Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Suggested Public Statements by Gallaudet

In response to Tom's "Oh, Shut Up, Chuck Colson!!" post, Mishka Zena wrote:

"Seriously the public relations department under the new Interim president has a very tall order, trying to undo the damage it inflicted on the university the last few months."

How so true.

I also left a response suggesting that it may be a good idea if:

"Gally’s PR Department hires new faces to replace ALL of the present staff members. We can’t have the same people, who once said JKF was the most qualified person for the job, saying now that the “Unity for Gallaudet” protest is the best thing that has happened to Gallaudet since the DPN Protest in 1988. Otherwise the public is sure to lose faith in Gallaudet. We need new PR representatives to make a public statement of apology for the wrongdoing of the former PR representatives who were involved in manipulation of information and “spinning” of images and facts in order to perpetuate IJK’s administive regime and all his concomitant baggage."

It's my opinion.

I'm wondering if such a public statement should also include a very neat summary of Dr. Robert Johnson's open letter to the Board of Trustees (10/14/06).

What are your thoughts? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Social Abilities Matter, Dr. Fernandes.

Kevin McLeod posted an article online at the, entitled "Help Wanted at Gallaudet" on November 8, 2006 ( Mr. McLeod mainly argues in this article that, for most leadership positions, social abilities matter, which Dr. Fernandes lacks.

Help Wanted at Gallaudet
November 8, 2006
By Kevin McLeod

The past two decades have seen two leadership nominees at Gallaudet crash and burn. In both cases, the uproar and angst made headlines, and in both cases, the spectacle was entirely avoidable. Going into the Fernandes selection, everyone involved had the luxury of hindsight; we knew what happened with Elizabeth Zinser. While technically qualified, she lacked a key ingredient - the social dimension. She had no record of leadership in the deaf community, no knowledge of ASL, and a superficial understanding of the deaf community. Previous experience at another university doesn't balance the absence of knowledge in these areas.

Jane Fernandes, after 11 years in management positions at Gallaudet, was clearly unable to gather popular support from faculty, staff and students. This set off a power struggle between Gallaudet's administration and others in the campus community, a struggle given birth by repeating an error from the last time around - the importance of the social dimension was overlooked. While Fernandes has the long experience at Gallaudet that Zinser lacked, the hostility Fernandes' selection generated points to a clear gap in the evaluation process. It's plainly not enough to understand the job; it's critically important to also understand the community.

This doesn't mean that choosing a president should amount to a popularity contest. There's an old saying in employment - "It's not what you know, but who you know that matters." The first part of this statement is nonsense - what you know certainly matters. But it is true that who you know, and having the ability to maintain good working relationships with them, can do as much or more for your career as what you know. Fernandes' inability to build support for her selection after 11 years in the community suggests, at the very least, a neglect of critical relationships.

Social skills are a legitimate measure of a person's fitness for leadership positions. Being a leader means dealing with conflicts and building networks of trust. Such networks are vulnerable; they can be eroded by alliances, personal agendas, manipulations of truth, irresponsibility, incompetence. The best leaders are skilled at setting and managing expectations, addressing communication problems, knowing when to encourage and when to confront, being clear about goals while being realistic when setting them. Leadership is essentially a social job - organizing the efforts of many individuals with different levels of ability into effective teams. Leaders tend to be older because it takes time to develop the ability to do these things well.
Obviously, it's not just Gallaudet presidents who need polished social skills. How often have you met people in your workplace who know their jobs well, but don't seem able to play well with others? How often have you been frustrated with co-workers who seem to generate more drama than useful work? How often have you left work wishing you had handled a conflict with someone better?

Dale Carnegie nailed this issue fifty years ago with this famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. In it, he shares the secret of working with other people - consider the self-interest of everyone you meet. Try to look at problems from their point of view. As Robert Heinlein once put it, "Never appeal to a man's 'better nature.' He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage." You won't always agree with what other people want, but understanding what they want and why they want it can point towards solutions.
The Golden Rule is another useful guide - treat others as you would want to be treated. Of course, not everyone will treat you the same way, but you can get a lot done with most people by expressing respect for their feelings and working toward a compromise.

