From: Le Toudjida Allara, MPA
Gallaudet Alumni UG’11 & G’14
To: Gallaudet University Board of Trustees 800 Florida Avenue NE,
Washington, DC 20002
Subject: My Concerned Letter to the Gallaudet BOT Related to President Bobbi’s Recent Appointment of Mr. Benedict to be our Alma Mater’s Historic Vice President of Student Affairs & Community Engagement
Dear Honorable Members of the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees,
When I just learned that President Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano has made a surprise announcement with her decision to appoint of Mr. Albert Dwight Benedict to be Gallaudet University’s first and history Vice President of Student Affairs and Community Engagement who will start effectively on the Sunday, October 1st, 2017, I have been so concerned and disappointed to receive this news due to several essential reasons.
As a former English Language Institute (ELI) Student and ELI Student Organization (ELISO) Officer (Vice President, President & SBG Student Congress Senator) from February 2004 to December 2005 and Spring 2008, I had a long fight to:
- Eliminate the SBG’s intention to restrict ELI Students participating in various student activities and their eligibility to vote any president candidates during SBG Election Weeks provided by Campus Activities because SBG and Student Affairs could not justify with my challenge on why we should not participate in those activities even though we International Students did paid the school’s unit fee.
- Eliminate SBG’s policy to prevent ELI Students participating in sports activities and represent Bison during Gallaudet/NTID Rockfest and Brickfest weekends
- Open door to numerous ELI students to enjoy SBG Spirit Weeks, recreational activities provided by Gallaudet Intramural staff and so forth before I transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology for my studies in Microelectronic Engineering in March 2016.When I returned to Gallaudet University in Spring 2008, I discovered that SBG continued to limit ELI Students who were eligible to participate in its activities (including the 2008 SBG Election Week) and I took a prompt action to challenge SBG officials on the repeat election issues before they changed their plan to allow eligible ELI students to participate in the election in the very last minute.
- When I was recruited to work for Campus Activities as Front Desk and Staff Assistant during Aug 2008-Aug 2009, I discovered that Campus Activities had a list of eligible students from Student Affairs to vote for any candidates in 2009, but there was no eligible student from ELI on that list. I assisted the Campus Activities to ensure that ELI students who did pay their unit fee to Gallaudet University were included on the list and eligible to vote for candidates during the election weekAs a former 2010 SBG Presidential Candidate and finalist, I received numerous complaints against the SBG Election Week Committee, the election was rigged with a number of duplicated paper votes, oppressed and prevented UG and Graduate students to willingly assist ELI students who asked more info about candidates’ background and identification. After I was defeated by my SBG opponent, I decided to write a letter to Gallaudet Administrators by demanding them to change the SBG election system from paper to electronic and demanding them to deal with the oppressive climate against international and diverse students who were victimized during the 2010 Election Week. That was where the Gallaudet Administrators were involved and took a serious action on this election situation.
Monday, October 2nd, 2017
Then, later, the SBG president who won the election against me was in several government classes with me, he was asked to leave professors of the classes due to his tremendous absence and his disrespect of classes’ syllabus policy. However, he was granted to stay in classes and passed with a good grade despite of his continuing absences. Suddenly, the 2010-2011 academic year, he coercively asked me to serve the SBG Election Week Reform Committee (EWRC) to be part of the SBG and 2011 SBG Election Week Committee as a member-at large. I said no but when I was called for a meeting with the Campus Activities Staff, SBG advisor and the SBG election week committee, I agreed to take my voluntarily service for the sake of the diversity community at Gallaudet and the improvement of the election’s effectiveness. Then, the 2011 SBG Election Weeks was so successful and effective with the new and historic election system.
As the longest student-member ODES/Keeping the Promise (Program), we including students of colors (SOC) had over hundred discussions on lack of support from Student Affairs toward SOC victims in various issues on campus and lack of reasonable/fair punishment toward SOCs who admittedly violated Gallaudet University Student Conduct, and frequently shared concerns on diversity, institutionally systematic and unwelcomed environment, and many more. ODES/KTP has been a so important educational program at Gallaudet that have saved numerous SOCs who were victimized, innocent and guilt. Without ODES’s assistance and resolution, Student Affairs would have targeted and put most of those SOCs on Persona Non-Grata (PNG).
