Saturday, December 6, 2008

Update re: AG Bell plaque and events at NTID \ RIT


Updates at NTID \ RIT

Orange & Brown Coalition reps met with NTID administration to find out:
1. what has happened to the plaque honoring AG Bell q


NTID president, Dr. Hurwitz, informed us that the plaque was melted down and thus destroyed

2. what will the new name of the dorm be q

the name has been returned to its original name - NTID Residence Hall 50C. A new name would be awarded to the building if a large donor comes in and the RIT Board of Trustee's approves etc.


O & B is very grateful that Dr. Hurwitz collected input from the community and made recommendations for the removal of AG Bell's name from the dorm and that the RIT board approved this recommednation.

O & B would also like to commend the RIT President's Commission on Pluralism and Inclusion for hosting their annual Campus Week of Dialogue with a focus on Deaf culture and audism.photo by A. Sue Weisler (RIT)


Go to http://www.diversity.rit.edu/publications.html and click Diversity Perspectives - Fall 2008 for a newsletter from the Commission offering definitions of audism as well as schedule and description of this years Campus Week of Dialogue. The week included a keynote address by Dr. Bienvenu, which featured a phenomenal amount of information on linguicism, phonocentrism, audism, and Deaf culture in an incredibly high register of ASL and fast speed! The film "Audism Unveiled" was screened and a post film discussion followed, there was a panel discussion on diversity within the Deaf community and Deaf culture, a class shared information and a t-shirt design they created to promote Deaf culture knowledge and ways to combat audism, a presentation on the importance, value and right to signing in public places was delivered, and a workshop on helping RIT faculty understand, respect, and incorporate their Deaf students and ASL into their classroom was conducted.

Big hand wave to Alfreda Brown (Office of Chief Diversity Officer) and Michelle Cometa (Chair of the President's Commission on Pluralism and Inclusion) and all their mighty assistants for hosting and organizing this week.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Final Decision to Remove AGBell Name

NTID Community:

I just learned that the RIT Board of Trustees, with support from President Destler, has accepted my recommendation that the Alexander G Bell name be removed from our dormitory. They followed the on-going discussion and are in agreement with the views expressed in my recent email to President Destler urging the removal of the name; I shared that email with you on June 30, 2008.

I hope that each of you, like me, learned a great deal from the open process we pursued in reaching this decision.

In the end I learned – to my great pleasure – that we live in a community where strong opposing ideals can share the same space, where we can hold discussions with coolness as well as with heat, and where consideration and thoughtfulness regarding others is a strongly held value. My faith in all things related to RIT/NTID was reconfirmed throughout this process and in the final decision.

You each have my great thanks for your participation in our deliberations and for your advice on this issue.

Alan

T. Alan Hurwitz, Ed.D.
President, NTID
Vice President and Dean, RIT
Rochester Institute of Technology
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
52 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, New York 14623-5604

Monday, June 30, 2008

Status of Bell Name on Dormitory

Students, Faculty, and Staff:

I would like you to be aware that several days ago I sent the following recommendation to President Destler regarding the name of the Alexander G. Bell building. As reported below I am deeply appreciative of the part so many of you played in this process. I will inform you when Dr. Destler and the Board of Trustees has made a final decision.

Alan


Dr. Destler:

With this communication I am recommending to you as President of RIT, and to the RIT Board of Trustees, that the name “Alexander G Bell Hall” be removed from that RIT/NTID residential building, and that in the future we follow RIT guidelines to begin the process of renaming the building as appropriate. I assure you that this process shall be conducted in accordance to the RIT Board of Trustees policy and guidelines for naming buildings on the campus.

As you know, I followed an extended process to arrive at this decision. It began when I established a working group to advise me on the issue. I circulated their final report to you and all of NTID in May 2008, and included my opinion at that time. In a subsequent communiqué I reopened the discussion and allowed for: a multi-step process including an open forum which occurred in early June 2008; a continuous opportunity for students to provide me with feedback; and finally two forums (just completed) that allowed for RIT/NTID alumnae to provide comments to me during our RIT/NTID 40th Anniversary Reunion, which is currently in progress.

From start to finish I saw many individuals express their views in public forums and in public emails. I applaud the willingness of those who spoke on the issue. All spoke from their hearts and many bared their souls. Over time I detected what for me was a change in the tone of these communications; this was particularly noticeable in statements which – while still strongly maintaining the authors’ positions – considered how their positions and statements might impact those who did not agree with them.

In addition to the public comments, I received a large amount of email addressed privately to me. Those too reflected well on the free exchange of opinion valued not only in a university but in a ‘community,’ which is how I view NTID.

A small number individuals – in public or private communications – indicated that they did not have a strong position on the name, but knew the unity of our community was threatened, which saddened and upset them, and me as well.

In the end I found myself returning to, and strongly agreeing with, many comments indicating that Bell advocated an exclusive approach to communication that did not support a sense of community of deaf people who use a variety of communication approaches including ASL.

We live in a community.
We thrive as a community.
We welcome all to our community.

I have been convinced that it is not appropriate for us to maintain a building with his name; using a term I have used before, there is a strong ‘consensus’ for the removal of the name. I saw that consensus in all of the forums and communications that occurred since reopening this discussion within our community. Each of the individuals who participated in the process by sharing his or her views, and even those who were not active participants but who used the discussions to educate themselves, are owed a debt of gratitude for their efforts. In an educational environment we hope all commit to educate themselves, and then to educate each other. That has happened here.

I want it to be clear that this decision does not affect the open arms which we always have, and always will, extend in welcome to everyone who joins the RIT/NTID community.

I know you are to be commended for your participation, and I thank you for your advice, counsel, and support throughout this period.

I believe that the appropriate recommendation has been made.

I believe what has happened has been in the best interest of our community.

At this point I will await your decision.

Warmly,

Alan

Friday, June 6, 2008

NTID open forum on AG Bell hall

vlog explaining the open forum at NTID re: AG Bell hall

the overall forum was very positive - about 50/50 Deaf / Hearing composition - great number in attendance for summer time. Overwhelming number of comments as to why the name should be removed. Some expressions of concern re: process or impact of the decision.

video

Loose translation of the vlog: (difficulty uploading the vlog - will get it up as soon as we can)

Yesterday NTID hosted an open forum to discuss Bell Hall – should the name be kept or removed. The Discussion and open forum went great. Dr. Hurwitz, our NTID president, held this forum to collect more input and feedback regarding the dorm name. He wants to get the pulse of our community. It's really important so please, if you feel strongly about keeping or removing the name Bell hall, send an email to Dr. Hurwitz and Dr. Destler, president of RIT, letting them both know your thoughts. (Hurwitz tahess at rit.edu and Destler wwdpro at rit.edu). If you want to keep or remove, state your reasons why. Your thoughts on this matter are really important. Dr. Hurwitz will host two more open forums during the NTID Alumni Reunion at the end of this month to get your thoughts. At the same time he is collecting input from the students. So if you want to let them know your thinking, send them an email. It's really important.

In regards to yesterday’s meeting, in my opinion it was very positive. Different opinions, points of view, concerns were put on the table in a very peaceful manner. One person brought up that Bell’s name on our dorm was like having a Hall of Shame. In their opinion it was a shame and a disgrace to NTID, a Deaf college, to have a dorm in Bell’s honor because of what he worked for. It was time for the name to go. Another person expressed concern as to what would be the possible adverse impact if the name is removed? They felt it was important that NTID consider any possible negative affects removing the name would have. Some people worry that if the name Bell is removed other people will “think” that NTID does not support people who are oral or hearing parents who have chosen to raise their children in an oral-only way.

Several hearing people expressed how Bell has no personal relevancy or impact on their lives or the lives of their family; however, they feel that if d/Deaf people feel strongly offended by having a building in Bell’s honor then they should be heard and respected. Its important that if d/Deaf people themselves want the dorm name removed then that should be listened to. Their wishes should be respected. Similarly, when African-Americans are offended by a confederate flag and the question is raised should it be kept, people listen to what African-Americans say – it is offensive and as a result it is removed.

One person said the name Bell hall does not fit RIT’s value statements and suggested the name be moved to a speech, audiology and/or cochlear implant center at NTID. A speech teacher who has been at NTID for many years came forward and responded that the speech, audiology and/or cochlear implant centers at NTID do not adhere to the principles and beliefs of AG Bell. (Banning of signing / pure oral only method, opposed d/Deaf to d/Deaf marriages and d/Deaf people becoming teachers etc) Bell's beliefs are not beliefs that our NTID speech and audiology services hold – it is not what they are about. Rather, when a student who signs comes to that dept. for services they are supported and welcomed, likewise when a non-signing student comes to work on speech they are served also. They work with who the students are and what they bring with them. They don’t follow Bell’s ideals so it wouldn’t be appropriate to pass on his name to their services. She stated she’d prefer not see that happen. I was very impressed with her statements.