Gallaudet suffered through tremendous frustration and upheaval over the last several months because many of the stakeholders in the community felt ignored during the selection process. The Board of Trustees focused on technical ability and experience, but gave less weight to the social dimension. As it prepares to choose a new round of candidates, it is in the interest of all stakeholders that the selection process consider solid relations in the deaf community as a prerequisite for nomination.

The nominee should be someone who is widely viewed as capable of building and maintaining new networks of trust. Social abilities matter - on the job, for getting the job, and for getting the job done.

Kevin McLeod is a dual Canadian/American citizen with a diverse background in creative arts. His web development experience includes work for Gallaudet University, iXL and the Washington Post. His writing, graphic design and editorial service for the deaf press has included the GA-SK Newsletter, the NAD Broadcaster, and Silent News. He currently works as a Mental Health Technician at the National Deaf Academy in Mount Dora, FL, the world's only psychiatric treatment center designed for deaf residents.


My Response to the "Dismissed" article in the Boston Globe

Below is my response to Brooke Lea Foster's "Dismissed," which was published in the Boston Globe magazine on November 12, 2006. Ms. Foster's article was posted in Mishka Zena's blog on the same day. I sent my response (i.e., Letter to the Editor) to the magazine yesterday, and got a prompt reply from them. The editor would like to consider publishing it, space allowing. The editor explained that letters are typically edited for length and clarity, and that fewer than half the selected letters are published. So, it remains to be seen whether or not they will actually publish my letter. In the meantime, see what I wrote in my letter to the editor below:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have been following the continuous whirl of discussion around Dr. Fernandes’ presidency, and I have finally come to a few strong conclusions of my own. She is quite a brilliant, persistent, and determined person. Unfortunately, she has never been deemed a leader by those she has worked by and for. Leaders are not pulled to high levels of success; rather, they are LIFTED there by those working beside and below them. Achieving high-level success requires the support and cooperation of others. And gaining this support and cooperation of others requires leadership ability. It was clear she had not managed to demonstrate adequate leadership ability in order to garner this support in her Gallaudet tenure.

But what is even sadder to me was Dr. Fernandes’ response when she was ultimately rejected by the student body, faculty, staff, and alumni as an appropriate candidate. She countered that the problem was that she was not considered “Deaf enough.” That was self-deception on her part. Even if she were a “blue blood” Deaf aristocrat who signs fluently in ASL, her leadership skills would still be as they are. And, her words amounted to nothing more than a transparent rationalization of her shortcomings. I believe that the more successful the individual, the less inclined he or she is to make excuses. Only people insecure in their accomplishments are so quick to speak in such a manner. It’s unfortunate that Dr. Fernandes had to play the deaf card with the media. It didn’t help her stance in the university and with the public at large. After such careless remarks, I do not understand how she can expect to return to the university in any capacity, let alone as its president.

I hope Dr. Fernandes will seriously consider putting all of her wonderful qualities—intelligence, courage, and determination—to good use by devoting her energy and time on research studies or publishing books and making a name for herself in a productive, supportive manner.

Yours truly,

Juan A. Vietorisz
Gallaudet alumnus ’90 & ‘91

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


My Response to Tom's "Journalists Can Be So Dumb."

I think it is unforunate, but not so surprising that we frequently encounter hearing people who are ignorant to our way of life. Hearing people, unfamiliar with the langauge, culture, and society of Deaf people, often stereotype them as isolated, lonely, miserable, and emotionally cut off from other people. These projections of hearing people of what it must mean to be "audiologically deaf" do, in fact, commonly represent the expereience of late-deafened people, who one day find themselves, to their horror, unable to hear.

Furthermore, hearing people who are ignorant of the Deaf world often believe that Deaf people, particularly those who use only ASL and do not use their voice to speak, are limited to talking only with other Deaf people and are therefore rather isolated in their social contacts. We know very well that this is entirely untrue. As I stated in one of my previous blogs, particularly my response to Mr. Slutzky's, a former NTID professor, "Gallaudet Isolating Deaf" (11/3/06), members of the Deaf community are actually amazingly heterogeneous. What unites all Deaf people, regardless of their hearing status, level of education, jobs and professions, gender, race, gender, and sexual orientation, into a tight-knit community is the strong Deaf pride and identity rooted in a full-fledged language (i.e., ASL), culture, and life experience. Deaf people are therefore more exposed to emotionally meaningful diversity than hearing people who often tend to be isolated within their own narrow reference group.

