Gallaudet University marks 25th anniversary of 'Deaf President Now' protests

Gallaudet University is marking the 25th anniversary of the “Deaf President Now” protests. The grassroots effort was launched by students in 1988, generating national and international headlines and resulting in the university’s first deaf president.

When the Board of Trustees selected the only hearing candidate as Gallaudet University’s next president 25 years ago, students organized a week of protests, chanting “deaf president now.”

“I can remember when we were looking for a deaf president I actually made a comment that I hope we see a deaf president in my lifetime. So I think that gives you an example of how far away it seemed to me,” says Fred Weiner.

Since 1988, three deaf men have served as president of the university. This week, they gathered to reflect on the so-called DPN movement’s anniversary.

“Expectations were very high, very, very high,” says Dr. I. King Jordan, Gallaudet’s first deaf president. “But there were also expectations that I couldn’t succeed. People told me to my face that we doubt you can succeed as president.”

Most students attending the reunion were not even alive in 1988.

“It really inspired me to learn more and hear more about Deaf President Now,” says Patrice Bartgs.

But a few, just children at the time, remember the significance of the change.

“It was a very exciting time,” says Shane Dundas, a student. “There was a lot of energy among all of us. There was a lot of solidarity that we felt. It was quite inspiring.”

After so many years, the idea of a hearing president at Gallaudet seems foreign.

“I can’t imagine that subsequent presidents wouldn’t be deaf because more and more and more deaf people have all the qualities and characteristics to be president,” says Dr. Jordan.

The DPN movement declared that deaf people can do everything but hear. And that message got through loud and clear. Today, more and more deaf students are attending traditional universities and that’s impacting enrollment at Gallaudet.

“I think though it's made us a better and stronger university as a result. You know we can no longer rely on the fact that we're the only choice. Now we have to work very hard to make ourselves the university of choice,” says Weiner.

To commemorate this milestone in deaf history, the university will host a number of lectures, panels, and a film screening to explore the multifaceted nature of this movement. For more information, click here.

President's Panel
Tuesday, February 5 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.
Elstad Auditorium
The University's first three deaf presidents will describe their experiences and give insight on the transformative changes that have occurred at Gallaudet over the last 25 years.

Board of Trustees Chairs Panel
Wednesday, February 13 from 3:00-4:15 p.m.
Swindells Auditorium
This panel brings the current Chair and three former Chairs of Gallaudet Board of Trustees to reflect on the impact of DPN on the work of the Board of Trustees and how expectations of accountability of the Board of Trustees have changed in the last 25 years. Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz will moderate this panel.

Julian Bond lecture: "From Civil War to Human Rights"
Thursday, February 21 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.
Elstad Auditorium
From his college days as a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to his Chairmanship of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Julian Bond has been an active participant in the movements for civil rights, economic justice, and peace, and an aggressive spokesman for the disenfranchised. Professor Bond will establish context and explain the meaning of civil rights and recognize DPN in its proper place in the history of American civil rights movement.

Benjamin Jarashow Lecture: "The 7 Ducks: Behind the DPN Movement"
Wednesday, March 6 from 12:00-1:00 p.m.
I. King Jordan Student Activities Center, Room 1011
This lecture is based on interviews with the "7 Ducks," a group of alumni who were intimately involved in building momentum for the DPN movement.

Four DPN Student Leaders Panel
Saturday, March 9 from 2:00-3:30 p.m.
Merrill Learning Center, Room B-111
Co-sponsored by the Gallaudet University Alumni Association and moderated by GUAA President Alyce Slater Reynolds, this panel brings together four student leaders that became the face of the DPN movement. This panel discussion will be live streamed to GUAA chapters around the country and the world.

Comparative Civil Rights Panel
Tuesday, March 12 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.
Foster Auditorium
What were people of color doing during DPN? What are their perspectives and stories? This is an area that has not been extensively explored. Their stories can help shed light and add another layer to our understanding of DPN. Professor Ella Barkley Brown of University of Maryland-College Park will examine the issue of diversity within social movements.

"Lives Worth Living" Film Screening and Panel
Thursday, March 14 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.
Foster Auditorium
Coordinated by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, panelists include Judith Huemann, special advisor, Office of International Disability Rights for the U.S. Department of State; Claudia L. Gordon, Esq., special assistant to the director of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and current member of the Gallaudet Board of Trustees.

History of Women at Gallaudet and DPN Panel
Tuesday, March 26 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.
Foster Auditorium
The Board of Trustees has selected a female president two times and each time the campus community has rebelled. This panel will discuss this in terms of gender and history and the role of women in the DPN movement.

David Armstrong Lecture: "DPN and the Struggle for Deaf Control at Gallaudet"
Monday, April 1 from 12:00-1:00 p.m.
I. King Jordan Student Activities Center Multipurpose Room
This lecture will focus on the paradigm shift in Gallaudet's history as a result of DPN. Questions for consideration include: What are the direct consequences of DPN at Gallaudet? How has Gallaudet changed over the last 25 years? What areas have seen marked improvement? Some additional consideration may be given to the increase in the number of deaf faculty and staff, the university's endowment fund, the increase in deaf administrators, and changes in physical structure to accommodate the unique visual accessibility needs of deaf students, faculty and staff.

Tom Humphries Lecture: "Our Time: The Legacy of the 20th Century"

Tuesday, April 2 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.
Foster Auditorium
This lecture will focus on the impact of DPN throughout the United States. How has Deaf America changed over the past quarter century? What areas have seen marked improvement and what challenges remain? Discussion will focus on the key changes in deaf education, access to health care, employment, technology, and language rights over the past four decades in the United States. Humphries in an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California at San Diego and is on the Gallaudet Board of Trustees.

Wilma and Bruno Druchen Lecture: "International Perspectives on Human Rights"
Tuesday, April 9 from 12:30-1:50 p.m.
Foster Auditorium
Wilma and Bruno Druchen will discuss the legacy of DPN on an international scale. How has the spirit of DPN inspired other disability rights movements to reaffirm sign language rights, including the important work that led to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? This would draw on their extensive knowledge as leaders of not only South Africa, but also as collaborators with the United Nations, and the World Federation of the Deaf. The Honorable Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, a Gallaudet alumnus, is the first deaf person to be elected to the South African Parliament.

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