One person shared that people who want the name to come down, like Orange & Brown, have not been following the right procedure or have been manipulating students to do their bidding or haven’t been teaching students how to respect authority and follow the system. Another person explained that he went to a school called Stonewall Jackson Elementary school. When I saw that I had to laugh hard because I know very well that Stonewall Jackson was totally opposed to the freeing of slaves. He was a strong Confederate and wanted to keep slaving running and the North and the South separate and many other things. He was a famous general during the Civil War. So the name of my colleague's school was in Stonewall Jackson’s honor and he grew up thinking nothing of it until he studied history in high school – wow, that man was AGAINST the liberation and equality of Black people – and my school was named in his honor? Geez!. But today that name is no longer – it has come down and been changed.

NTID and Orange & Brown want to be clear that opposition to a name in Bell’s honor is not opposition to people who are oral. I myself am very oral. I am hard of hearing and grew up my whole life in the hearing world and as a speaking person. And that name is still offensive to me even though I am an oral person and I was raised orally. That name in his honor – after what he did to d/Deaf people and what he tried to do to their rights – it is simply not respectful to have a name in his honor.

We want to be clear that all students are welcome here always. If we choose to leave the name in Bell’s honor we have to think about if we are sending a welcoming message to our d/Deaf ASL students and their d/Deaf parents. It is not welcoming to students who use sim-com or those who are comfortable with sign language and Deaf culture. They may want to have a d/Deaf partner or d/Deaf children in the future – we would not be welcoming to them because we honor Bell who did not welcome such and vehemently opposed them. Now conversely, if we remove the name does that mean we are not welcoming oral students? We say no that is not the case, we are definitely still cherishing our students who are oral. We want to welcome them to NTID – this is their home too. NTID belongs to all of us. This is the beauty of NTID/RIT that it should welcome all people where diversity is cherished and everyone can become part of our d/Deaf family.

There were many other comments in this two hour meeting – I can not remember them all. Overall, I was very impressed with how positive it was – people could share their fears – would it impact negatively or positively on NTID – should we move the name, leave the name, give it a new name. Really it was a wonderful discussion, no complaints. Thanks to NTID for hosting it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bell dorm open forum June 4th and O and B email to NTID community

June 4th Wed at 2 pm in the CSD Student Development Center room 1300 - there will be an open forum to discuss the dorm named in AG Bell's honor

------------
Faculty and Staff have been sending reply all messages to the NTID community since the decision on the dorm name was originally announced. O & B sent out a reply all message yesterday:

Greetings to members of our NTID/RIT community:

EXRESSIONS OF THANKS:
The Orange & Brown Coalition, which is made up of students, staff, faculty and alumni of NTID/RIT, would like to thank all of the faculty and staff who shared their thoughts on the issue of Bell hall and allowed for us to reprint your comments in our website at: http://orangebrownrit.blogspot.com/2008/05/ntid-facstaff-responses-re-decision.html . We value ALL of your comments.

We gratefully acknowledge and value Drs. Hurwitz and Destler's statement at our May 22, 2008 meetings that no personal attacks, threats, or hostile environments will be tolerated towards individuals or groups in favor of keeping the name or those in favor of removing the name

We would also like to thank Dr. Hurwitz and Dr. Destler for reconsidering the decision and for opening up the dialogue on this topic.

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RESPECT FOR ALL
We trust that once NTID/RIT examines the unexamined principles of AG Bell's life work and activities, people will be able to see the difference between those who work to improve methods of teaching speech and Bell’s efforts toward mandating an exclusive and intolerant pure oral approach over all else.

Removing the name of AG Bell from one of our dorms in no way targets Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals who prefer to use speech, individuals who teach speech, and/or those who work in the field of audiology. Our opposition is to the individual--AG Bell, and how he fostered a rigid exclusiveness connected with the teaching of speech to deaf/hard of hearing individuals (and the complete intolerance of sign language) ---- not against the acquisition of speaking skills. If the administration is to worry about potentially offending anyone by removing the name of the dorm, they must show equal concern, respect and value for the multitudes of people that have been offended by the decision to keep the name.

Please rest assured that if NTID/RIT had a building honoring someone who advocated exclusively for the teaching of ASL and banished English and speech from a deaf child’s educational experience, we would object vehemently to honoring this person as well. NTID/RIT is playing right into A G BELL’S LEGACY -- – polarization within deaf education – -the oral/aural only camp and the bilingual camp (where ASL and English are equally respected). We regret this very much.
-----------------

RIT VALUES VS VALUES OF AG BELL
The Orange and Brown Coalition's position is that Alexander Graham Bell dorm be renamed because honoring A.G. Bell is incongruent with what RIT stands for. According to RIT's values statement:
  • RIT values integrity (Bell has been accused numerous times of forgery and plagiarism),

  • RIT values respect (Bell did not respect the wishes and voice of the deaf and hard of hearing people of his time),

  • RIT values diversity (Bell showed no tolerance for sign language in deaf education, was exclusive and extreme in this philosophy, and actively worked to prevent deaf people from being teachers),

  • and RIT values pluralism (Bell actively tried to prevent, diminish, and destroy the pillars of the Deaf community and Deaf culture - ASL, Deaf schools, Deaf teachers, Deaf organizations, and Deaf marriage practices).
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COLLECTION OF FEEDBACK/MATERIALS
In reviewing all the materials before us:
  • scholarly publications on AG Bell's role in deaf education and Deaf history and AG Bell and the telephone invention and patent (see below for sources)

  • the petition with over 1,000 signatures from students, faculty, staff, community members (Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing) in favor of renaming the dorm

  • the many, many, many private emails and personal communication we have received from individuals telling us they are disgusted, upset, and in shock over the decision but are fearful to express this to the administration privately or publicly

  • Ohlone College Deaf Studies' resolution to disassociate itself from NTID until the dorm is renamed http://orangebrownrit.blogspot.com/2008/05/letter-from-faculty-of-center-for-deaf.html

  • and shared statements in favor of honoring AG Bell, which however do not propose valid reasons as to why a dorm name in Bell's honor is appropriate on RIT's campus
... we humbly request that you rename the A.G. Bell Hall on RIT campus.

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A SUGGESTION FOR TOWER C PLAQUE
Lastly, we would like to offer new wording for the new plaque in honor of those who have graduated from NTID/RIT:

NTID has been referred to as the “grand experiment” because its vision was to have a Deaf college exist within a Hearing college. Without a doubt, this grand experiment has been a successful and meaningful one. Thousands of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people from all walks of life are welcomed here to study, learn, grow, contribute and achieve in this unique environment. The values of pluralism, diversity and respect are lived out every day at RIT because of the existence of NTID and Deaf/hard of hearing students on campus.

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We thank each and everyone of you who cares equally for ALL of our students and are so willing to engage in this dangerous dialogue. We, members of the Orange and Brown Coalition, mean no ill-will towards anyone and we believe we can have this honest and much overdue dialogue with utmost respect and caring.

We know that all in our NTID/RIT community are UNITED in the desire to affirm and live out RIT's values of: integrity, respect, diversity and pluralism.


Thank you.

Peace,

Orange & Brown Coalition


SOURCES:

Baynton, Douglas C. Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign Against Sign Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Baynton, Douglas, Jack Gannon, and Jean Lindquist Bergey. Through Deaf Eyes: A Photogrpahic History of an American Community. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2007.

Bell, Alexander Graham Memoir upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race. 1883.

Edwards, RAR, “Chasing Aleck: The Story of a Dorm”, The Public Historian, Vol. 29, Nov 3, pp. 87-107, Summer 2007.

Gannon, Jack R. Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America. Silver Spring, Md.: National Association of the Deaf, 1981.

Lang, Harry. A Phone of Our Own. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2000.

Lane, Harlan. When the Mind Hears: A History of the Deaf. New York: Random House, 1984.

Shulman, Seth. The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Bell’s Secret. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008

Van Cleve, John V. and Barry A. Crouch. A Place of Their Own: Creating the Deaf Community in America. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1989.

Veditz, George, De Moruis Nil Nisi Bonum, Obituary for AG Bell, The Jewish Deaf, October 1922, pp. 13-15.

Veditz, George, Dec. 29, 1909 letter to AG Bell, retrieved 5/18/08 http://memory.loc.gov/mss/magbell/169/16910210/0001.jpg

Veditz, George, February 15, 1915 letter to AG Bell, retrieved 5/18/08 http://memory.loc.gov/mss/magbell/169/16910212/0001i.jpg

Winefield, Richard. Never the Twain Shall Meet: Bell, Gallaudet and the Communication Debate. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1987.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

O and B position request for Bell dorm to be renamed

NOTE: this position statement was composed and approved of before the decision to reconsider was announced to the community. Rather than revise it based on this latest step, O & B has sent it forth to properly and formerly explain and document our discontent with the original decision and our rational for our request that the dorm be renamed.

We are very grateful that the initial decision is being reconsidered. Perhaps the most significant part of this document is the proposed wording for a new plaque at the bottom of this letter.

