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:

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.

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 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.


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, 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.


DE said...

Keep up the GREAT job!

Jean Boutcher said...

Merci beaucoup. Please keep us

Sherlock Steve said...

a forum must happen during the NTID 40th reunion. the alumni community must be able to weigh in their opinions as well!

Anonymous said...

thanks for your support

re: open forum during 40th reunion - absolutely. Dr. Hurwitz is planning two open chat sessions for folks to drop in and discuss different topics with him during the alumni reunion

Orange & Brown will announce when and where those events are when the date / location / time are established



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 various deaf people in our life. Your group are 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

Anonymous said...

Dear 2nd anonymous

re: getting a life

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. It is interesting how often people try to discourage others from positive and peaceful activism by chiding them to "get a life."

Some people believe LIVING means ignoring glaring cases of injustice

others believe LIVING means having your eyes wide open and addressing thorny issues in a peaceful manner

the issue of AG Bell dorm is an old one - coming up again and again on our campus. It also represents a very fundamental undercurrent which has disabled deaf education for a very long long long time - see babbridge report and the commission on Deaf education

Please rest assured that O & B has been serving the administration to address many other important issues on campus and externally as well

Members of O & B have served on several Institute committees and are actively involved in community service to enrich our campus

We also are very busy living our lives to the fullest and being AWAKE



Anonymous said...

Patti –
Your voice is already heard at NTID’s community. I see there are many fears in your unendorsed group of people at NTID, particularly deaf conservative and right wing groups. It might best time to have a discussion with AGB members and our fellow hard of hearing people to explore your fears about this issues and understand your feelings about various deaf groups from diverse cultures or lifestyles. It will emphasize positive, familiar images of diverse groups and it will reinforce your closed-minded people to gain a sense of commonality with diverse deaf and hard of hearing people. That is an important lesson in a deaf person’s life, which is to simply accept others who are different than us.
Knowledge debunks myths about other deaf and oral people and can humanize other cultures. Read books about history about AGB with your deaf students will significantly reduce prejudice, tolerance, and hate. There are many, many stories appropriate for varying age groups that can help NTID alumni and students think about and define their feelings regarding these issues. The RIT librarian (Joan) can make recommendations for your group who might need to improve tolerance for others in our beloved deaf community. As you see, NTID Administrators are more educated than the people who are in right wing group because they equally respect the differences. Please try understanding how they values diversity people at RIT. Yes, your voice is already heard. Life goes on and let NTID to re-focus on countless important duties in order to create a better future for our fellow deaf students.

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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