We must constantly combat audism and all other forms of discrimination, the same way Afro-Americans must continuously defend themselves against racism--yes, even in today's society, unforunately. Fight we must, and fight we will!

Live free, die well!

Juan A. Vietorisz, Gally '90 & '91

Friday, November 03, 2006


Jack Slutzky's Misconceptions Re-visited

Regarding Jack Slutzky's definition of culture in Gallaudet Isolating Deaf (11/3/06), the problem with dictonaries is that a single word often has multiple meanings. It is easy to chose a definition one likes in favor of another right above or below it. Mr. Slutzky has said the meaning of culture is "the development of intellectual and moral abilities; enlightenment acquired by the study of the fine arts, humanities, and the sciences; and the integrated pattern of human knowledge...." But a glance at my own Webster's shows his selectivity. Culture is also "the ideas, customs, skills, and arts of a given people...." This is the definition that applies to our discussion here online. Culture is not some rarefied concept attained through study of fine arts. If this were true, then the only culture would be that born of Mozart in Austria. Culture is of the people. To say that Deaf culture is a misnomer is rather misinformed.

I must, however, say that I agree with Mr. Slutzky that members of the Deaf community are amazingly heterogeneous. Within the Deaf community in the United States, there are Afro-Americans, Anglo-European Americans, Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, and many other ethnic groups. The many jobs and professions typical of the hearing world are well represented, as are different social circles and different walks of life. What unites Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people all into a tight-knit community is the strong Deaf identity rooted in a distinct language (i.e., ASL), culture, and life experience. As an article in the New York Times Magazine back in early '90 has put it, "Deaf people have formed inviolable bonds of love that are rare in hearing culture." For this same reason, Deaf people tend to transcend their differences of ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation that would be more prominent in the larger hearing society. Hence Deaf people are more exposed to emotionally meaningful diversity than hearing people who often tend to be isolated within their own narrow reference group.

Mr. Slutsky can take comfort knowing that those who support the protest are in favor of having students with all forms of deafness and backgrounds attending Gallaudet University. And while it may be hard for Mr. Slutsky to believe this, those who go to Gallaudet have chosen to do so because of its language and culture. And --more often than not-- they come to embrace them, regardless of the mode of communication they used when they arrived.

I think it is easy for Mr. Slutzky to talk about accepting, respecting, and utilizing all modes of communication, because he is a hearing person; he was readily exposed to spoken English from birth. There was only, and still is, one language for him--English. He never had to deal with all artifical, deeply flawed, modes of communication thrown at him in an educational institution. It must be nice to be a hearing person.

Juan A. Vietorisz, Gally '90 & '91


Signing, Writing, and Speaking

Linguists have verified that ASL is a full-fledged, full-valued language with its own grammatical structures, on a par in sophistication and complexity with any language including spoken English. For Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people in North America, ASL is a language that emerges spontaneously as a means of talking about what they know, so that they can attain social goals important to them, the same way as spoken English functions for hearing people.

It is common knowledge in the Deaf community that simultaneous communication and other artifical communication modes introduced into the education of the Deaf tend to be favored by hearing professionals. Such artifical communication modes serve the convenience of hearing educators because they bypass the intellectual effort involved in acquiring ASL, a difficult, unfamiliar language, in depth. Many hearing professionals who imagine that they are using simultaneous communication may make good sense in their spoken English while they garble their simultaneous signs to the point of gibberish.

A fair ability to use spoken English is nice--but learning to use voice to speak intelligibly requires years of the most intensive and arduous training, perhaps even a lifetime. And there is a little guarantee that Deaf people, including those who are hard-of-hearing or have cochlear implants, will ever manage to speak nearly as well as hearing people, if they have any success at all.

Consequently, it is fluency in ASL and reading/writing English at a high level of competence that is an absolute must. Learning to speak English is all right--if it comes easy enough to leave untouched the time needed for education and language learning.

Juan A. Vietorisz, Gally '90 & '91

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