Deaf School's Leader Ousted Amid Protests

Gallaudet University students and alumni after the announcement that the board of trustees of the nation's premier school for the deaf voted Sunday, Oct. 29, 2006, in Washington, to revoke the appointment of the incoming president, former provost Jane Fernandes, who had been the subject of weeks of protests that at times shut down the campus. (AP Photo/Leslie E. Kossoff)
AP Photo
In the end, the incoming president of the nation's only liberal arts university for the deaf was given no choice.

The Gallaudet University board of trustees voted Sunday to revoke Jane Fernandes' contract after a daylong closed-door meeting that followed a month of protests by students and faculty members. She had refused to step down.

In a statement posted on the university's Web site, Fernandes, the former provost who had been selected in May to take office in January, said she had "deep regret" about the board's decision.

"I love Gallaudet University, and I believe I could have made a significant contribution to its future," she said. "I hope that the Gallaudet community can heal the wounds that have been created."

This is 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." Elisabeth Zinser, president at the time, resigned after about a week in the position.

Protesters this time said that Fernandes, 50, was an ineffective leader as provost and that she was not the best person to address a lack of diversity, declining enrollments and low graduation rates.

They said the board ignored surveys by students and faculty members 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.