Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University
Latin: Universitas Gallaudetensis
Former names
Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and the Blind
Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf
Gallaudet College
MottoEphphatha (Aramaic)
Motto in English
Be opened
Congressionally chartered[1]
EstablishedApril 8, 1864
Endowment$164.5 million (2016)[2]
PresidentRoberta Cordano
Administrative staff
LocationWashington, D.C.,
United States
CampusUrban, 99 acres (0.40 km2)
ColorsBuff and Blue
AthleticsNCAA Division IIINEAC, ECFC
Gallaudet univ logo.png

Gallaudet University[a] t/ is a federally chartered private university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing. It is located in Washington, D.C. on a 99-acre (0.40 km2) campus.[4]

Founded in 1864, Gallaudet University was originally a grammar school for both deaf and blind children. It was the first school for the advanced education of the deaf and hard of hearing in the world and remains the only higher education institution in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. Hearing students are admitted to the graduate school and a small number are also admitted as undergraduates each year. The university was named after Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a notable figure in the advancement of deaf education.

Gallaudet University is officially bilingual, with American Sign Language (ASL) and English used for instruction and by the college community. Although there are no specific ASL proficiency requirements for undergraduate admission, many graduate programs require varying degrees of knowledge of the language as a prerequisite.[5]


Summary timeline

Columbia Institution for the Deaf, circa 1893, shortly before the collegiate department became named after T.H. Gallaudet
Edward M. Gallaudet
Chapel Hall

In 1856, philanthropist and former United States Postmaster General Amos Kendall became aware of several deaf and blind children in Washington, D.C., who were not receiving proper care. Kendall had the courts declare the children to be his wards and donated 2 acres (8,100 m2) of his land to establish housing and a school for them.[6] Edward Miner Gallaudet was the first superintendent of the new school. Later, John Carlin suggested placing a monument of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet with Alice Cogswell.[7]

In 1857, the 34th Congress passed H.R. 806, which chartered the grammar school as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind and funded tuition costs for indigent deaf, dumb (mute), or blind children belonging to the District of Columbia.[8] Seven years later, in 1864, the 38th Congress authorized the institution to grant and confirm college degrees.[9] The collegiate department became known as the National Deaf-Mute College. The following year, in 1865, the 38th Congress removed the instruction that the institution was to educate the blind, and renamed it the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb.

In 1954, Congress amended the charter of the institution, changing the corporate name to Gallaudet College, which had been the official name of the collegiate department since 1894.[10]

During his 17 years as Dean of the College in the 1950s and 1960s, George Ernst Detmold was a significant figure in helping the college achieve accreditation. He also led the college in developing new departments, especially drama. He directed Gallaudet theater productions, which eventually led to starting the National Theatre of the Deaf.[11]

In 1986, Congress again amended the charter of the Institution, renaming it Gallaudet University.[12]

Early history (1859–1880)

Florida Avenue entrance

The school was established in 1857 with considerable efforts being made by several concerned citizens of Washington, D.C. Two houses were used, one purchased and one rented. On November 1, 1858, the First Annual Report was submitted to the Secretary of the Interior.[13]

During the school's second full year of operation (1858–1859), 14 deaf students and 7 blind students were in attendance. Superintendent Gallaudet, anticipating the future growth of the school, requested money for more buildings, lamenting the fact that the money was not issued in the year prior, due to federal budget problems. The Second Annual Report was submitted November 5, 1859.[14]

During the third academic year (1859–1860), Kendall beseeched the federal government for funds to relocate the school to more spacious grounds. Gallaudet praised Kendall for donating money needed to construct a new brick building; however, both school buildings were already at capacity. There were 24 deaf students, necessitating a second teacher of the deaf. The teacher of the 6 blind students resigned due to health concerns.[15]

By the 1860–61 academic year, the Civil War had been in progress for over six months. Gallaudet reported that the students were safe and free from fear. There were 35 deaf students and 6 blind students in attendance during the academic year. An art teacher was hired for the first time.[16]

