22 June 2020 — The Deaf Smarts Facebook page released a photocopy of the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees’ written response to the National Black Deaf Advocates’ June 16, 2020 open letter, which was written on June 18, 2020. An anonymous inside source notified us that the Board of Trustees sent out a copy of their response to the Gallaudet Staff Council the following day on Juneteenth (June 19, 2020) at 10:20 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
With this particular letter, Gallaudet University failed to show transparency. President Cordano, the Faculty of Color Coalition, the Faculty Senate Chair, Ms. Brianne Burger (the Director/Liaison of the Office of Special Institutions from the U.S. Department of Education), the Chief Diversity Officer, and the Black Student Union all were not CC’d on the response. Gallaudet University also did not post the Board of Trustees’ response letter on their official website or social media pages at all, leaving students and the general Deaf, DeafDisabled, DeafBlind, hard of hearing, and late-Deafened communities in the dark. The fact there is no public acknowledgment of the expiration date for President Cordano’s contract (even amongst the Board of Trustees) is particularly telling (read the follow-up article here).
Deaf Vee Journal has reached out to the National Black Deaf Advocates and the Black Student Union for comments on the Board of Trustees’ response letter. The Black Student Union is still awaiting President Cordano’s formal response to their petition at this time, and they may make a statement once they receive her response.
We have a plain text version of the letter below the photocopy for accessibility purposes.
[Image Description: The letter has a Gallaudet University logo at the very top, center alignment. There are three words in blue font, all capitals, directly underneath the logo that say “Board of Trustees.” The date, salutation, subject, and body text is in black font on a white background, left-aligned.]
June 18, 2020
To: Isidore Niyongabo, President
National Black Deaf Advocates
Subject: An Open Letter Addressing Concerns for Black Deaf Individuals at Gallaudet University
Dear Mr. Niyongabo,
We first want to acknowledge your recent open letter to the Gallaudet Board of Trustees. The Gallaudet community holds great respect for National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA), our Trustees included, and we take your concerns very seriously and very much to heart.
We also want to assure you and everyone at NBDA that the Gallaudet Board of Trustees, President Roberta J. Cordano and the Gallaudet Executive Leadership are fully committed to and already taking meaningful action to dismantle racism and the systems that have supported it for far too long. While many of the specifics of this action have not yet become fully public they will very soon and we assure you they will examine and strive to address many of the concerns NBDA and others have raised in recent weeks.
While our Board fully supports President Cordano and the work she and her Executive Leadership are doing right now to immediately address the concerns and requests made in the student petition and in your letter, we can assure you that the Gallaudet Board of Trustees is holding President Cordano and her team fully accountable for action, progress, and transparency. Also, President Cordano has communicated publicly her acknowledgment of the student petition and that she and her team will address those recommendations for systemic change in forthcoming communications, many of which you address in your letter.
We are keenly aware of the need for urgency on Gallaudet’s action. We assure the NBDA and others that swift action is being taken and we are looking deeply and carefully into the concerns that you have raised in order to achieve substantive resolutions and change. The Gallaudet Board of Trustees fully supports Black Lives Matter and we welcome continuing dialogue with you and others to ensure the transformation of Gallaudet University to become the undeniable and shining model of access, education, inclusion, and equality.
Your committed partner in positive change,
The Gallaudet Board of Trustees