Gallaudet: 2 Prominent Members of Board of Trustees resign

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Nov 9 14:01:27 UTC 2006

Thursday, November 9, 2006

2 Prominent Members of Gallaudet U. Board of Trustees, Including a U.S.
Senator, Quit



The acting chair of the Board of Trustees of Gallaudet University resigned
this week, a day after Sen. John McCain also stepped down from the board.
Both indicated they were disappointed by the board's decision, just over a
week earlier, to rescind the appointment of a new president in the face of
determined protests by students, professors, and alumni. "I cannot in good
conscience continue to serve the board after its decision to terminate her
appointment," Mr. McCain, a Republican from Arizona, wrote in a letter to
the university's departing president, I.  King Jordan. The decision, the
senator wrote, "was unfair and not in the best interests of the
university." Mr. McCain's letter, which was distributed to members of the
university's board, was quoted in Wednesday's Washington Post. A
spokeswoman for the senator confirmed the statement.

Mr. McCain was one of three members of Congress who sit on the board of
Gallaudet, which receives a sizable subsidy from the federal government --
$105-million of its $149-million budget this year. Aides to Rep. Ray
LaHood, a Republican from Illinois, and Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey, a Democrat
from California, said the lawmakers had no plans to resign from the board.
However, none of the three has been very involved in the board's work, or
in the recent controversy over the naming of Jane K. Fernandes as
Gallaudet's new president, according to Brenda Jo Brueggemann, who stepped
down as acting chair of Gallaudet's board. She said that while Mr. LaHood
and Ms. Woolsey had stopped by briefly at a board meeting on rare
occasions, Mr. McCain, who joined the board in 1995, had been scarcer.

"In my five years on the board," said Ms. Brueggemann, "I have never seen
him at any board meeting." Ms. Brueggemann, an associate professor of
English at Ohio State University, became acting chair of the board last
May, after the resignation of Celia May Baldwin. Ms. Baldwin said then
that, in the nine days after the board announced its choice for president,
she received "numerous aggressive threats" for supporting Ms. Fernandes.
Ms. Brueggemann indicated in a message on the university's Web site on
Wednesday that her resignation was effective immediately. In the message,
she wrote that "my personal life, and my professional work as a scholar,
teacher, and administrator at my own university, have suffered

In a telephone interview she said that, like her predecessor, she had
suffered harassment for her strong support for Ms. Fernandes. During the
final week of protests leading up to the board's decision, on October 29,
to revoke its appointment of Ms. Fernandes, Ms. Brueggemann's office at
Ohio State was occupied by several protesters who had to be removed by the
campus police, she said. She said she had received numerous harassing
e-mail messages, and after her home telephone number was published by
protesters, she got 112 calls one recent Sunday. Around the same time, she
had to cut short a class when a bomb scare forced the evacuation of a
building where she was teaching.

"That was when I knew it was time to draw the line," said Ms. Brueggemann,
who is hard of hearing and has published widely on deaf studies. Ms.
Brueggemann said she feels "enormous regret" at leaving the board of the
country's only liberal-arts university for the deaf and hard of hearing.
"But there are tons of other ways I can contribute without it taking that
much of a toll."


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