-----------------

To: Dr. Hurwitz
CC: Dr. Destler
From: The Orange & Brown Coalition
Re: The Dorm and Revised Plaque in AG Bell’s Honor
Date: 23 May 2008

The Orange and Brown Coalition, which is made up of students, staff, faculty and alumni of NTID/RIT, request that the Alexander Graham Bell dorm be renamed because honoring A.G. Bell is incongruent with what RIT stands for.
  • RIT values integrity (Bell has been accused numerous times of forgery and plagiarism),

  • RIT values respect (Bell did not respect the wishes and voice of the deaf and hard of hearing people of his time),

  • RIT values diversity (Bell showed no tolerance for sign language in deaf education, was exclusive and extreme in this philosophy, and actively worked to prevent deaf people from being teachers),

  • and RIT values pluralism (Bell actively tried to prevent, diminish, and destroy the pillars of the Deaf community and Deaf culture - ASL, Deaf schools, Deaf teachers, Deaf organizations, and Deaf marriage practices).
We are deeply hurt by the decision to keep the name of Bell dorm and to set up a new plaque in his honor. We are deeply hurt by the continued tendency to give greater weight to fear that some people may be offended or may misunderstand a decision to remove Bell’s name from the dorm at the expense of those who have demonstrated our opposition and offense peacefully.

Removing the name of AG Bell from one of our dorms in no way targets Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals who prefer to use speech, individuals who teach speech, and/or those who work in the field of audiology. Our opposition is to the individual--AG Bell, and how he fostered a rigid exclusiveness connected with the teaching of speech to deaf/hard of hearing individuals (and the complete intolerance of sign language) ---- not against the acquisition of speaking skills. If the administration is to worry about potentially offending anyone by removing the name of the dorm, they must show equal concern, respect and value for the multitudes of people they have been offended by the decision to keep the name.

Much discussion has revolved around the AG Bell working group's statement: "The group could not reach a consensus…a thoughtful, considerate and conscientious group of people found that they could not agree." While the working group’s statement that was bolded goes unnoticed: "However, the working group came to unanimous agreement that A.G. Bell held perspectives, goals, and promoted objectives that are different from and inconsistent with the perspectives, goals and philosophies of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology." AG Bell working group final report to Dr. Hurwitz dated My 8, 2008

THE RESULTS OF THIS WORKING GROUP SHOW THAT THERE WAS NOT A CLEAR CONSENSUS IN TERMS OF VOTING, YET THEY CAME TO A “UNANIMOUS AGREEMENT” THAT AG BELL’S GOALS/PERSPECITVES CONFLICTED WITH THAT OF NTID. ADDITIONALLY, THERE WAS NO CLEAR CONSENSUS TO KEEP THE NAME OF THE DORM IN A.G. BELL’S HONOR…YET, THAT IS WHAT THE ADMINISTRATION HAS USED AS A BASIS FOR THEIR DECISION.

We are puzzled that the administration, both at the NTID level and RIT level, has decided that it is reasonable to support the minority vote because the majority vote was seen as not being a "clear consensus." One should not make decisions based on default.

Furthermore, it is generally known that controversial issues rarely get strong majority votes - hence, this is why they are considered controversial. Many difficult US Supreme court decisions are made by a 5/4 vote. It is not a strong consensus but it still becomes the law of the land. The dissenting opinion never rules SIMPLY because the majority was deemed too weak. The vote was: 6 Keep and 8 Remove – yet, the administration decided TO SUPPORT the minority vote. The working group closed their report with the statement: We would like to suggest that you distribute our report to the NTID community and provide opportunities for input as you determine your recommendation(s) to President Destler. This recommendation did not mean that a decision first be made, and then a community dialogue take place afterwards.

In reviewing all the materials before us:
  • scholarly publications on AG Bell's role in deaf education and Deaf history and AG Bell and the telephone invention and patent

  • the petition with over 1,000 signatures from students, faculty, staff, community members (Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing) that the administration still has not formally acknowledged

  • email responses opposing the decision to keep the dorm name in Bell's honor

  • the many, many, many private emails and personal communication we have received from individuals telling us they are disgusted, upset, and in shock over the decision but are fearful to express this to the administration privately or publicly

  • and receiving no valid reason as to why a dorm name in Bell's honor is fitting on RIT's campus and why a minority dissenting vote rules the day
we humbly request that you rename the A.G. Bell Hall on RIT campus.

Please rest assured that if NTID/RIT had a building honoring someone who advocated exclusively for the teaching of ASL and banished English and speech from a deaf child’s educational experience, we would object vehemently to honoring this as well. NTID/RIT is playing right into A G BELL’S LEGACY -- – polarization within deaf education – -the oral/aural only camp and the bilingual camp (where ASL and English are equally respected). We regret this very much.

We acknowledge and value Drs. Hurwitz and Destler's statement at our May 22, 2008 meetings that no personal attacks, threats, or hostile environments will be tolerated towards individuals or groups in favor of keeping the name or those in favor of removing the name.

Lastly, we would like to offer new wording for the new plaque for NTID Alumni Hall.
NTID has been referred to as the “grand experiment” because its vision was to have a Deaf college exist within a Hearing college. Without a doubt, this grand experiment has been a successful and meaningful one. Thousands of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people from all walks of life are welcomed here to study, learn, grow, contribute and achieve in this unique environment. The values of pluralism, diversity and respect are lived out every day at RIT because of the existence of NTID and Deaf/hard of hearing students on campus.
We see it in the best interest of our community to resolve this matter as soon as possible as we do not want the controversy to adversely impact the upcoming NTID alumni reunion nor enrollment.

We are happy to meet with you if you desire any further discussion and we thank you in advance for your careful attention to our request.

Peace,

The Orange & Brown Coalition

Friday, May 23, 2008

O and B has been busy

O & B Coalition would like to thank everyone who has communicated their thoughts on this issue in a peaceful and constructive way.

We want to make it clear that we will not tolerate any defamation or slandering of individuals in our website. If people can not keep the discussion focused on the issue at hand: SHOULD RIT BE HONORING AG BELL WITH A DORM NAMED AFTER HIM?
and must resort to name calling and personal attacks, we will have to disabled our comment section.

O & B is committed to peaceful and civil disobedience. We have a high regard and respect for all parties involved in this challenging and important situation.

WEEK IN REVIEW


this posting will be updated periodically. corrections are welcomed

Friday May 16, 2008
NTID / RIT administration its decision to keep the dorm name in Bell's honor and the removal of the offensive plaque that stated "Today, NTID emulates the ideals for which Alexander Graham Bell worked."

Faculty and staff sent their responses to http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifthe NTID faculty / staff, administration, and president of RIT in regards to the decision to keep the name honoring Bell on our campus.

Saturday May 17, 2008
North Carolina for the Deaf Seniors take up petition and sign it requesting the dorm name in Bell's honor be removed. Many cultures value and cherish the wisdom of their elders. O&B is very touched that these Senior Citizens took it upon themselves to take this peaceful stand.

Monday May 19, 2008
The plague in AG Bell's honor is removed. The Plaque read:
“The Alexander Graham Bell Building

Only six years before his death, Alexander Graham Bell looked back over his amazing life and wrote: “Recognition of my work for and interest in the education of the deaf has always been more pleasing to me than even recognition of my work with the telephone.”

A brillant and innovative teacher of the deaf, Bell dedicated a great portion of his life to help deaf children develop their potential for listening, speaking, and lipreading.

Today, NTID emulates the ideals for which Alexander Graham Bell worked.”

O&B regrets that it was not notified in advance of the removal time as they would have liked to witness it coming down but are very grateful that it has been removed.


Wednesday May 21, 2008
NTID administration announced its decision to host an open forum on June 4th at 2 pm in the CSD Student Development Center 1300 to allow members of the community to share their thoughts on the decision to keep the dorm name in Bell's honor, suggest new wording for a Bell plaque and to explain why the decision was made to keep the name.

Email correspondence between O&B representatives and the NTID and RIT presidents had been ongoing.

Thur May 22, 2008
members of the Orange & Brown Coalition met with NTID President Dr. Hurwitz to discuss our position and the administration's. It was a very healthy and positive meeting. In the afternoon O&B met with RIT President Dr. Destler to discuss our position and the administration's. It was a very healthy and positive meeting. Prior to the meeting with RIT's president while the members of O&B gathered in the lobby to prep for the meeting, a public safety officer appeared to be monitoring the group.

We found the openness and sincerity of both leaders to be very refreshing. They both stated they will not tolerate any attacks towards members of our community for supporting or opposing the dorm name in Bell's honor. They understand and appreciate that we are loyal to our goal of getting the A G Bell dorm renamed.

A letter and resolution was sent to NTID by Ohlone College stating its objection to NTID deciding to keep the dorm name in Bell's honor and a ceasing of business relations until RIT no longer honors Bell due to his extreme and exclusive beliefs and practices.

A letter from NSC president, Noella Kolash, was sent to NTID and RIT presidents expressing concern about transparency, lack of student input in the decision making process and the timing of the decision.

O&B member posted in LBJ bldg blue flyers, "Getting To Know AG Bell" with facts about him and why it is incongruent with RIT's value statement to have a dorm named in his honor. The signs were removed by the next day. It is not clear who removed these signs.

