The Real Winner at Gallaudet University

Note: This article was written in the Summer of 2006, well before the Gallaudet protest escalated into a far more intense situation. The material you are about to read is a little tongue-in-cheek. Clearly, it's no longer a laughing matter.

Obviously, the Gallaudet University presidential election process has resulted in chaos (if you've spent the last several months vacationing on Uranus and have no idea what I'm talking about, click on Gallaudet FSSA for a refresher course). The worst part about it is it seems to be a no-win situation for everyone involved.

If Dr. Jane K. Fernandes chooses to stay put and takes over as the next president of Gallaudet University, her first several months in office will be geared towards restoring a sense of trust and community on campus. Instead of running a university, she'll be running a public relations firm.

Dr. I. King Jordan is probably wishing his term could end on a more positive note. I'm not worried about his legacy, though. 2000 years from now, in Ancient Deaf Studies classes on Planet Vaxatron, they'll still be talking about the 1988 Deaf President Now protest.

The Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee have had to deal with a ton of criticism. They oversaw a selection process that the deaf community insists was flawed from the very start.

The Faculty, Staff, Students, and Alumni, a.k.a. FSSA, have been protesting ever since. Their demands have not been met. Word is that FSSA will step up their efforts at the start of the Fall semester. I have no idea how this will pan out.

Yes, it's ugly. And it certainly looks like no one wins.

But wait! We do have a winner.

That would be none other than Dr. Glenn B. Anderson.

Think about it. Dr. Anderson actually looks better now than he did at the beginning of this mess.

First of all, when Dr. Anderson threw his hat in the ring as candidate for the presidency, he had to resign from his position as Chairman of the Board. Right now the deaf community blames the Board of Trustees for the botched selection process. Dr. Anderson? Long gone. He got out at the right time.

Second, there's this popular view that Dr. Anderson got screwed. And it does look that way. The reason he wasn't invited back as a finalist in the selection process, we're told, is because he didn't interview well.

Um, time out. Let's take a moment to look at Dr. Anderson's accomplishments (I'm sure there's lots I've missed, but here's what I've been able to dig up so far):

* Earned his Ph.D. from New York University in 1982.

* Professor / Director of Training at the University of Arkansas Rehabilitation Research and Training Center.

* Conducted over 150 workshops/presentations.

* Has over 35 publications.

* Has considerable experience as a vocational rehabilitation counselor and administrator of a continuing education program.

* Consultant for Educational Testing Services and the U.S. Department of Education.

* Served on the national advisory council for the rehabilitation cultural diversity project at San Diego State University.

* Served on the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees for 16 years, including a stint as Chairman of the Board.

Are you telling me that all this got thrown out the window in one interview? Unless Dr. Anderson got up and mooned the selection commitee, I don't see how that's possible. He deserved a second look. The fact that he didn't get one has fueled conspiracy debates everywhere. And this, too, is where Dr. Anderson comes out looking even better.

You know that infamous "Telephone Game" we love to play? The one where people line up facing one direction and take turns relaying a story to the person behind them? And then, by the time a story gets to the end of the line, it's totally botched?

This happens all the time -- for real, not as a game -- in the deaf community. Rumors, good or bad, get twisted entirely out of context. In Dr. Fernandes' case, she's a victim of "bad telephone." Although people have stated valid concerns regarding why they don't want her as president, misinformation also got added to the mix.

There was a rumor going around that Dr. Fernandes wants to shut down all the deaf schools in the United States. Next they'll be saying she invited Dr. Elizabeth Zinser back to assume the role of vice president. And, oh yes, by the way, that was Dr. Fernandes pushing the buttons that launched the North Korean test missiles the other day. Outrageous, isn't it?

It doesn't end there. It works in the other direction, too. The public perception is that Dr. Anderson got a bum deal. As a result, his legend will grow.

As people pass along stories about how he was wrongfully denied his right to the presidency, Dr.Anderson's already formidable accomplishments will be exaggerated beyond imagination. Not only was he published 35 times, but he also won the Pulitzer Prize (twice) and the Nobel Peace Prize (three times). While serving on the Board of Trustees, he also moonlighted at the White House. (Yes, that was Dr. Anderson running the country while Bill Clinton got sidetracked by the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He filled in again while Bush and Gore fought over loose chads in Florida.)

So of course, this man is definitely capable of running Gallaudet University. He can't lose, folks. And thus he emerges as the only true winner (for now) of the Gallaudet fiasco.

Again, I have no idea how this situation will play out. All I know is the next few months should be quite interesting.

Somewhere out there, Dr. Anderson is snickering as he munches on his popcorn.

One more note: As of October 2006, even though his name still shines, Dr. Anderson probably isn't snickering anymore. If anything, he's banging his head on the wall. I personally believe he's the only sane person left who could step back into the fray and resolve this thing for once and for all. Memo to Dr. Anderson: the Board of Trustees is spineless without you. Care to come back?