During 1861–62, new monies provided for industrial education were used to rent a nearby shop in order to teach cabinet-making to the male students. Plans were underway to construct a new building using $9,000 that Congress appropriated to the school. There were 35 deaf students and 6 blind students. During vacation in August a regiment of troops used the brick building for a hospital, and some of the students who stayed over the summer helped with tending to the sick soldiers. One soldier died. For the first time, Gallaudet proposed expanding the school to create a college for deaf students.[17]

Even with new construction completed for the 1862-1863 school year, the school was still at capacity and more money was needed to purchase 13 acres (53,000 m2) of adjoining land and then build even more buildings. Gallaudet asked for money to pipe in water from the river, as the existing cistern and well were inadequate to the school's needs.[18]

College-level courses were offered for the first time during the 1864-65 academic year. Congress provided approval for Columbia to grant college degrees, and an enabling act for the college was passed and approved by President Lincoln. An elaborate inauguration ceremony was held in June with Laurent Clerc in attendance. Fourteen acres of land was purchased with money supplied by the government. Gallaudet was promoted to the position of president of the institution. He continued to push for funds for expansion and new buildings. Gallaudet also proposed discontinuing services for blind students, saying that the small number of blind students would be better served at the school for the blind in Baltimore.[19]

The enrollment numbers increased rapidly during the 1864–65 academic year. Gallaudet asked the government for money to accomplish several projects, including the construction of an ice house and a gas house, sewer lines, and more. Major construction continued on campus. The name of the collegiate department was changed to "National Deaf-Mute College". The blind students were transferred to a school in Baltimore.[20]

Dr. Edward A. Fay signing "Dom Pedro's Visit to Gallaudet College" (1913)

During the 1865–66 academic year, Gallaudet responded to criticism from supporters of the oral method in Massachusetts, saying that oral instruction is usually of little value to congenitally deaf children. Gallaudet proposed that a representative of the school be sent to Europe to study the methods employed there, in order to determine which types of instructional methods might be added to those methods already being used successfully at the Columbia Institution and other American schools. Combined enrollment of all levels of instruction, including the collegiate level, exceeded 100 for the first time during this year. There were 25 students enrolled in the college, including students from 14 states of all parts of the Union. Edward Allen Fay joined the faculty as a professor of history, having learned to sign as a child.[21]

Old Fowler Hall, circa 1866

In the 1866–67 academic year, the building for the primary school was extended and sickness was thereby reduced. A mathematics professor was hired for the first time. More money was needed to accommodate additional students expected to swell the ranks of the school.

Gallaudet gave a lengthy account of his travels to Europe and was very critical of the extent to which speech is taught to deaf children in European schools for the deaf. Nevertheless, he recommended that a limited amount of speech training be afforded to deaf students in America to those who show they can benefit. His travels took him to: Doncaster, England; Birmingham, England; Manchester, England; Liverpool, England; Glasgow, Scotland; Belfast, Ireland (Belfast, Northern Ireland); Dublin, Ireland; Geneva, Switzerland; Nancy, France, Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort, France; Vienna, Austria; Leipsic, Saxony (Leipzig, Germany); Lubec (Lübeck, Germany); Frankfort On-the-Main (Frankfurt, Germany); Brussels, Belgium; Zurich, Switzerland; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Paris, France; Weissenfels, Prussia (Weißenfels, Germany); Prague, Bohemia; (Prague, Czech Republic); Berlin, Prussia (Berlin, Germany); Milan, Italy; Genoa, Italy; Turin, Italy; Dresden, Saxony (Dresden, Germany); London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Bordeaux, France; Marseilles, France; Munich, Bavaria (Munich, Germany); Bruges, Belgium; St. Petersburg, Russia; Åbo, Finland (Turku, Finland); Stockholm, Sweden; and Copenhagen, Denmark.[22]

The biggest educational conference in the then-history of deaf education was held during the month of May 1868 in Washington, D.C., largely made up of principals of schools for the deaf. Fourteen schools for the deaf were represented from 22 different states. The chief topic of discussion was the recommendations put forth by Edward Gallaudet regarding adding articulation lessons to schools' curricula.[23]

In 1868–69, the first students completed a full course of college studies, all graduating with bachelor's degrees.[24]