Fri May 23, 2008
Prior to the NTID graduation ceremony, O& B was joined by members of the RIT Social Action Group. This is a group of RIT hearing students who learned about our opposition to a dorm in Bell's honor and were equally outraged so they joined us in our peaceful activism.

O&B members were approached by an public safety officer and an interpreter asking what our intentions were during the NTID graduation ceremony. They had heard we were planning a protest. Ruthie Jordan explained that we planned to peacefully distribute a blue flyer listing things you should know about AG Bell and why we were asking for the dorm to be renamed. We would also be offering an orange and blue ribbon with the flyer. (Orange for O&B coalition and RIT's colors and blue is in honor of Deaf people who have suffered from oppression and injustice and in honor of our Deaf heros/heroines and ancestors.) The investigator looked over the flyer and then explained they had a special area on the other side of the building for us to give out the materials after graduation. Ruthie kindly declined and explained that we would be fine mingling amongst the audience before the ceremony began distributing the flyer and ribbon peacefully to those interested. When investigator Lezette asked what he could do to assist us, we gave him a ribbon and asked him to wear it. He accepted it but opted not to wear it.

Prior to the graduation and during it, some of the members of O&B were under surveillance by public safety. One graduating student, Joe Kolash, displayed a sign to each person on the stage as he received his diploma and congratulations. The sign read "I am sad to be graduating from NTID/RIT, which supports eugenics."

This evening an announcement from Dr. Hurwitz stating that he will reconsider his decision re: the AG Bell dorm name after further dialogue from our community was sent out to the community.

It has been a hard week for all parties involved. We are very happy to see the power of peaceful activism and that all parties involved can have mutual respect, caring and affection for each other while we tackle this thorny issue. It is good to know that the controversy has not succeeded in dividing brother against sister as RIT seeks to do that which is right, that which is good, and that which is just.

Peace

Orange & Brown Coalition

Reconsideration of AGBell Name

On 5/23/08 10:00 PM, "Alan Hurwitz" wrote:


Colleagues and Students:

As we move into the open forum regarding the AGBell name on our dormitory (June 4, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. CSD Student Development Center, room 1300), and the additional open discussions planned for later dates on this issue, I want to share my thinking regarding the name. As you know from my previous communications, I leaned heavily on the report of the working group, a report I circulated to all of you previously.

In responding to my first charge to the group (“Decide if the Bell name is or is not appropriate …”), the report stated:

“The range of perspectives within the working group was varied and divided… however there was a majority in favor of removing the name (8 to 6). The group could not reach a consensus…a thoughtful, considerate and conscientious group of people found that they could not agree.”

Based on that lack of consensus the decision I made was to leave the name on the dormitory, but to remove and replace the plaque with one that had more appropriate wording. I believe my decision at that time was consistent with the working group report.

I also announced that we will post a statement – through a plaque in a prominent location or with some other appropriate media – of the NTID values and philosophy regarding communications. Our community has always provided a welcome environment in which we strive to accommodate all students and others no matter what their communication approach or philosophy; we want those views reflected in this new posting.

Since the release of my decision I have heard from an extremely large number of individuals. All demonstrated in their own way – no matter what their position – a willingness to take a risk, to overcome a hesitance to communicate, and to open themselves for criticism. I can only thank all of those who have become involved in this decision to date.

I find that I should have waited to make my decision until I could benefit from a wider discussion with my constituency. For that reason I will withdraw my decision to leave the AGBell name on the building and will make a decision instead after these open meetings take place. I always benefit from communicating with others, and on this important decision I realize that I missed that step in the decision-making process.

For that reason I will wait on a final decision until after the June open meeting and until after the June meeting with alums. I will also find an appropriate method to allow for student input. I welcome and will attend to comments on this entire issue, and specifically on the appropriateness of the two choices below – or other suggestions that might arise:

1. Leave the AGBell name on the building and attach a reworded plaque.

2. Remove the AGBell name from the building. (Renaming the building would be considered at a later date, and would follow RIT procedures.)


I know we have a community that embraces tolerance and diversity of opinion; for me this means that we will all emerge from this process the better for it.

Warmly and respectfully,

Alan

Update - FW: Open Meeting on AGBell Decisions

On 5/23/08 6:27 AM, "Alan Hurwitz" wrote:

Dear Colleagues and Students:

After sending the email below, I was asked by a number of individuals to expand the opportunities (beyond the forum in early June), to allow for added discussion. I am happy to do so, and will take advantage of our 40th anniversary reunion to solicit feedback and in addition will provide opportunities for discussions involving students and our faculty, staff, and student governance groups in the fall.

Respectfully,

Alan

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Letter from the Faculty of the Center for Deaf Studies Ohlone College

Dear Alan

It is with sadness we find it necessary to send this letter to inform you of our decision to cease doing business with NTID. As an educational institution committed to cultural pluralism, we feel it is important to stand united with individuals and groups whose goal is to eliminate any vestige of oppression and discrimination against all disenfranchised groups. For this reason, we find it intolerable that NTID chose to continue to honor an extremist whose life-long work in the areas of eugenics and deafness counters the ideals of a multi-cultural society.

Attached please find the resolution which was unanimously supported by the faculty of the Center for Deaf Studies at Ohlone. Until NTID removes the name of Alexander Graham Bell from the building, the Center for Deaf Studies will no longer conduct business as usual with NTID.

Sincerely,

Faculty of the Center for Deaf Studies
Ohlone College

cc: Orange Brown Coalition

---------------------------------
Resolution attachment:
RESOLUTION

Whereas Alexander Graham Bell is considered an extremist in the history of deaf education;

Whereas Alexander Graham Bell was a leading force in the effort to prevent the prevalence of deaf people's language, their organizations, their press and their cultural identity;

Whereas Alexander Graham Bell was a strong advocate to eliminate sign language and deaf teachers from the deaf education system;

Whereas Rochester Institute of Technology is the home of the world renowned National Technical Institute for the Deaf;

Whereas the National Technical Institute for the Deaf has a building named after Alexander Graham Bell, an extremist whose views have been condemned repeatedly by the National Association of the Deaf throughout the years;

Whereas the National Technical Institute for the Deaf recently made the decision to continue honoring Alexander Graham Bell by keeping his namesake on one of its buildings;

Whereas Ohlone College has zero tolerance for extremists with negative views of and practices towards disenfranchised individuals and communities including the deaf community;

Whereas Ohlone College prides itself in providing a safe haven for all people from all cultures including deaf individuals as evidenced by its motto "World of Cultures, United in Learning";

Whereas the faculty of the Center for Deaf Studies at Ohlone College find the decision by the administration of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf to continue honoring a known extremist, Alexander Graham Bell, to be insulting, oppressive and unacceptable;

Be it resolved that the faculty of the Center for Deaf Studies at Ohlone College has voted to disassociate itself from National Technical Institute for the Deaf and will not collaborate with its representatives until such time as the A.G. Bell’s name is removed from the building;

Be it further resolved that the faculty of the Center for Deaf Studies at Ohlone College urge the NTID administration to adopt an zero tolerance policy immediately and stop honoring the man whose vision and work have continued to challenge the very existence of the community in which we both serve. It is our strong preference to continue our close working relationship with NTID for years to come.

Proclaimed on Thursday, May 22 2008
By the Faculty Members of the
Center for Deaf Studies
Ohlone College
Fremont, California


Sandra Ammons Thomas Holcomb Shelley Lawrence Alyce Reynolds


Claire Ellis Bunny Klopping Nancy Pauliukonis William Wong

NSC President's letter to Dr. Hurwitz

Dr. Hurwitz,

I strongly feel that students should be able to participate in the discussion about this issue in the fall. I also suggest to set this form again during 40th anniversary NTID reunion. We should work together soon to set up dates for two upcoming forms.

Give us some time to consider if a new plaque should be put in the place of the old one, and if so, what the wording should be. I don’t want to see students complain about the wordings which will cost a fortune for NTID to replace it again.

I also suggest you to form new committee to discuss the rewording in the fall.

It don’t make any sense to have the name AG Bell on a dorm building at all. The reason I said this because every oral schools, American Sign Language happens in the dorms. I have heard many stories that students learned ASL in oral only education schools’ dormitories. I am sure that your mother might have told you the same stories in the past.

That is something that Bell don’t want get his name in a place where deaf people kept ASL alive after the 1880 Milan conference. He tried to destroy the language, ASL. It is unlikely that bell himself would approve of having his name used in a place where deaf people are educated together, with deaf teachers, and use ASL on daily basis.

Some deaf people feel that naming a building after AG Bell on a campus where Deaf people are educated together is like naming a building in a Jewish college after Hitler. But I said, people suffered under AG Bell, but compare it to Hitler's extermination of Jewish people is truly insensitive.

Just exactly like I found wooden sculpture of Jr. NAD and I felt that it should belong to NAD. I am going to give them and give that wooden sculpture a real home. Why don’t you give the plaque its real home at headquarters of AGBAD? I am sure they would be surprised about the gift from NTID/RIT.

My in my personal option, I support to remove the name. I am not saying this as a NSC President.

But as a NSC President, I feel that you should at least have a forum that includes students, alumnus, faculty and staff. I feel that we need to be educated about AG Bell first. Until everyone understand about the history. I also feel that we should be able to vote instead just the committee to decide for the whole community.

