The presidential search is a process that typically occurs once in a blue moon in colleges and universities. When it does happen, it is almost always a historic moment – presenting an exceptional opportunity for an institution of higher education to assess its accomplishments in support of its mission, and carefully consider how its infrastructure and programs support all members of its community.Next President of Gallaudet University In the search for a new leader, members of the board of trustees not only evaluate candidates’ experience and expertise in administering an educational body, but also the new approaches and new collaborations that the next president would bring to the campus.
For Gallaudet University, September 1, 2005 was a historic moment. It was when Dr. I. King Jordan, its first deaf president, announced to a campus gathering in Elstad Auditorium that he would retire effective December 31, 2006. The announcement set into motion the search for the next Gallaudet’s president.Next President of Gallaudet University In its October 6-7, 2005 meeting, the Board of Trustees determined that a search committee made up of students, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees, and alumni will be formed.
Subsequent to the announcement, Ms. Pamela Holmes, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee, reported that Dr. Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Ms. Susan J. Dickinson, Mr. Frank Ross, Dr. Benjamin J. Soukup, Jr., and Mr. Christopher Sullivan, III were the selected Board of Trustees members who will join her on the Search Committee.Next President of Gallaudet University Ms. Holmes further indicated that the six Board members on the Search Committee will begin meeting electronically to finalize the selection of the remaining 11 members completing the composition of the committee with representatives from faculty, staff, Clerc Center, students, and alumni. Once the selection process is completed, the names of the selected individuals will be posted on the Presidential Search Process
Brief Deaf President Now History
Following Dr. Jerry C. Lee’s resignation as Gallaudet’s president in 1987, leaders in the national deaf community immediately joined with Gallaudet alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends in urging the Board of Trustees to select a deaf president for the University.Next President of Gallaudet University By February 1988, the Board had narrowed the field of candidates to six – three deaf, three hearing. Eventually, the field was further narrowed to three finalists, one of whom was a hearing woman named Dr. Elisabeth Zinser. The two deaf candidates were Dr. Harvey Corson and Dr. I. King Jordan.
Gallaudet’s Board announced on March 6, 1988 the appointment of Dr. Zinser as its next president. Students and their supporters immediately registered their refusal to accept the Board’s decision and instead, launched the Deaf President Now (DPN) protest. The DPN protest was truly a watershed moment – helping unite faculty, students, staff, alumni and members of deaf communities across the country and abroad in support of the onerous notion that it was time that Gallaudet was led by a deaf president. The week-long protest captured worldwide attention and created great awareness of deaf people, their language, and their culture. Two days after being appointed the new president, and under pressure from the DPN movement, Dr. Zinser resigned.Next President of Gallaudet University Gallaudet’s eighth-and first deaf-president, Dr. I. King Jordan, was selected. Mr. Philip Bravin became the first deaf chair of the Board of Trustees, and the board began in earnest the process that would fulfill a demand of the DPN protesters that 51 percent of the members of the Board of Trustees be deaf.
Why Would the Selection of the Next President Matter to You?
Gallaudet University’s strategic goals make clear that its status as “the only liberal arts university in the world designed exclusively for deaf and hard of hearing students” means that it serves a much larger community than just the folks who live, learn and work at 800 Florida Avenue, N.E, Washington, DC. Its Strategic Goal #6 states that “Gallaudet University nurtures and strengthens its position as a global educational and cultural center for people who are deaf and hard of hearing and demonstrates its commitment to diversity by reaching out to deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere.” As a result, Gallaudet has made significant programmatic, research and financial commitments to creating a better environment for deaf people to thrive in, regardless of whether it takes place in D.C. or beyond.
For instance, the Gallaudet website states that “[l]ast year, Gallaudet served more than 48,000 individuals through conferences, sign language classes, the Office of International Programs and Services, World Deaf Leadership Program, its regional centers (Flagler College, Florida; Johnson County Community College, Kansas; Kapi’olani Community College, Hawaii; Northern Essex Community College, Massachusetts; and Ohlone College, California), and summer enrichment programs for deaf and hard of hearing community of Greater Washington, D.C. The website further adds that “[i]n fulfilling its national mission role via training and technical assistance, information dissemination, and exhibits and performances, the Clerc Center served over 36,000 people and disseminated approximately 600,000 educational products in 2004. In addition, the Clerc Center recorded over 4,500,000 visits to its website last year.”
Thus, a major path for you to support greater opportunities for deaf people – families, colleagues, children and untold generations of people who live, work and learn with us – is to help Gallaudet maintain and revitalize its commitment to serving our community. This entails your active involvement in the presidential search process.
What Can I Do to Be Involved?
There are several ways you can get involved in the presidential search process, namely:
Stay abreast of the formal process established to select the next president by monitoring updates on the Presidential Search Process website noted above.
Participate in the ongoing discussions about the criteria for the next president. Do you think he or she should be deaf? If so, say so. Go further, and discuss about the need for proven leadership experience in deaf related organizations and communities. There is an online discussion group about this topic that you can join by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word ‘subscribe’ in the subject or body. You can also organize a discussion session through your local deaf community gatherings.
Reach out to Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA), the National Association of the Deaf, and others who are part of the deaf community to let them know of your ideas, concerns, and expectations.
Encourage as many qualified deaf candidates to apply for the position as possible. The more such candidates apply for the position, the better the chance of selecting a deaf president that best serves our community.
Support the University through financial donations. Universities say that they pay careful attention to the views of those who contribute. Regardless, you can expect that students will be the primary beneficiary of your charitable contributions. The future direction of our community depends on the intellectual and leadership contributions of those students.
My Other Option Is To…?
Deciding whether or not to get involved in the presidential search process is your prerogative. If you do not get actively involved in the process for selecting the next Gallaudet president, the world will not stop rotating. A candidate will eventually be selected to fill the position. Gallaudet will continue to operate in some capacity.
It’s important to remember, though, that apathy will never be the most effective way to address issues affecting our community. Taking the bull by the horns is usually preferable to getting trampled on your back by the bull. After all, our experiences in tackling issues like audism and racism in our community have shown that it’s best to seize upon challenges and turn them into opportunities to discuss new approaches and new collaborations to achieve greater empowerment and better prospects for us all.