The founder of the school, Amos Kendall, died in November 1869. Gallaudet delivered a eulogy at the board meeting in January 1870. The main central building was partially completed, with rooms in the basement and on the first floor first being used. Plans were being made to purchase Amos Kendall's estate, which adjoined the grounds of the school. Gallaudet cautioned Congress that Kendall's heirs had plans to subdivide the property if it was not sold to Columbia, and hence the land would never again become available for purchase as a whole.[25]

In 1881, Laura Sheridan, a hearing woman, inquired about Gallaudet University's accepting women. She was told that deaf women could not enter the institution. In 1887 Gallaudet agreed to allow women to apply with the intent that women would not stay. Temporary living arrangements were made and the college remained co-educational.[26]

Deaf President Now (1988)

Student strikes at Gallaudet University starting March 6, 1988, revolutionized the perception and education of Deaf culture. Deaf students were outraged at the selection of another hearing president, Elisabeth Zinser; the university had never selected a deaf person for this position. Alumni, faculty, staff, and students demanded that the next president of the university be deaf. After a week of protest and activism, Zinser resigned and was replaced by I. King Jordan. This movement became known as Deaf President Now (DPN).

Unity for Gallaudet Movement (2006)

Student Academic Center (SAC)

Jordan announced his retirement in September 2005. On May 1, 2006, the university's board of trustees announced that Jane Fernandes, the university's current provost, would be the university's next president. This was met with protests from the student body, both in person on campus and in internet blogs and forums.

Initially, students cited the lack of racial diversity among finalists, Fernandes's lack of warmth,[27] and her lack of fluency in American Sign Language.[28]

Jordan publicly accused some critics of rejecting Fernandes because "she is not deaf enough." He described the protest as "identity politics", saying, "We are squabbling about what it means to be deaf."[29]

The Washington Post reported that Fernandes "would like to see the institution become more inclusive of people who might not have grown up using sign language," stating that Gallaudet must embrace "all kinds of deaf people."[30] Those who opposed her said that they feared a "weakening of American Sign Language at an institution that should be its standard-bearer."[31]

Protesters said Fernandes distorted their arguments and that the protest centered on her inability to lead, an unfair selection process and longstanding problems at the school.[32]

In the spring 2006 protest, students blocked entrances to the Gallaudet campus, held rallies, and set up tents near the university's main entrance. Fernandes, appointed to serve as president-designate until Jordan retired, said that she would not step down. On May 8, the faculty gave a vote of no confidence for Fernandes.

When the fall 2006 academic year resumed, some students, faculty, staff, and alumni continued their protest, calling for Fernandes to step down and for the presidential search to be done again. On October 11, a group of protesting students shut down the campus. On October 16 at a regularly scheduled meeting, faculty members voted 138 to 24 to block Fernandes from becoming president of Gallaudet University.

Fernandes said, "I really don't understand so I have to believe it's not about me. ... I believe it's about evolution and change and growth in the deaf community."[33]

On October 29, the university withdrew the appointment of Fernandes.[34] In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Jordan defended Fernandes's remarks and denounced the board's decision and the actions of the protesters, saying, "I am convinced that the board made a serious error in acceding to the demands of the protesters by terminating Fernandes's presidency before it began."[35]

On December 10, 2006, the Board of Trustees announced that Robert Davila would serve as interim president for a period of up to two years.[36] He was formally installed on May 9, 2007, during a ceremony that included a speech by D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who spoke positively of the 2006 protest.[37] He stepped down on December 31, 2009.

On June 29, 2007, in the aftermath of the controversy over the university's presidency, Gallaudet was temporarily placed on probation by its accreditation organization, the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.[38] It was also reported that in 2006, the Office of Management and Budget had found that "Gallaudet failed to meet its goals or showed declining performance in key areas, including the number of students who stay in school, graduate and either pursue graduate degrees or find jobs upon graduation."[39] In January 2007, former president Jordan wrote an editorial on the topic that appeared in the Washington Post.[36] The Middle States Commission later reaffirmed Gallaudet's accreditation on June 27, 2008.[40]

On October 18, 2009, the Board of Trustees announced that Gallaudet's tenth president would be T. Alan Hurwitz. He began his tenure on January 1, 2010, and served until he retired on December 31, 2015, succeeded by Roberta Cordano, the eleventh president.

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