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Deaf Activism: From Gallaudet University to ASD

October 5, 2017 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm |


Join Greg Hlibok, who was Student Body President at Gallaudet University during the Deaf President Now! (DPN) protest movement, and current ASD students active in social change and community service for a discussion of how deaf activism has taken shape in the past and what it will look like in the future. This program  is offered in conjunction with our exhibit Language, Culture, Communities: 200 Years of Impact by the American School for the Deafand will be American Sign Language Interpreted and close captioned.

The panel discussion is free, but please RSVP to let us know you will attend at (860) 236-5621 x238 or [email protected]

Support for American Sign Language interpreter services for exhibition-related programming is provided by Ensworth Charitable Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee.

The Gallaudet University webpage provides background on Greg Hlibok and on the Deaf President Now! protest:

Elected president of the Student Body Government only a day before the March 1 rally, Hlibok emerged as one of the “Gallaudet four,” a quartet of students that included Tim Rarus, Jerry Covell, and Bridgetta Bourne, all of whom took on the roles of leaders and negotiators during the week-long protest. Known for his calm professionalism, Hlibok appeared on ABC’s “Nightline” and “Good Morning America.” He was even named ABC’s “Person of the Week” for his role in the Gallaudet protest.

“Now we have respect; we have everything. It’s just the beginning for all of us,” Hlibok is quoted as saying after Dr. I. King Jordan’s appointment as president.

The spark that ignited DPN was the announcement on March 6, 1988, by the University’s Board of Trustees that a hearing person had been selected as Gallaudet’s seventh president. In the months-or by some accounts, the years-leading up this date, many in the deaf community and on campus had advocated for a deaf person to be named to the presidency. After all, by then there were more than 100 deaf people with doctorates, and many more who held administrative positions. Because of this, and because two of the three finalists for the position were deaf, many people were confident that the next president of Gallaudet would be a deaf person.

However, in spite of all the evidence and support, the Board chose the lone hearing candidate, Elisabeth A. Zinser, who was then the assistant chancellor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Unhappy with this decision, Gallaudet students, backed by a number of alumni, staff, and faculty, shut down the campus

The students and their backers then presented the Board of Trustees with four demands:

  • Elisabeth Zinser must resign and a deaf person selected president;
  • Jane Spilman must step down as chairperson of the Board of Trustees;
  • Deaf people must constitute a 51% majority on the Board; and
  • There would no reprisals against any student or employee involved in the protest.

By the end of the week, the students ended their protest and proclaimed victory. All of their demands had been met and Dr. I. King Jordan was named the Gallaudet’s eighth-and first-deaf president.

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