Concern About Rep. Tom Cole as Gallaudet Commencement Speaker


Dear Gallaudet Community:

While I also am aware about members of our community are gravely concerned about Rep. Okla.—Mr. Tom Cole as the Commencement speaker. That is the very important line and yet, Gallaudet University chose to ignore and disrespect graduating students’ safety. It is reported that there are plenty of Deaf graduating students who are still hurting either formal and informal settings. The future of Gallaudet depends on graduating students. President Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano was in charge.

Deaf graduating students are our number one priority. They had lost faith in Gallaudet’s ability to lead the university, and where is exactly the respect from Deaf graduating students? Where is the leadership change of this magnitude that has been deeply felt across Gallaudet campus? It also affects alumni and alumnus, too because they were once students and understood the governing board to remain committed to the success of Deaf students, to the face of Gallaudet University.

The selection of Mr. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, is a poorly choice. It does not even meet the values of Gallaudet University. Is it losing its ground to understand the magnitude problem of hate crime and hate speech? When Mr. Tom Cole said that he was not very concerned with the appointment of Steve Bannon in the White House, and that was something to be concerned of. The biggest question on the meaning of higher learning—not higher learning, as we know at Gallaudet University, but our own learning.

That raises a concern that Gallaudet University went ahead and put their self-interest ahead of the Deaf graduating students, and engaging in conduct that affects Gallaudet University’s reputation, and had been misled the Deaf graduating students to a false hope.

We need to remind ourselves that Deaf graduating students comes first before the selection of Mr. Tom Cole, had led lives of necessity with an unforgiving, if not hostile, political and hearing social hierarchy in the environment is a big social problem and does not meet the values of Gallaudet University.

Whatever directive it might be, it was wrong of Gallaudet University to ignore Deaf graduating students under any circumstance whatsoever. What is the professionalism with these people, entrusted with private money, that they did not respect their feelings?

“One of the most difficult issues for the victims of hate crimes is wondering how widespread the bigotry is. How many of the other people on the block want them to leave the neighborhood? How many other students on campus resent their presence?”—Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt, Hate Crimes Revisited: America’s War on Those Who are Different 

It is clearly showing poor performance and be done with it, in a dizzying tumble of words about Deaf graduating students’ objection that has left the Gallaudet University community uncovered, something such as a leadership is missing—the bottom line is that Deaf graduating students had to listen with a knot with fear in their stomach. Generally the Gallaudet administration was highly hostile toward Deaf soon to be graduates, and pain on the campus is not even funny. It is painful!

While the selection of Mr. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma who failed miserly to stop the white supremacy in the White House, the hate crimes had been highly recorded than ever, and the numbers of hate crime incidents does not lie, and those Deaf graduating students who protested the selection of Mr. Cole was so important to the university it represented academic freedom, and it is now becoming a central theme in the history of Gallaudet University graduation inviting a congressman who did not support the idea and did not vote YES in 2009 for H.R. 1913: Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act:

The passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913) would expand the federal hate crimes law to include crimes that are based on sexual orientation, gender, or physical or mental disability.”

No wonder why Gallaudet University fails to be hate-free campus. What if one of those Deaf graduating students end up as a survivor of federal hate crime that is often forgotten, marginalized, under-reported and swept under the rug? It starts with community accountability at Gallaudet University. The stories of invisible hate crimes are once again reverberating throughout Gallaudet campus.

Did Gallaudet University fail to recognize the problem of hate crime and ignore the implementation efforts to support students, stimulate learning and awareness, and promote inclusion and intercultural knowledge and experience about diversity and cultural differences and how to be fully knowledge about the magnitude social problem of hate crime in America?

When Mr. Tom Cole as inviting Commencement speaker failed to acknowledge the painful stories of Deaf people who would feel painful and violated and support the idea not to prosecute attackers for federal hate crime starts with his leadership and that affects Gallaudet University’s reputation:

“Media attention may also have educated a growing number of people about the occurrence and character of hate crimes.”—Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt, Hate Crimes Revisited: America’s War on Those Who are Different 

It is necessary for Gallaudet University; It is necessary for Gallaudet community; It is necessary for the quality of Deaf graduating students;


Copyright © 2019 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in it entirely only, including this copyright message.