We need to set up a system where NTID community may come to whether if they want to keep the name or not. Some kind of online voting system and we need to agree if we should decide based on the majority or 2/3 of votes?

The bottom line is that, we might have lost our trust in you. The next time another issue comes up and you formed the committee we may not trust in that kind of system. I will set up SAB (Student Advisory Board) it is a group that is formed by students themselves.

I am curious how you set up your committee do you have some kind of system? If so, could you explain what is your system of selecting people to be part of committees? I am also curious why the information in that committee is not allowed to share what is happening inside of their meetings and their progress. No committee can share inside information that is not put in a document. I noticed that those meetings are being set up during our school hours which we may have classes that we cannot afford to miss. These factors need attention to enable students to truly participate in the progress.

Please do show that you value student input including alumni.

I do not understand the basis of your decision. We wonder if there are other influential reasons for this decision that you are not sharing with us.

I thank you for your time during this whole progress and reading this email.


Sincerely,
Noella Kolash

DSNC signature of AG Bell's name/plaque removal!

video

Dr. Hurwitz,

I went to North Carolina of Deaf Seniors for performance and one of your classmates, they wanted me to bring the poster of their signatures to you. The signatures are total 106 support to remove AG Bell's name and plaque.

It is heartfelt to see DSNC to share and stand together. DSNC is a role modeling for other Deaf seniors to be unity and support for this issues.
Thanks,
Ruthie.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dr. Destler's reply re: inquiry on process for decision on Bell dorm

Responses to inquiry to RIT President, Dr. Destler, ask his involvement with the decision making re: Bell dorm in accordance with the process he explained would take in his Ask Dr. Destler website

Reprinted here with permission


>
The report and Dr. Hurwitz's recommendations were reviewed by me and also sent to the Trustees for their comment prior to his communication to the community. Both the Trustees and I felt that the process used was a good one and that Dr. Hurwitz's recommendations were reasonable given the report of the committee.

Bill Destler


Additional email sent from Dr. Destler after I sent him an email of thanks for the reply above and for the permission to post

On 5/21/08 9:36 PM, "Bill Destler" wrote:

Patti:

You are welcome, and you might also put up the following comment from me.

The Trustees, Dr. Hurwitz, and myself feel very strongly about the importance and value of NTID and the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to RIT, and as a result we want to support that community in whatever way we can. From our perspective, the current issue has arisen because that community is not of one voice on the issue of the renaming of AG Bell Hall. Unfortunately, this is a binary issue, with a decision to do nothing appearing to support one side, and a decision to remove the name appearing to support the other. Even worse, there is no obvious middle ground available to serve as the basis for a compromise.

As we know from the report, the issue of whether the dorm should be renamed was discussed at length by the committee, but the final vote on that issue was fairly evenly divided between the groups on each side of the issue, with a majority (57%) voting for removal of the name. In contrast, the recommendation to remove the plaque in the building was a consensus recommendation of the committee, and we consequently implemented that recommendation immediately.

I am pleased that Dr. Hurwitz has called the community together to discuss these issues openly, and I hope that all who participate in the meeting will do so with respect for those with opinions that might be different from their own. My greatest fear is that in dealing with this emotional issue we might do damage to the existing culture of tolerance within RIT's deaf and hard-of-hearing community. We would all be the losers should that happen.

Bill Destler

NTID President Responds re: Bell dorm

Reprinted here with author's permission

On 5/21/08 4:03 PM, "Alan Hurwitz" wrote:

Dear Colleagues and Students:

I have been deeply touched by the reaction to my decision regarding leaving the Alexander G. Bell name on our dormitory. I have read and reread the emails and postings on the topic, and have reread the report of the working group several times. While the postings and some of the emails have been public and open, I have received a much larger number of private, individual communications – both via email and in person.

I accept all of these expressions openly, for I know – no matter what viewpoint they represent – that they stem from the hearts of those coming forward to express their views.

In addition to the postings and emails that have been exchanged, I believe it is appropriate for us to allow for a discussion in an open forum. It will allow concerned members of the NTID community representing all points of view to express those views and perhaps to develop a greater understanding of others’ positions; it will also allow me to discuss my decisions. Regarding the AGBell plaque, I believe there has been some confusion; please be aware that the plaque has been removed and that I would welcome comments regarding its replacement.

With the calendar availability affected by the press of time for graduation ceremonies and activities this week and with quarter break next week, I will conduct an open meeting with the NTID community the following week on Wednesday, June 4 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. in CSD Student Development Center, room 1300. I look forward to entering a deliberative dialogue with all who attend.

In addition to inviting the community to the forum, you have my invitation to sit with me on a one-on-one basis in my office to discuss this topic (or others); I also want to reinforce that I am always available via email to communicate with any of you as well.

Respectfully,

Alan

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NTID Fac/Staff Responses re: Decision Honoring AG Bell

Responses to the NTID community re: Dr. Hurwitz’s announcement of his decision to keep the dorm name in A.G Bell’s honor and to have the plaque revised:
(reprinted with permission by the authors. Additions will be added when permission is received)

On 5/16/08 1:06 PM, "Karen Christie" wrote:
Greetings...
Given that the working group came to an “unanimous agreement that A.G. Bell held perspectives, goals, and promoted objectives that are different from and inconsistent with the perspectives, goals and philosophies of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology,” I honestly find the decision to retain the name of AG Bell on one of our buildings as incomprehensible....

I do wish that we could have resolved this manner so that our community would not be repeatedly faced with this issue.
Karen Christie


On 5/16/08 2:07 PM, "Timothy Conley" wrote:
I’m stunned and signless (speechless).

Tim Conley


On 5/17/08 12:28 PM, "Patti Durr" wrote:

I am also puzzled, baffled and flabbergasted by the decision declared below.

There was a majority vote in favor of removing the dorm name from Bell hall and a majority vote to change the name from Bell hall to NTID Alumni Hall by the advisory / working group as well as a recommendation that community dialogue take place before any decision was made.

A petition with over 1,000 signatures by faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members requesting that the dorm name and plaque honoring AG Bell be removed has been shared with Dr. Hurwitz and Dr. Destler but is not mentioned in the email below.

I want NTID/RIT to be a place of integrity.

This means that if we had a dorm and plaque honoring an individual who advocated for ASL only and banned English from the life of that child – we would all object to such an honor also.

EXTREMES on either side – Oral only or ASL only are follies and intolerant.

I know of no individual in US Deaf history who has ever advocated for an ASL only education but if there were such and my university were honoring her/him, you can rest assured I would advocate for the removal of such an honor.

Creating a statement, sign, plaque, or other form of media to show that NTID/RIT celebrates language diversity and respect for all is incongruent with having a dorm building and revised plaque in honor of AG Bell, a man who advocated for an exclusive approach to educating deaf people, tried to prevent Deaf to Deaf marriages, banned Deaf people from being allowed into the Normal College (teacher training program at Gallaudet), claim of inventing the telephone and owning the patent have been called into question numerous times (most recent – see Seth Sulman’s The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret), has no direct relationship to NTID/RIT and is an odd duck amongst all the building names on our campus (See Dr. Edward’s Chasing Aleck: The Story of a Dorm in the Public Historian).

So it seems AG Bell is still having an adverse impact upon the deaf community by dividing us yet again and again. See http://www.barbdigi.com/ for a Deaf woman’s interview with her 93 year old grandmother (hearing) about being told not to sign with her deaf children.

Many thanks for your attention to this matter.

Peace,

Patti Durr


On 5/17/08 11:37 PM, "Pamela Conley" wrote:
Dear Colleagues,

I concur with Karen Christie, Tim Conley and Patti Durr. Likewise, I find the decision of keeping AGB's name on one of our buildings inconsistent with reason and logic.

One of the cons in the document by the working group states that AGB was an eugenicist. This fact alone should have been sufficient to prove that this man's name must be removed from one of our buildings. Eugenicism has been much and widely frowned upon since the era of Nazism. Therefore, NTID/RIT has a moral, as opposed to political, responsibility to express its support for the removal of AGB's name and plaque from one of its dorms.
Legitimate anecdotal evidence of stories about spoken communication abuse is growing at an unprecedented rate. One can easily find this evidence by visiting http://www.deafvideo.tv/ often. Spoken communication abuse is a terrible reality. It is a topic that almost always comes up when I visit with my dear friends, while I drive to work, while I watch my favorite TV sitcoms, while I do errands. Consequences of spoken communication abuse can be serious if the victim chooses to not to seek appropriate support. Regrettably, with the numbers of deaf people being "asked" to use spoken communication as their primary communication mode on the increase, young deaf people face the prospect of being less emotionally and mentally stable throughout their lives. We owe AGB a huge debt of gratitude for this enduring legacy he has left behind.

