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.


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.




Paul said...


Thank you for making a suggestion to remove his name. I do appreciate your consideration in this matter and we can move on to better opportunities for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

I still look up to you like I have since grade school and your leadership is appreciated in many ways in the Deaf community.

Take care,


David Ennis said...

Hopefully, the status of AGB Plaque is beginning to be numbered.

The question on the persuasion of Alan's recommendation letter:

Is it enough helpful for RIT president and BT members to understand why the majority of the American Deaf communities want to remove the AGB plaque?

I believe that Alan will expect to answer many questions from RIT president and BT members before they will make their final decision.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Hurwitz

Thank you for making this recommendation.

Thank you for your courage.

Thank you for your integrity.

Thank you for all you have done and will do for NTID/RIT.



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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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