WASHINGTON--Gallaudet University's board of trustees chose the dean of the school's college of arts and sciences to become the first deaf president in the 124-year history of the school for the hearing impaired.
I. King Jordan, a popular campus figure, was chosen to replace Elisabeth Ann Zinser, a hearing woman, who resigned early Friday after protests from students seeking a deaf leader had virtually paralyzed Gallaudet's campus.
School officials also announced that board of trustees Chairwoman Jane Bassett Spilman, who came under fire from protesters for her handling of the crisis, has resigned. She will be replaced by Philip W. Bravin, one of four deaf members on the board.
Jordan was not immediately available for comment, but Bravin described him as "very pleased and ready to begin work."
In a clean sweep for student protesters, Bravin announced that the board of trustees would form a task force to study composition of the board, and institute a plan to ensure that a majority of the school's 20-member trustees panel was deaf. There also will be no reprisals against student protesters, Bravin said.
"I took this step willingly," said Spilman in announcing her resignation from the board. "In the minds of some, I've become an obstacle. I am removing that obstacle."
News of Jordan's selection was received with joy on Gallaudet's campus.
"We love it. We know now the university is going to be ours," said Gallaudet graduate student Paul Singleton, who is deaf. "He's the perfect president, the perfect selection."
Jordan, a finalist for the position when Zinser was selected, stunned protesters by endorsing Zinser's presidency at a news conference Wednesday, but gave protesters an emotional lift when he retracted his backing of Zinser the following day.
Before becoming dean of Gallaudet's largest undergraduate department in 1986, Jordan, 43, served as a psychology professor at the school. He becomes the seventh president of the nation's only liberal arts college for the hearing-impaired.
Another deaf candidate who was considered for the presidency was Gallaudet board member Dr. Harvey Corson, the superintendent of the Louisiana School for the Deaf.
Jordan's appointment comes after a tumultuous week in which clamor for a deaf president grew from an isolated campus protest to a national platform for deaf rights.
Students forced school officials to cancel classes Monday, when they blocked all entrances to the campus and prevented faculty and staff from entering. Throughout the rest of the week, students boycotted classes, and on Wednesday, more than half the school's faculty voted to back the protesters.
Gallaudet, founded by an act of Congress in 1864, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in 30 fields.
Meanwhile, congressional investigators plan Tuesday to scrutinize Gallaudet's board of trustees and presidential selection process.
The House Education and Labor Committee's subcommittee on select education is scheduled to investigate the university's bylaws, which allow the board to pick its own members. Lawmakers also are expected to examine the process by which Zinser was chosen.
Gallaudet, chartered by an act of Congress in 1864, receives 75 percent of its $76 million budget in federal funds.
The House panel, chaired by Rep. Major Owens (D-NY), has jurisdiction over Gallaudet's funding.
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