Oh, don't forget the Pepsi ad that was shown during this year's Super Bowl that incited the AGB Association (AGBAD) to inappropriate action-- writing a letter to scold the Pepsi company that its ad was ineffective, misleading the American public to believe that ALL deaf people sign. This statement implies that signing is not normal! The AGBAD also falsely claims that deaf people who use ASL are socially isolated. This is a flat-out deception. As ASL fluent users and people who cannot speak fluently, Deaf people embrace and are embraced by many non-signing hearing people in their lives.

The time to act honorably is now!

Respectfully Yours,

Pamela R. Conley

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."

-- II Corinthians 4: 8-9


On 5/19/08 10:32 AM, "Aaron Kelstone" wrote:
I am new to the NTID community. There are many of you with longer histories than I have who can correct me if I am wrong concerning what I am about to say in this email. First, from conversations that I have had with others it appears that the A.G. Bell issue has occurred at least several times in the past and for whatever reasons went away after a while.
I suspect that this time it will not go away.
It will not go away because we know from Dr. Edwards scholarly article that the naming of all of the NTID buildings have an association with someone who directly or indirectly nurtured and supported the establishment of NTID with the exception of A.G. Bell.
It will not go away because we know the naming of a NTID building after A. G. Bell is an oddity. It is an oddity because Mr. Bell would not have approved of the establishment of NTID. Mr. Bell advocated most of his adult life for the dissolution of deaf schools, deaf newspapers, deaf clubs, and deaf marriages. Mr. Bell believed and advocated for the isolation of deaf people from one another to discourage the opportunities for deaf people to interact with one another. The concept and establishment of NTID goes directly against the grain of his advocacy during his lifetime.
It will not go away because as Dr. Hurwitz has stated “(w)e will post a statement of the NTID values and philosophy regarding communications. Our community has always provided a welcome environment in which we strive to accommodate all students no matter what their communication approach or philosophy…” and this is a philosophy that Mr. Bell did not advocate during his lifetime. As Patti Durr has stated so well, we do not need to condone extreme perspectives from either side of the fence. We can come together and find our center on this issue.
It will not go away because the concept of NTID is unique as it proposes that Deaf and Hearing individuals can learn, innovate, and create side by side with respect for each others’ culture and perspectives on life. This concept is unique enough that other countries, through PEN-International, have chosen to copy it. Not Gallaudet University, not CSUN, but NTID. This says a lot for our concept of inclusiveness and Mr. Bell did not believe in diversity and inclusiveness. He was concerned and fearful enough to write a paper on “The Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race,” specifically because he feared diversity. At NTID/RIT I believe we do not fear diversity.
It will not go away because as Dr. Christie noted, the working group came to an “unanimous agreement that A.G. Bell held perspectives, goals, and promoted objectives that are different from and inconsistent with the perspectives, goals and philosophies of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology,” and for this reason remains a concern for all of us at NTID.



Since the issue will not go away let us:

1. Continue signing the petition. 1,000 names is good but it is not inclusive. We need to hear from all of you.

2. Let the plaque come down and hang it up somewhere else, but not on a NTID building.

3. Come to a consensus that renaming of the building after the alumni seems to be a practical and non-controversial solution for all.

or

4. Have a NTID gathering at the Panara Theatre with Dr. Hurwitz to allow all members of the community to address the issue just as we did with the communication issue which resulted in a consensus decision to practice “Respect” in the hallways of NTID. We can find a consensus on this issue as well.



Finally, it will not go away because we do not need to ignore the 900 pound elephant in the living room any more.


On 5/19/08 11:59 AM, "Keith Mousley" wrote:
Hello you all,

I agree with all of you and I am signless (speechless) myself.
I am shocked that NTID would support Nazi as Bell appeared to be one.
What I mean by that, Bell wanted to elimenate deaf people.

I have a huge question for Administrator, if we remove the name for the building,
what will the worse thing going to happen?

I don't think anything will happen..

Please listen to us..

Keith Mousley


On 5/19/08 12:14 PM, "Miriam Lerner" wrote:
Respectfully to the NTID community,

I have followed this controversy closely, and as a hearing member of the NTID community, it is difficult to know whether I have the „right‰ to weigh in on this issue. Because I have devoted countless hours of my energy and professional life to uphold what I believe NTID stands for, I have decided to take the risk. There are certain sensitive issues , „elephants in the room‰, that stubbornly persist. Our old favorites - signing in public spaces, the lack of standardized quality of the signing abilities of instructors of deaf students, adequate provision of interpreting services, etc. rise and fall with the regularity of the moon‚s tidal pull. The decision to leave the AG Bell plaque surprises me simply because it seems so clear-cut and simple.

A suggestion was made earlier that the plaque, with the wording as it reads or with changes, be moved to a more appropriate location which would be frequented by those who would least likely take umbrage at its honoree ˆ the speech and auditory center on campus. The symbolic weight of its current location now makes it a two-fold slap in the face. Not only was the man himself a supporter of eugenics, but this plaque is affixed to a DORM. A DORM ! Anyone who has studied the history of the deaf in the US understands what dorms have meant in the transmission of Deaf culture. Dorms would be considered by Bell to be the epitome of dangerous „breeding grounds‰ that would engender the kind of cultural pride and continuity of community most antithetical to his beliefs about what should occur with the Deaf population. It is tantamount to honoring a member of the KKK on a black church, a synagogue, or a catholic church. Yes, the KKK represents a different point of view, but it would be considered a colossal insult to those communities to have those who would destroy them honored on their own walls.
It seems to me that leaving the plaque is revisionist history ˆ once we know what we know about a person, shouldn‚t we stick to the facts and pick a suitable place to honor them in the way that, if given the choice, they would choose to be honored ? To those who worry that AG Bell‚s memory would not be respected, is it truly being respected now, with a plaque located in the area with the most Deaf language, Deaf pride, and Deaf-Deaf relationship traffic on campus ?

Can‚t this be a win ˆwin situation somehow ?

Sincerely,

Miriam Lerner, CSC
Department of Access Services
NTID/RIT


On 5/19/08 2:08 PM, "Marilyn Mitchell" wrote:
Greetings to our respected NTID colleagues,
As a hearing person, one involved in the Deaf community for more than 45 years, I feel the need to respond to the concerns and requests of our community. It isn’t necessary for me to repeat the facts and opinions others have shared. What is vital, I believe, is to ask the administration to attend to all that has been written and take supportive action. Positive suggestions have been made for removal of the AGBell plaque and replacement plaque. Positive suggestions have been made for the new placement of the existing plaque.

I want to thank the leaders of our NTID Deaf community. Again, I urge the administration to re-consider the decision that has been made. Thank you, Marilyn Mitchell


On 5/19/08 4:52 PM, "J Matt Searls" wrote:
A number of issues have been raised, many of which are valid. This clearly represents a painful chapter in our history. We know Deaf people have suffered under the premises of Social Darwinism, sterilization, eugenics, including threats to ban deaf to deaf marriages, remove sign language, and banish schools for the deaf. Unfortunately, some of the same beliefs were put into practice by the Nazi Regime during the Holocaust.

An example of Bell's legacy is portrayed in the recent letter from AGB Association criticizing NBC for displaying ASL in one of the Super Bowl advertisements. Another example is the refusal to grant scholarships to those who apply to NTID/RIT and Gallaudet. We can't continue to advocate for justice while turning a blind eye to injustice from an organization with a long history of intolerance. I would support an ongoing dialogue so we can come to an understanding how we want to represent ourselves as a community.

JMatt


On 5/20/08 10:19 AM, "Rebecca Edwards" wrote:

Dear Concerned Community Members,

I am the chair of the history department at COLA, serve with many NTID faculty to help build a Deaf Studies minor, and the author of “Chasing Aleck.” My specialty is deaf history.
Given everything I have learned about Bell while writing the article, and everything I know about Deaf history, the decision to keep his name on the dorm is nearly impossible to understand.
Through the years, many students in my Deaf History class have referred to Bell as the “Hitler of Deaf culture.” Given how strongly people feel, retaining the name cannot help but inflame passions.
I had, apparently foolishly, assumed that a compromise would be quite easy to reach here. If it remains important on campus to continue to honor the oralist method, in order to make oral students feel welcomed and acknowledged, than simply replace one oralist with another. Because to do otherwise is to suggest that we need to make oral students feel welcome at the cost of making Deaf students feel alienated. That makes no sense to me at all!
To make oral students feel welcome, others need to walk into what they consider the equivalent of Hitler Hall?!? There must be a better way.
And, I thought, there is! Simply replace Bell with an oralist name that has less cultural baggage. This is not a difficult thing to do.
I had heard a suggestion weeks ago to change the name to Robert Weitbrecht Hall, which I thought was nothing short of brilliant. He was a deaf inventor, an oralist who did not identify himself much with the larger Deaf community, and he invented the TTY, a technology which revolutionized deaf life everywhere. Honoring an oral man and a deaf inventor, on a techie campus, all at once. What is not to like about that solution?
Want more historical depth? Thomas Brown, a nineteenth-century Deaf leader who worked hard to welcome both signers and speakers into the larger Deaf community, comes to mind. Want less depth—want a living person? Paul and Sally Taylor (Taylor Hall) come to mind. Deaf, local, also helped to spark the TTY revolution, and both sign and use speech, are active in the Deaf world, and both recently got cochlear implants. Models of inclusivity, ingenuity, and advocacy. Sort of like what we hope NTID students will turn out to be.
Even NTID Alumni Hall seemed like a good suggestion to me.
There just seemed like so many good solutions to me, admittedly looking at this from COLA, and I was actually looking forward to seeing which way, with an abundance of riches from which to choose, the committee would go. Instead we find, after a majority came to support a name change, that we would get exactly nothing.
I am disappointed as a historian who thinks the historical facts speak for themselves in this case, as an educator who has seen student frustration with this name firsthand for years now, and as a member of the RIT family, who would like to see us work harder to build a better future for all, and stop practices that alienate the majority of our NTID/RIT community.
Because this is the most disturbing thing about what has happened here, for me. Bell’s overwhelmingly negative and offensive views about both deaf and Deaf people are well known. But because he was an oralist, his name stays? What are we saying here? Why are the feelings of oralists being honored above signers on this campus? Why is this minority elevated above the majority? Furthermore, do oral deaf here know this history well? Bell’s oralism was inseparable from his eugenicism. They went hand in hand. Do our oralist undergraduates date one another? Do they get engaged to each other? Do they marry and have children? Let us be clear—Bell would not have approved of any of that, in any way, at any time in his career. Your oralism would not have protected you from Bell’s eugenic schemes to eliminate not only Deafness, but deafness too.