During the Business Bowl in Spring 2011, Mr. Benedict came next to me where I stood in the back of audience and watched the business competition game participated by qualified students. When he then asked me in person about my job application for the Coordinator of Residence Education (CRE) position and told me that the Director of Residence Life met him and was concerned with my application. He told me that he would work with her concerning my application situation. In fact, I personally considered this very unprofessionally and unethically because my application should be kept confidential and handled between him and the Human Resource Office. Otherwise, he made me to increasingly suspend on why I have not trusted him on his hiring decision on any candidate who have contributed to Gallaudet working for the department of Student Affairs under his leadership.
On the hand, with the evidence of my playing experience as a student-athlete for three seasons (2005, 2008-2010) and of my contributive employment record (Jan 2010 – May 2013) for Gallaudet University Men’s Soccer Program, I was victimized of Athletic Director’s malicious intention on my employment record and prevention of my job promotion. Why? Prior to hiring, my supervisor (Head Coach Luis Gendive who was part-time and depended heavily on my assistance for the soccer program), already made it clear to Athletic Director that I worked 40 hours a week as his assistant coach with various responsibilities during both Fall and Spring semesters for three years even though I got a limit of stipend (up to $5,000) per years without signing nor seeing a descriptive contract.
When I was informed that my application for the opening position of Women’s and Men’s Soccer Head Coach/Program Coordinator were not considered in Summer 2014, I asked the EEO Director to investigate on why I was screened out even though I had a record of services that met the positions’ job description so perfectly. Unfortunately, the EEO Director replied me back with her email below:
Thank you for your email. I have had an opportunity to review your inquiry.
My preliminary investigation found that information on your application that was not accurate. I was informed that you did not serve as assistant coach in Gallaudet’s Athletic Department but as a graduate assistant and not in a coaching capacity. The minimum requirements for the position are several years of actual coaching experience. I am happy to meet with you to discuss this further.
This was not only unacceptable and very offensive for me but also destroyed my record of service for the Athletics Department. Then, this put me to collect all my record of services at the department and fill a EEOC complaint against Athletic Director for his malicious intention that has ruined my career in soccer coaching at Gallaudet University. From there, I found out about two hiring letters, written by the Athletic Director and formally signed by Albert Dwight Benedict, I got from Gallaudet Payroll concerning my salary record, the letter showed that I was supposed to work from September 1st to October 31st (just up to two month and nothing more) for the specific stipend per season.
That was when I got that the Athletic Director lied to me by saying that I had to work for the soccer program during Fall and Spring semesters both with paid (20 hours per week till the stipend was out) and volunteering (other 20 hour per week without paid and then later “full-time” without paid when the stipend was out). As you may know, working for Gallaudet without getting paid is considered as a wage thief, and it is violated the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) of the United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD). Fortunately for Gallaudet, I was told to drop my case against Gallaudet even though I got a right to sue letter from EEOC against Gallaudet University and an EEOC agent highly suggested to go for a lawyer after her agency reviewed my case again.
My point here is that I have served Gallaudet under the unit of Student Affairs headed by Mr. Albert Dwight Benedict for more than 10 years as (1) various officer positions of student organizations for at least 7 years; (2) tutor, Supplemental Instruction (SI) leader and Math Coach at Tutorial & Instructional Program (TIP) for 8 years, (3) Front Desk, Staff Assistant and (New Student Orientation) Week Bison Leader at Campus Activities for 1 year; (4) Student Conduct Board member at Office of Student Conduct for 2 years, and finally (5) men’s soccer program assistant coach at Athletic Department, I and many members of the Gallaudet Community have never trusted in Mr. Benedict’s leadership at Gallaudet because he has done with numerous inappropriate actions that haven’t protected me, SOC and other victims; inappropriate approaches with us, and inappropriately managerial decisions within the Office of Student Affairs. Also, he has avoided his greater accountability for his leadership failure and produced misleadership within the department and at our beloved Alma Mater.
Therefore, I as a Gallaudet POC and International Alumni do express my greater concern regarding of the 11th and historic female President’s decision to appoint and promote Mr. Benedict to be Gallaudet’s new and first-ever Vice President of Student Affairs and Community Engagement despite of his long record of misleadership and without conducting the national search.
By respecting of Gallaudet Mission and Vision Statements, I hope you honorable members of the Board of Trustees will consider this so soberly and work with President Bobbi, the Human Resource Office and external consultant(s) to terminate Mr. Benedict’s high-level appointment/promotion and readvertise the valuable job position by conducting a national search if you really care about your promise to see Gallaudet in the process of transformation for the greater good of our community, for the better protection of all students and staff of Student Affairs, and finally for the better community engagement.
