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Deaf Students Protest, Seeking Deaf President

March 07, 1988|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of students today shut down Gallaudet University, the nation's only university for the deaf, out of anger over the selection of a president who is not hearing impaired.

The school was closed early this morning after an estimated 600 students blocked campus entrances, said Thomasina Wilson, a spokeswoman for the school's security force.

Joining the students, who were supported by faculty members and alumni, was at least one high-ranking administrator, Dean of Student Life Frank R. Turk, who told a reporter, "I have never felt so defeated."

Never Had Deaf Leader

At issue is the selection of Elisabeth A. Zinser, now vice chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gallaudet, chartered by Congress in 1864 as the only liberal arts college for the deaf, has never had a deaf president.

Wilson said students blocked campus entrances with their cars about 6 a.m. James Barnes, the school's vice president for business, closed the university a short time later.

"It's totally impossible for employees to get in," Wilson said.

City police Capt. M. J. Johnson said he expected no arrests as long as the demonstration remained peaceful.

Trustees to Meet Students

The board of trustees scheduled an afternoon meeting with students to explain why they selected Zinser over two deaf candidates.

Turk, walking with students outside the school, said the board was the problem.

"I've been on the Gallaudet payroll for 35 years," said Turk, who is deaf. "I have never felt so defeated. I do not think I will ever experience a more frustrating feeling in my life. Obviously, we need to overhaul our board of trustees completely. . . . They must go--now."

After Zinser's selection was announced late Sunday night, students marched 60 blocks from the campus in northeast Washington to the downtown hotel where the university's board was meeting.

More than 200 continued on to the White House and then to the Capitol, where they sat facing a line of 25 city police officers. After half an hour, they marched back to the campus.

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