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).
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
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.
The Orange & Brown Coalition