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Deaf Students Shut Down University


In Washington, D.C., a group of deaf students has blocked the main entrance to Gallaudet University, the world's only university for deaf and hard of hearing students. The students are demanding the resignation of the university's president-designate. The protest has shut down the school.

Student protestors have taken over the campus at Gallaudet University, a prestigious school for the deaf and hard of hearing. The blockade of the main entrance prompted school administrators to cancel classes.

Gallaudet student Megan Malzkuhn, one of the protest leaders, says the standoff will continue until they get what they want. "If the administration meets our two demands, meaning Jane Fernandez resigns and there are no reprisal for any of the students and faculty, then this will be resolved."

Jane Fernandez is the president-designate of the University who is scheduled to take office in January. Protestors deny that they ever charged that Fernandez, who learned sign language in her twenties, is not, as some put it , "deaf enough." But they do say that Gallaudet is more than a school. It is a symbol of what deaf people can achieve and the president must be an advocate for all deaf people. The student protestors and many faculty members are angry that they were excluded from the selection process.

Cheryl Wu, a faculty director of the school's counseling program, says the students need to have input. "It's a democracy and we need to have input. We recognize that the board of trustees have authority and but at the same time we must have faith and input in the selection ourselves."

University officials have warned protesters that their actions are illegal and must stop. In a statement Jane Fernadez refused to give in to protester demands, saying, "We live in a country that is governed by the rule of law, not anarchy."

News reporter Burton Bollag, who has been following this story for the weekly newspaper "Chronicle of Higher Education" sees no easy resolution. "The chair of the whole faculty told me yesterday that it is a case of a huge force pushing against an immovable object and he said nobody knows where it is going to lead to."

For now, the stalemate continues as both sides consider their options: compromise or confrontation.

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