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The most important campaign was the 1988 “Deaf President Now” (DPN) protest at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C, students went to show their deep frustration about the oncoming new hearing president, even though almost all students were deaf. Following a 2000-person protest and an eight-day sit-in, the university hired I. King Jordan as their first deaf president. Gallaudet University was established in 1864 in Washington, D.C. by Edward Gallaudet. The college later expanded from what was originally a deaf school for children. That school was first established in 1857. Gallaudet was the first university for deaf students and those who can’t hear very well in the entire world.
The students at Gallaudet began the campaigning for a deaf president in 1987 when Jerry Lee resigned. He started as president there in 1984.The push behind the protest for DPN was not just about the upcoming election, but about bringing together and making the entire school community stronger. Students that were supporting the thought of a deaf president were apart of the big rally that started on March 1, 1988. At the protest all the students were fighting for 4 main things: Zinser’s resignation and the selection of a deaf person as president; the immediate resignation of Jane Bassett Spilman, chair of the Board of Trustees (who made the comment that “the deaf are not yet ready to function in the hearing world”);A change of the Board of Trustees with a 51% majority of deaf members (Previously composed of 17 hearing members and 4 Deaf members)there would be nothing held against any students or staff members involved in the protest.( Source: “Deaf President Now.”
Students closed off the campus doors utilizing heavy-duty bike locks and hot-wired buses, moving them before the entryways and letting the air out of the tires. The bolted entryways, kept individuals from coming onto campus grounds while forcing the Board of Trustees to come and get the protesters’ requests. The Board overlooked the requests, and after an unsuccessful student/Board discussion, the supporters of DPN went to begin marching to the Capitol Building. The challenge was driven for the most part by four students, Bridgetta Bourne, Jerry Covell, Greg Hlibok, and Tim Rarus.
Students went to talk to Zinser. She compromised and accepted the third and fourth demands of the students, but to the protesters and students that wasn’t enough. The students wanted to make it clear that Gallaudet needed to stand as a role model for all deaf people and other deaf schools fighting for the same rights. This goal would be accomplished with more ease if they had a deaf president to represent them better.
The interpreter/communication center in the University got many phone calls from businesses, friends, and anonymous donations all donating food, money, and other stuff to help the protest. A big step was taken when there was a speech by Jordan who said “I only have anger towards the decision of the Board. We need to focus the world’s attention on the larger issue. The four demands are justified. Zinser resigned.” At the protest there were more than 2,500 protesters holding signs saying “We have a dream!” Everyone, Students, faculty, and staff all gathered to commend their victory in the Gallaudet’s field house when the 4 demands were met. A deaf president, I. King Jordan was chosen as the new president and at his first conference after being elected he said one of his famous quote “Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do, except hear.”
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