobby or a personal opinion or something fun to play with. its a real field – so definitely diverse thoughts and information is encouraged within any discipline. we definitely need and want folks thinking outside of the box to help advance the field of Deaf Studies

    the statements made by this professor to the media where she called Gallaudet’s new bilingual mission statement a move to monolingualism is not simply a different way of thinking. it is simply calling the world flat. completely inaccurate and frankly embarrassing that any professor would allow herself to be quoted saying such.

    most importantly it is damaging. folks outside the fields of ASL, Deaf Studies, Bilingualism pick up the paper see this is a quote from a former provost and they give her statement credence

    i think perhaps u didnt see the post that examined dr. fernandes innaccurate statements in the chronicles of higher ed.

    u might want to check it out

    not at all sure how ur use of the word cult applies but i do see u r using it to try to demean collective activism

    u needn’t worry about a Deaf cult – it will never happen.

    i once saw a Jewish Holocaust scholar present – she talked about the myth of the “great Jewish conspiracy” and laughed saying “when have u ever seen a group of Jewish people agree on anything”

    there will always be plenty of diverse thinking within the Deaf community – there is not risk of a “Great Deaf Conspiracy” however just as with anti-semetism – there is a very real risk of propagating such myths and misinformation for harmful purposes

    * shrugs peacefully and assembles a small pile of sticks and stones into an nice De’VIA artwork

    much peace


  8. Paotie
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 09:45:04


    I like your style, Pdurr.

    Actually, I might know a thing or two about Sign Language studies. And I know a thing or two about many other things related to sign language, interpreters and Deaf culture. It is unwise to assume with regard to me.

    Okay, so let me ask you this: is it inappropriate for a college instructor to make a political comment? Or even support or oppose a political mandate while a leader of an academic program?

    *smiles innocently and kicks a crushed empty cardboard box of apple juice*



  9. Trackback: Deaf Culture Hypocrisy and Jane Fernandes | Paotie’s Green Couch | Crumblings of Things
  10. pdurr
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 12:08:04

    hi paotie

    i was trying to make no assumptions about u with my response – hence i said perhaps u are unaware and perhaps u have not seen Dr. Fernandes quotes in the chronicles.

    as u noted assumptions can be very dangerous

    so as u r saying u know beyond just general knowledge about Sign language studies and Deaf culture – pls let me know how u see Dr. Fernandes’ comments in the Chronicles in terms of Gallaudet’s new mission – how they fit within the scholarly fields of ASL and Deaf Studies which u say you know a thing or two about

    re: appropriateness of a college instructor to make political comments – i do not think i conveyed any objection to Dr. Fernandes making political statements – the objection is to her making inaccurate and incorrect statements

    i would want someone to call my attention to any erroneous statements i might make to the press which represent my field. i need to be accountable to my profession and myself

    i know how to make clear to the press the difference between my own political statement and generally accepted academically sound information. i also know that if i am misquoted – it is my duty to rectify the situation (i checked with the author of the chronicle article to ensure Dr. Fernandes had not contact him after the article to lodge any complaints of having been misquoted – he received none from her and as her communication to him was all via email correspondence – it seems accurate and undisputed)

    in terms of political comments / opinions – people have never seemed to be shy about sharing their concerns to any political statements i have made in the past and im sure it is true for u, dr. fernandes and others

    there is a difference between sharing an political comment / opinion and stating something as fact

    for an analysis of JKF’s quotes in the Chronicle

    only once does the professor use the term “seem” the rest of her statements are stated as facts and truisms and fly contradictory to academically accepted understandings of Deaf culture, bilingualism, ASL and Deaf studies

    again – if she was not a faculty person in the dept of ASL and Deaf Studies – the petition would not have been warranted and if she did not make those statements so recently (article ran oct 19) the petition would not have been needed

    i would have gladly assumed that her early statements to the media were just a result of having been in a horrendously difficult position during the protest and controversy and i would be willing to quietly wait to see if she had a new understanding – hopefully she would have to do some reading to prepare for her intro to Deaf studies courses and then develop a sounder understanding of the topics she was discussing in the media

    so to answer ur question of which u already know the answer ; )

    no it is not wrong for a college instructor to make political comments

    re: ur question on a political mandate – im not sure what u r referring to – gally’s bilingual mission? if this is what u r referring to – again i dont have a problem with said professor opposing the university’s mandate in the media but her/his opposition should be academically founded not farce and it should be clearly stated as an opinion

    the objection is to her misinformation and lack of compentency demonstrated in the field she is being assigned to teach in this spring

    so if a professor IN THE FIELD OF HOLOCAUST STUDIES were to proclaim that the Shoah never happened or that only a few thousand Jews were killed instead of 6 million – this is not simply a case of this professor making a political statement – this is a case of incompetence – reckless incompetency

    re: ur signature sign offs of “innocently” and “kicking” – what’s up with that?
    to me this seems to be a bit of misrepresentation of urself – ur postings r not done innocently and the kicking of pebble portray u as a childish cyber prankster

    i prefer not to think of u as such – i think u have a good mind and probably a very good heart

    prefer to see more of both

    *smiling and peacefully clicking submit



  11. New Yorker Leon
    Dec 02, 2007 @ 18:35:55


    Greeting from Manhattan..

    As for your concern about Jane Ferandes’ quotes in Chonicle, is this kind the one that you discussed? Otherwise, could you send me the link of Jane’s qoutes.

    Thank you for making this issus to enable us to think what we can do best for our next generation.



  12. pdurr
    Dec 03, 2007 @ 09:57:03

    hi leon

    yes that is the article – i cant copy and paste it as its copyrighted material

    here is the link to the quotes from Fernandes in the article:



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