I hope you will get a correct candidate with an excellent leadership record and excellent outcomes of higher education’s effectiveness & efficiency and excellent achievement of his outstanding student life program. Plus, s/he will produce all students and staff toward the greatness in academic, the greatness in professional Development and the greatness in school accountability. Mr. Benedict is definitively not the answer!
Le Toudjida Allara, MPA Gallaudet Alumni UG’11 & G’14
Cc: Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano, President of Gallaudet University
Carol Erting, Provost/Chief Academic Officer
Samuel Sonnenstrahl, Gallaudet Office of Alumni Relations Executive Director
Donalda Kay Ammons, President of Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA)
Elavie Ndura, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)
Edgar Palmer, Office of Diversity & Equity for Students (ODES) Executive Director
Olubenga Aina, Diversity and Equity Programs Director
Le Toudjida Allara, a Deaf People of Color (POC) shares his concerns about Albert Dwight Benedict:
This is unbelievable to hear the unhealthy news stating that Gallaudet Administrators have decided to automatically promote Dwight Benedict as the new and historic Vice President of Student Affairs and Community Engagement of our beloved Alma Mater–see the officially announced vlog presented by President Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5CSaEX3FsU) without going through the national search process. This has been surprised us so big time.
As a POC, international alumni and former long student of Gallaudet University, I have sincerely so tired to hear, see, learn and receive that Gallaudet Administrators have not taken their serious action to change their institutional system for the good health of our whole community and eliminate the uncomfortable/unwelcome environment for FSSA (Faculty, Staff, Students & Alumna) because Gallaudet has:
1- Made us to increase our loss of trust toward its administration team
2- Continued to make POC members of Gallaudet Community feeling down with its decision to appoint Mr. Albert Dwight Benedict as the VP of Students Affairs & Community Engagement without going through job application process, national search process and various interviews process with the community AND even he does not have a good record of leadership toward international and POC FSSA during his recently long tenure as Dean of Student Affairs
3- Proven us that certain “Deaf” White Privilege (DWP) members as part of the Gallaudet’s dominant coalition do whatever they want unprofessionally and unethically in order to show us that we POC folks are like a garbage or worthless people to them
4- Disrespected its mission and vision statements that have a true intention to produce Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students to be great and professional because it has failed to provide fair, respect and chance to qualified deaf professionals to apply for the VP position through the national search
5- Clearly shown us that it is not for us, belong to us and through us
6- Encouraged the division and destruction of relationships within its internal environment
7- Continued to promote favorism, nepotism, racism and misleadership in its institutional politics and system
I can say more of what I have known about Gallaudet but the school has indeed a lot lot lot to work on fixing its hugely institutional issues since the 2006 Protest. If Gallaudet University especially its top-leaders, GUAA – Gallaudet University Alumni Association and Board of Trustees seriously care about us as valuable Alumni and other important members of the community, I would like to challenge them to seriously consider to reopen and re-advertise the VP position (then Mr. Benedict has to understand that he has to go through the application process with respect of other potential candidates and prove us why he is the right candidate for the VP position) and going through its formal national search process. Also, I hope they will take this matter so soberly for the GREATER GOOD OF GALLAUDET COMMUNITY. Sigh… What a sad and unacceptable news!
I am 42 years old male, my government skin is white, and a direct line with indigenous people in my family, I will copy and paste this powerful statement that today people still thinks Indigenous people are “people of color”:
A common phrase used to describe minority or underrepresented populations is “people of color.” American Indians are not, to quote Elizabeth Cook Lynn, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux tribe and founding editor of Wicazo Sa (a leading journal in American Indian Studies), “people of color”. Cook-Lynn writes:
Native populations in America are not “ethnic” populations; they are not “minority” populations, neither immigrant nor tourist, nor “people of color.” They are the indigenous peoples of this continent. They are landlords, with very special political and cultural status in the realm of American identity and citizenship. Since 1924, they have possessed dual citizenship, tribal and U.S.; and are the only population that has not been required to deny their previous national citizenship in order to possess U.S. citizenship. They are known and documented as citizens by their tribal nations. (1)
After watching a Deaf white woman with privileges video to belittle Deaf people of color conference couple of days ago, I do not know what to say, more like tying knots in my stomach. This post might be bit long to read—and try my best to unpack my white privileges. When I was a college student at a local community college, I signed up for African American History as part of my degree requirement before transferring to a university. My majors were: English, Liberal Studies, and Sociology.
