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:
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.


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.


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 ?


Miriam Lerner, CSC
Department of Access Services

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.


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:
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,

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

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...


"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:

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
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
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.


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


<…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"


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.


On 6/2/08 10:04 AM

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:
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.

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.

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).

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

* 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.


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.


Orange & Brown Coalition


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,

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

Veditz, George, February 15, 1915 letter to AG Bell, retrieved 5/18/08

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


Jerome Cain said...

Oh? my heart is broken,...

tayler said...

I feel inspired whenever university faculty and staff expresses themselves freely. We needed to hear from you. We need to know that these who influence our lives, growing as students, shares our position. This inserts a tremendous feeling of confidence. This remains true, for me, to this day as an alumnus. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

That's one reason I decided not going to NTID reunion this year. Also I will not donate any money to NTID at all. History repeat it self and need to be STOP now. AGB plaque belong to Muesum of Holocuast in D.C. not in bulding on RIT campus.

sommersprossen1 said...

When I enter the NTID building for first time several years ago, I had the feeling that NTID was not deaf friendly and was and is still strongly oral centered. This feeling hasn't changed over time and the AG Bell issue proves it.

Anonymous said...

What happened to Paul's comments? Why did you remove it? This shows how audism is working at NTID!!!

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
marsha Wetzel said...

Hi, I find this issue at the well-reputed NTID very frightening and disturbing. Look at the history of Deaf Education and declining enrollments of Deaf Residential Schools due to the mistaken influence of the AG Bell organization. More deaf children attend the oral or isolated mainstreaming programs with little or no exposure of ASL, Deaf role models and Deaf Culture. I wouldn't be surprised if NTID would someday become a place for the AG Bell supporters. We need to take proactive and crucial actions with pride and unity through the Deaf and Hearing advocates and media resources. Keep fighting...

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about the who, what, when and why that led to this decision to honor AGB in the first place?


tayler said...

Hi DT, there is a wonderful article that explains all of what you've asked.

Chasing Aleck: The Story of a Dorm" (PDF)

Anonymous said...

O & B has removed the post by Paul K as it uses inflammatory and insulting language towards a Deaf community member.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paul said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Shame on you!!!

Anonymous said...

the kellogg cereal magnate practiced eugenics by supporting race betterment conferences -- stop buying kellogg cereal at NTID

henry ford supported eugenics, start banishing all ford cars from campus!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, please get a real life. As a Deaf person, I already learn how to work with hearing people and appreciate what we have with a variety of deaf people in our life. Your group have been bothering NTID administrators who need to focus on many other important assignments that actually help our future deaf people. It would be more reasonable and wise action if you make a REAL recommendation that truly helps many other deaf people, not just a name of a building that is already isolated from NTID community for a long time!

Get a life,
NTID alumni member

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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