Behind Nancy Rourke’s Painting: Mask of Benevolence


Nancy Rourke, a Deaf woman, painted the masterpiece, Mask of Benevolence. I saw there are many interpretations in it before that deciding to purchase it with a firm inclination (which means I am the OWNER of this ORIGINAL painting) to call it Mainstreaming Bigotry and Belittlement” What then is art? Is it more than just a clear-cut reflection of a vivid impression of life? I saw myself in this painting, Mask of Benevolence, because I was bred and buttered into a mainstreaming system within Deaf Education throughout my childhood.

On the surface, this painting seems to remind me of my life, to tell a history of separation from my own selfhood—my Deafhood–which has been scattered to the pieces. This was my childhood wherein ASL was lacking and my daily self-concepts—my ideas of the reality of life—were not the same as I had learned. I would still need to preface my considerable integrity that, first, I am 100% Deaf and that, secondly,  I must apply it to myself.  While growing up, I knew of no Deaf history and very subtle—little enough—about my own state of being Deaf for my background information and knowledge. Both strangeness and stigma had become a norm for me, and I just had to deal with “disability” and to develop accommodations for my life, acquiring necessary educational experiences which were always challenging to me.

However, I had learned always to make the best of my situation, yet always enthusiastic to learn and excel. Nancy Rourke’s painting is about conflict. Conflict within ourselves. It shows faces embodied with all of these other personalities; they are faces that seem to love themselves despite being callous to their own experiences. It is a strange paradox that screams of depth and the power in pure, unadulterated self-reflection. It is a raw statement about the internal individuals within us all. Nancy Rourke’s painting is a complete paradox of both self-love and self-hate.

The Deaf person who signs “STOP” in RED circle which is the most focal key of the painting is portrayed with passion and a complete feeling of apathy. Yet, that person’s face has scratches all over that forces the viewers to do two things: recognize the depths in the face and examine the colors and layering they suggest. These marks almost seem like a purposeful scarification that the person has applied to herself. Each scratch has a layer of contrasting paint underneath the first layer.

This seems to lead into the themes the outer face and personalities offer. To get from the original self to a new sense of self is not an easy task. Often, this task must be performed alone. It involves introspection to the depths of the soul and shatters the current connection between the heart and mind in order to forget a stronger link and a greater sense of self. This link is integral to inner peace and without it, life can feel like a veritable, inescapable sandstorm. I recognized about the personal nature of the journey the painting is all about. We all have a journey to take, and it is important to know our limitations, our abilities to surpass them, and the realization that we have a lot more tools at our disposal than we may realize (both internally and externally).

Now, at age 35, I had discovered Deafhood which has since become my prima facie—my face value, my face truth. In the book, Deaf Identities In The Making written by Jan-Kare Breivik quoting Milan Klara who says that has stood up to my reading eyes: “It is difficult to say who I am in a clear and single statement, because I have no deaf identification and no hearing identification. But I have a little story that says something about who I am—my identity.” Deafhood, coined by Paddy Ladd, has taught me how to see the clash and tension of cultural and social forces. Also, there are many contemporary indictments of the social conditions of educational and economical “poverties” faced by Deaf people as well as the repercussions that affect and break down the social roles of the Deaf world. In addition, fast forward, the people I meet on this journey can greatly affect my path, either for good or for bad.

True to its description, Mask of Benevolence, fundamentally changed and the Deaf person in the painting finds a purpose truer than any she held before. All the other people than the Deaf person, each outer face is sharply blocked into thick boxes who have opposing personalities as it is, with their different perspectives (profile shot and straight on) and expressions of darkness and playfulness. Nancy Rourke was very deliberate in her choice of material. The painting she painted on has an unusual effect that is able to startle the viewer upon closer examination. It is very reflective surface. By painting on this surface, Rourke literally forces people to see their reflection in the surface.

Is Rourke suggesting that these contrasting persons are hidden inside each of us? The cumulative effect of these circumstances produced anger, sadness, and grief, a feeling of isolation, worthlessness, and difficulty motivating myself in most areas of my life. I realized that I was self-medicating for the spiral of negative events that were plaguing me. I thank the word, Audism which appeared into my life and made me feel strong after that. Mask of Benevolence made a statement that Mainstreaming is not the right answer for Deaf children. Although my school teachers had made their classroom “a safe haven” even if one was to fail, I was treated as a fool of myself without judgment.

Where was my right as a student to receive a fair philosophy of reliance upon self-direction and freedom to lead myself to get a fair education? Being DEAF has no privileges in any mainstreaming system. I would like to share the quote, “The struggle of life is between memory and forgetting” by Milan Kundera—which clearly defines my life. That is what Nancy Rourke showed the true sentiments of this painting is all about.


Copyright © 2013 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.