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.

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 and Destler wwdpro at 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.


Anonymous said...

Awesome! Thank you for keeping us posted on this issue. I certainly hope to see the results that support the community's desires on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Hard to see due to dark, need more light, small movie size and you are way too far from video camcorder!

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

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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