As I said above, could we not find a way to honor the oral method, again if that is an issue here, with a more honorably name? I think we can.

Thanks for your time,

Dr. Rebecca A.R. Edwards


On 5/19/08 11:03 PM, "Frank Caccamise" wrote:
Alan,
I have carefully read the report of the advisory group appointed by you and noted that 8 (57.1%) of 14 members supportedf not retaining the Alexander G. Bell name on the building….that is a clear majority.
Yet, given the above result you stated in your email to NTID - All that :” I find the working group was not able to reach a clear consensus regarding removing the name; therefore I have decided not to remove the name from the dormitory.”

The thought that came to my mind: “ What would enable you to believe there is a clear consensus?”

I believe the “vote” of the deaf members of our National Technical Institute for the Deaf community is what is most important.

Actually…well…….I think there are times when there is a clear right and there is a wrong…..but……..

Bottom line…We are the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

It is not easy to be in a position of leadership…..I have a great deal of respect for you and hope, as has been expressed by my colleagues, that we are able to find a “win-win” for our NTID community.

Supportive Thoughts to Us All,
frank


On 5/20/08 11:23 AM, "David Lawrence" wrote:

Frank,
You are a researcher. Do you think 57.1 is a clear consensus? I believe Dr. Hurwitz made an accurate statement.
David Lawrence


On 5/19/08 12:30 PM, "Thomas Warfield" wrote:

It appears there are and have been strong feelings regarding the AG Bell name and the dorms. As a hearing person here at NTID for 10 years I have learned immensely from my colleagues and students and have expanded my understanding about diversity and what it means to welcome and honor not only those different from me but the differing ideas and perspectives as well. We, at NTID, are growing, changing, and evolving. Part of our responsibility as educators is to encourage open dialogue and conversation. I'm suggesting we create an open public forum for us to continue this discussion and come to some compromise that we, as a community, can come to agreement. This is, of course... our education...

Peace,
Thomas

"There is beauty in all we know and beauty in all we don't know.
Our journey is to love it all"
- Thomas Warfield, 1999


On 5/21/08 12:14 PM, "Jeanne M. Wells" wrote:

>
> Dear Concerned Community Members,
>
> Having worked 30+ years at NTID, I am also at a loss for words
> regarding the decision that has been made.
>
> I agree with the many excellent responses of concern that have been
> shared in the last few days. I am impressed with the respectful
> responses. At the same time I also see the controlled outrage that is
> evident in the messages.
>
> Though I rarely voice my concerns in a public forum, I cannot remain
> silent regarding this issue. I also recommend that a different name
> be chosen for this building. Regardless of the outside political
> ramifications, our "NTID/RIT family concerns" should be of utmost
> significance regarding this issue.
>
> I trust that the administration will consider our public outcry
> carefully.
>
> Respectfully,
>
> Jeanne M. Wells


On 5/21/08 4:35 PM, "Marianne Gustafson" wrote:
Alan,

I have been reluctant to “Reply to All” regarding your decision, just as I was reluctant to “Reply to All” when you solicited the initial feedback from the community regarding the name of Bell Hall. It’s just not in my nature to go public with my opinions. It is especially difficult because I haven’t sensed an atmosphere of open communication where dialogue is truly welcomed at this point in time, particularly from someone like myself who has spent her professional life striving to understand Deaf culture and learn ASL while serving students who choose to enhance their spoken communication. I fear that I risk being attacked, labeled and misunderstood.

While I now see that the strong feelings and primary issue may be related to AG Bell and eugenics, in my previous e-mails to you I was focusing on other aspects of the issue. I wanted us then and continue to want us as a community to find a way to acknowledge the pain felt by some of our colleagues and students, to put history in perspective, and to recognize our inclusiveness regarding communication styles and preferences of students.

Regardless of whatever your future actions might be on this sensitive issue, I think it is important for the larger community to know that you and the working group did receive non-public input that contributed to your decision. I continue to support your efforts for an open process, and I believe it is time to put my neck on the line, along with yours, and make public what I’ve previously sent only to you in reply to your e-mails (see below):

My first e-mail, sent Fri 5/16/2008 11:30 AM
“Alan,
Thank you for the careful way in which you went about examining this issue and soliciting community feedback, and your thorough and clear communication about your three decisions. I think they reflect an appropriate compromise.”

I also sent my suggestions to you via e-mail when you originally solicited feedback:

My second e-mail, sent Fri 2/22/2008 5:46 PM
“Alan,
I’ll try to spare you all my thinking and try to get to the heart of my suggestions. Suffice it to say I have read all of the information and watched the video from the links from Noella’s e-mail and thought long and hard about the various issues surrounding A. G. Bell and NTID.

I think this is a good time for dialogue about how no person is perfect and about how time gives us a different perspective on people and events. I don’t think it’s time to set up or reinforce camps of “oralism” and “audism” vs. “ASL” and “Deaf Culture.” Many students (including an increasing number of CI students) come to NTID because of the multiple ways in which we support them.

I’d like to see us put the person, the plaque and NTID in some perspective. We can’t ignore the past or the person by renaming a building and removing all references to A.G. Bell. However, maybe we could remove or change the last line of the plaque which reads: “Today, NTID emulates the ideals for which Alexander Graham Bell worked.” Clearly NTID does more than just follow his philosophies. Or, maybe even an adjacent plaque could be used to recognize and celebrate our inclusiveness.

We can’t change historical facts, including the fact that some deaf people (past and present) benefit from developing their listening, speechreading and spoken language abilities. We can and should acknowledge that NTID supports the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students regardless of their language and communication background and preferences. NTID’s current perspective recognizes and celebrates Deaf culture and ASL while not excluding those individuals who choose to learn and communicate utilizing some form of auditory input. We need to continue to respect that as a choice for Deaf individuals.

Respectfully submitted, Marianne”

Marianne S. Gustafson
Dept. of Communication Studies and Services
NTID Curriculum Resource Associate


On 5/22/08 10:02 AM, "Aaron Kelstone" wrote:

Good morning Marianne,
Thank you for expressing your views as I believe that for us to have any kind of meaningful discourse we need to hear from all sides of the issue.
I believe it was Voltaire who said “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
I am saddened to hear your comments that you feel at risk of being attacked, labeled and misunderstood. What in the heavens is the purpose of a university if it is not to express thoughts in a serious and meaningful way that leads to a stronger community. The concept of respect, beyond civilized conventions, often requires a painful process of discourse between human beings, but out of this process comes respect and an ability to work together. Think of the NTID logo. It says “a Unique College” and a “Superior Education.” How can we achieve that effectively if we do not have an ability to reach out to each other in an inclusive way.
I have more thoughts but I will post them in the Orange and Brown website. This is out of deference to those on the RIT system who do not want the additional email postings. There I will respond to your comments. Rest assured that my comments will not be there to attack, label, or misinterpret your thoughts.
This is a process very much tied to the past. Note one dictionary definition of a generation (Encarta® World English Dictionary, North American Edition) is: “the period of time that it takes for people, animals, or plants to grow up and produce their own offspring, in humans held to be between 30 and 35 years.” Considering that definition there have been 4 generations of deaf people who have suffered the consequences of a misguided oralism movement. Considering this we need to be mindful of what the Zen masters have to say:
“We may be through with the past but the past is not through with us.”
Thank you for your courage to be a part of this process.

Aaron



On 5/28/08 9:47 AM, "Jeffrey Porter" wrote:

Folks,

<…offered from the partial perspective that any one person brings…>

When a person becomes a symbol [whether AG Bell, LBJ, or (your choice here)], the power of that person’s life story to influence others is hugely amplified. Whether this amplification represents a positive or negative force doubtlessly is a personal matter influenced by lots of factors, including how the beliefs and actions of the symbol incarnate are historically understood and culturally interpreted. The complexity of a symbol’s “net effect” on others is only compounded by the reality that people are hardly ever all bad or all good; that the person serving as the symbol’s source, like the rest of us, represents a uniquely contradictory mix of both constructive and misguided dispositions and behaviors.