That day in 2005 when I entered into the classroom to learn and appreciate African American history, I reached a very low moment in my academic experience when the teacher turned out to be a white male and had no experience in teaching this subject. It was a very last minute notice by the History department and I was offended. That was where I decided to withdraw that course on the same day. I felt good about it—that was part of unpacking my white privileges.
Later I became a university student—I signed up for American Indian Literature that was taught by Indigenous professor. I signed up for Jewish Literature that was also taught by Jewish professor. Then I signed up for Advanced Topics in American Literature: The Harlem Renaissance taught by Black professor. If Deaf Studies is taught or run the department by a hearing person, what do you call it? Is that a cultural appropriation? What about disempowerment? Dirty politics will always get in the way.
The whole point is that it is appreciated by what it is called cultural appreciation to learn about another culture with respect and courtesy by their own experience through the trials of oppression. In 2010, I attended National Deaf People of Color Conference: Hands Joined, Signs United, Colors Flying held in Portland, Oregon, it has popped my eyes even more coming from Deaf POC. They were the teachers of stories. I thank them for their experiences.
….What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeed in this, that society is about to perish.” [A Talk to Teachers]
What this means is, if we project that someone fail, they indeed might. But if we encourage and educate them, especially to take the occasional chance and challenge existing knowledge, we could truly advance as a society.
It is about education of People of Color. What I learned all these years not just the courses I took, but all the books I’ve read is that people of color has been stigmatized and never allow a Deaf white people with privileges to challenge Deaf people of color conference’s goals and missions on the basis of gender and race. Did it create an environment of paranoia? They already suffered as a result of extreme prejudice and stereotype.
This pertains to social problems because there is definitely a large gulf of misunderstanding between POC and whites that seems to pervade society to this day, and that is tragic if we are to share the earth’s resources and live and work together as a human race. When no one asks honest racial questions about it, generations of ignorance and hatred fill the spaces between different races. When we all make an extra effort to understand each other’s experience or at least learn to it, that is progress in filling these racial gaps between people.
If I may make friendly suggestions to read three those books just to start and understand:
Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk
John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me
And two movies to watch: Dear White People: A Satire about Being a Black Face in a White Place and 13th: From Slave to Criminal With One Amendment.
Yes, I have more books to share, but I feel this is good enough for now. It is only beginning—time to unpack white privileges right there. Remember, Hands Joined, Signs United, Colors Flying……Deaf People of Color comes FIRST—and try not to break up the hands, signs, and colors into white privileges. Make a good example.
Copyright @ 2017 Jason Tozier
This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.
Wednesday evening, February 22nd, 2017, I attended an event called “Beyond Inclusion” hosted by Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) held at Gallaudet University. Ryan Commerson, the lead moderator in the event. I had mixed feelings though. First of all, within the community service, the panelists did an extraordinary time! It was a great learning experience!
I’m disappointed that the panel was not enough diversity as Ryan claimed that it is important to acknowledge during his presentation. All panelists were white. As what I meant by that, the panel did not invite a Deaf person of color on the panel. In the audience, there were at least 11 or 12 people of color. There was not enough diversity. Why can’t the audience see that?
When we talk about diversity, we become highly conscious of how it operates by comparing and appreciating our differences. In my opinion, diversity in higher education enhances economic competitiveness, promotes a healthy society, and strengths the community of higher learning and teaching.
How come Ryan did not expand his educational leadership in reaching and making a conscious effort to build health and diverse learning environments appropriate for CSD’s mission? The strength of our democracy depends on it.
An event misses out a professional experience like these makes me realize the paramount importance of supporting academically capable students with diverse importance whether the person of color should be recognized.
At the same time, I do not like the term, “diversity” as I would rather use “Intersectionality” myself because of Latin root, div- as in divide. Div-ersity. It is a negative connotation. Intersectionality is perhaps the most critical component in making powerful learning tools.
It is a lifelong growth–a special way of knowing how they are moving beyond surface learning (change) to deep learning (growth). Whether people of color on the panel would make a good leader who inspires, applauds, steers, and stands on the side. Yes, sometimes we would need to focus on intersectionality to encourage collegiality, and to create a setting in which each individual can change and everyone can grow.
Would CSD ensure that it would be a community service where higher learning happens for change and higher teaching promotes growth? Why can’t Ryan not see that, too?
Copyright @ 2017 Jason Tozier
This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.