An Analysis of the Deaf President Now Protest at Gallaudet University

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An Analysis of the Deaf President Now Protest at Gallaudet University


Not many people understand that there is an entire community and culture that surrounds people who are hearing disabled. The culture centers on providing support for a people who often find themselves marginalized and segregated. Even in areas which are built to ensure their success, to provide excellent support for the deaf, they often find themselves segregated and set up. In our modern culture, the deaf are often looked down upon, not because they lack skills, talent or character but mainly because they cannot hear. Whereas they can communicate adequately, the hearing often ignore this capability and look down upon it as if it were some form of inferior communication. Whenever a deaf person achieves something or is able to reach a particular skill, they are applauded. However, they are not applauded for the achievement or the skill they have acquired but rather for overcoming what the hearing consider to be a “handicap” and a difficult one at that. It is this kind of thinking and segregation that has led to numerous protests and appeals from the deaf community and its supporters. Requests for changes in laws and policies of organizations are a frequent occurrence. The most popular and widely analyzed of this is the Deaf President Now protest of March 1988. This paper highlights and analyses the causes of this protest, the issues that escalated from small matters and fuelled protesters at Gallaudet University for days and finally concludes with determining the level of success achieved by the protest. The DPN protest gained so much support from politicians and even influential persons so that it is now equated to civil rights movements.


A lot has been said about the DPN protest in 1988 held at Gallaudet. The protest is often touted for laying the foundation for disabled students in various universities. Ladd indicates that understanding the deaf culture, and the behavior of those with hearing impairment or loss requires a complete analysis of the DPN protest (13). The protest is said to have begun with an announcement by the university that a hearing faculty member had been elected president. For decades, the deaf and hearing impaired within the university had been on the campaign to get a deaf president elected. At the time Gallaudet was considered a unique university boasting of more than 100 faculty members with doctorates and who were also deaf. It stands to reason therefore that the deaf community would take up the mantle of demanding a representative who faced their challenges and had overcome the odds stacked against those with hearing impairment.

It is to be noted that indeed during the selection process, there were only three candidates in the finalists. Of the three two were completely deaf while one was of hearing capacity. Despite the qualifications of the deaf faculty members and the call by deaf students and faculty to make a difference by selecting a deaf president; the university board chose to select the hearing candidate. The selection was based on nothing else other than the fact that she could hear. For this reason, deaf students backed by several former students and some members of faculty began a protest that ended with the shutting down of the university. The protest provides a great insight into the culture of the deaf community.


The deaf community is often considered a minority not just in learning institutions such as Gallaudet University but also in social circles. Their challenges and status of minority stems from linguistic barriers. Because of the challen.............

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