It is clear that AG Bell as a symbol is negative to many deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing people within and beyond our community. It also is clear that it is a positive symbol for others, perhaps within our community, but certainly beyond (the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, for example, consists of 30 state chapters and has a variety of international affiliates).

Should “AG Bell” be removed as the dedicated name for “Tower C”? We as an educational community could spend most of next year straining towards consensus on this issue. We could learn ever more about the nuances of Bell’s beliefs and actions as they have come to influence the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals…and the range of historical interpretations thereof. We also could seek to understand better how what people (e.g., Bell, you, me) take as “knowledge” in the first place (and the meaning of such knowledge in the second place) is shaped fundamentally by the prevailing values and norms of any particular historical period, never existing free of such context in any absolute sense.

Or we can leave the name for Tower C as is, with a newly worded plaque that recognizes Bell’s deeds (technological?) but also frames his beliefs as an example of a “one best way” dogma (often painful and destructive) that too often characterizes any history of education, but particularly deaf education. And on this plaque we also can assert the role and promise of NTID as a constructive educational force that is shaped by but aims to rise above such historical influences in providing the most liberating education possible for deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing learners coming to us with increasingly diverse backgrounds and aspirations.

From my perspective, our future lies in finding common ground and forging connections among disparate constituencies within an evolving “bigger picture”, not in reinforcing existing boundaries or trying to resolve historical symbols (and being held captive by them in doing so).

Jeff Porter
Greetings to members of our NTID/RIT community:


On 6/2/08 9:24 AM, "Richard Smith"

Alan,


Thank you so much for taking the time to give this decision more thought. It is a courageous thing to do.

I, for one, am not against a specific method of communication. People should be allowed to communicate any way that they wish.
What I am against is oppression, discrimination, and intolerance. Having one of our buildings named after a man with these characteristics is not in keeping with the concept of uniqueness, as NTID purports itself to be. It is not unique if community members continue to feel ignored and marginalized. It is time to give all languages and forms of communication their respectful place here at NTID. We cannot change history, but we can impact the future.


In closing it was a joy to see Deaf and hard of hearing graduates signing, speaking, and celebrating their accomplishments during commencement. May they go on to impact the world as we will have the opportunity to when we reconvene this week.


Smitty



On 6/2/08 10:04 AM

EXRESSIONS OF THANKS:
The Orange & Brown Coalition, which is made up of students, staff, faculty and alumni of NTID/RIT, would like to thank all of the faculty and staff who shared their thoughts on the issue of Bell hall and allowed for us to
reprint your comments in our website at:
http://orangebrownrit.blogspot.com/2008/05/ntid-facstaff-responses-re-decisi
on.html. We value ALL of your comments.

We gratefully acknowledge and value Drs. Hurwitz and Destler's statement at our May 22, 2008 meetings that no personal attacks, threats, or hostile environments will be tolerated towards individuals or groups in favor of keeping the name or those in favor of removing the name

We would also like to thank Dr. Hurwitz and Dr. Destler for reconsidering the decision and for opening up the dialogue on this topic.

-----------------
RESPECT FOR ALL
We trust that once NTID/RIT examines the unexamined principles of AG Bell's life work and activities, people will be able to see the difference between those who work to improve methods of teaching speech and Bell’s efforts toward mandating an exclusive and intolerant pure oral approach over all else.

Removing the name of AG Bell from one of our dorms in no way targets Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals who prefer to use speech, individuals who teach speech, and/or those who work in the field of audiology. Our opposition is to the individual--AG Bell, and how he fostered a rigid exclusiveness connected with the teaching of speech to deaf/hard of hearing individuals (and the complete intolerance of sign language) ---- not against the acquisition of speaking skills. If the administration is to worry about potentially offending anyone by removing the name of the dorm, they must show equal concern, respect and value for the multitudes of people that have been offended by the decision to keep the name.

Please rest assured that if NTID/RIT had a building honoring someone who advocated exclusively for the teaching of ASL and banished English and speech from a deaf child’s educational experience, we would object vehemently to honoring this person as well. NTID/RIT is playing right into A G BELL’S LEGACY -- – polarization within deaf education – -the oral/aural only camp and the bilingual camp (where ASL and English are equally respected). We regret this very much.
-----------------

RIT VALUES VS VALUES OF AG BELL
The Orange and Brown Coalition's position is that Alexander Graham Bell dorm be renamed because honoring A.G. Bell is incongruent with what RIT stands for. According to RIT's values statement:

* RIT values integrity (Bell has been accused numerous times of forgery
and plagiarism),

* RIT values respect (Bell did not respect the wishes and voice of the
deaf and hard of hearing people of his time),

* RIT values diversity (Bell showed no tolerance for sign language in deaf education, was exclusive and extreme in this philosophy, and actively worked to prevent deaf people from being teachers),

* and RIT values pluralism (Bell actively tried to prevent, diminish, and destroy the pillars of the Deaf community and Deaf culture - ASL, Deaf schools, Deaf teachers, Deaf organizations, and Deaf marriage practices).

------------
COLLECTION OF FEEDBACK/MATERIALS
In reviewing all the materials before us:

* scholarly publications on AG Bell's role in deaf education and Deaf history and AG Bell and the telephone invention and patent (see below for sources)

* the petition with over 1,000 signatures from students, faculty, staff, community members (Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing) in favor of renaming the dorm

* the many, many, many private emails and personal communication we have received from individuals telling us they are disgusted, upset, and in shock over the decision but are fearful to express this to the administration
privately or publicly

* Ohlone College Deaf Studies' resolution to disassociate itself from NTID until the dorm is renamed
http://orangebrownrit.blogspot.com/2008/05/letter-from-faculty-of-center-for
-deaf.html

* and shared statements in favor of honoring AG Bell, which however do not propose valid reasons as to why a dorm name in Bell's honor is appropriate on RIT's campus

... we humbly request that you rename the A.G. Bell Hall on RIT campus.

------------------

A SUGGESTION FOR TOWER C PLAQUE
Lastly, we would like to offer new wording for the new plaque in honor of those who have graduated from NTID/RIT:

NTID has been referred to as the “grand experiment” because its vision was to have a Deaf college exist within a Hearing college. Without a doubt, this grand experiment has been a successful and meaningful one. Thousands of
Deaf and Hard of Hearing people from all walks of life are welcomed here to study, learn, grow, contribute and achieve in this unique environment. The values of pluralism, diversity and respect are lived out every day at RIT
because of the existence of NTID and Deaf/hard of hearing students on campus.

-----------------
We thank each and everyone of you who cares equally for ALL of our students and are so willing to engage in this dangerous dialogue. We, members of the Orange and Brown Coalition, mean no ill-will towards anyone and we believe we can have this honest and much overdue dialogue with utmost respect and caring.

We know that all in our NTID/RIT community are UNITED in the desire to affirm and live out RIT's values of: integrity, respect, diversity and pluralism.


Thank you.

Peace,

Orange & Brown Coalition


SOURCES:

Baynton, Douglas C. Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign
Against Sign Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Baynton, Douglas, Jack Gannon, and Jean Lindquist Bergey. Through Deaf Eyes:
A Photogrpahic History of an American Community. Washington, DC: Gallaudet
University Press, 2007.

Bell, Alexander Graham Memoir upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the
Human Race. 1883.

Edwards, RAR, “Chasing Aleck: The Story of a Dorm”, The Public Historian,
Vol. 29, Nov 3, pp. 87-107, Summer 2007.

Gannon, Jack R. Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America. Silver
Spring, Md.: National Association of the Deaf, 1981.

Lang, Harry. A Phone of Our Own. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press,
2000.

Lane, Harlan. When the Mind Hears: A History of the Deaf. New York: Random
House, 1984.

Schulman, Seth. The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Bell’s Secret. New
York: W.W. Norton, 2008

Van Cleve, John V. and Barry A. Crouch. A Place of Their Own: Creating the
Deaf Community in America. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1989.

Veditz, George, De Moruis Nil Nisi Bonum, Obituary for AG Bell, The Jewish
Deaf, October 1922, pp. 13-15.

Veditz, George, Dec. 29, 1909 letter to AG Bell, retrieved 5/18/08
http://memory.loc.gov/mss/magbell/169/16910210/0001.jpg

Veditz, George, February 15, 1915 letter to AG Bell, retrieved 5/18/08
http://memory.loc.gov/mss/magbell/169/16910212/0001i.jpg

Winefield, Richard. Never the Twain Shall Meet: Bell, Gallaudet and the
Communication Debate. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1987.



About Orange Brown Coalition

Mission: To share with the RIT community about Deaf Culture (language, history, humor, etc.) and related activities.

To facilitate relationships between Deaf and hearing members of the RIT community through awareness of our cultures.

To provide opportunities for self-empowerment and self-advocacy of Deaf people on campus.

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