Gallaudet Protests Just as Dumb as Others

Daniel Engber explains that the protests at Gallaudet University are pretty much like any other protest, although with some idiosyncracies.

What actually happens at a rally among the deaf and hard of hearing?

The same stuff that happens at any rally. At Gallaudet, student leaders stand where everyone can see them and make speeches in American Sign Language. (The speakers introduce themselves by finger-spelling their names.) At the end of each speech, the crowd cheers by making the sign for applause—raised arms and waving hands. The applause isn’t silent, though; people also clap, hoot, and scream to show their support. (Click here to watch a video of a Gallaudet rally from April.)

The protesters also chant in sign language to express their solidarity. The most popular chant at Gallaudet uses the signs for “GALLAUDET UNITE SAME,” which means “unity for Gallaudet.” Other chants include “KING STOP DENY” and “JK OUT NOW,” which refer to university president I. King Jordan and his named successor, Jane K. Fernandes. Just like in spoken language, it’s possible for a chant to “rhyme” in sign language. ASL poet Clayton Valli has categorized rhymes in terms of hand shape, facial expressions, the direction of movement, and so on. (The chants at Gallaudet happen not to rhyme, but signers say they do have a specific and visually pleasing rhythm.)

Almost exactly as silly as any other college protest.

FILED UNDER: Education, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. So, when you say they are dumb, are you referring to their inability to speak? If so, I get it! 🙂

  2. madmatt says:

    god forbid the handicapped get a say in how they are educated!

  3. Scott Chacon says:

    What a silly post. What did you expect? It’s like saying “Protests in Paris are just like American protests, but in French”.

    Also, to the second comment, most Deaf people I know would probably take more offense at being called ‘handicapped’ than at having this article written about them.

    It’s also probably helpful to point out that sentences like ‘“GALLAUDET UNITE SAME,” which means “unity for Gallaudet.”’ is misleading. It makes it sound like they’re using some gramatically simple language and then we’re refining it into English, when in fact it’s a transliteration and then a translation. This would be like some one saying to you in Spanish ‘Te amo’, and the article being written as ‘he said “YOU LOVE”, which means “I love you”‘. ASL is an inflected, syntactically rich and very dissimilar language from English.

    I also think that there are some very good reasons to protest, and that the only reason I. King Jordan (who is Deaf) is the president in the first place is because of a similar protest in the 80s. So, you can call it ‘silly’ but there is a historical precident for such protests causing meaningful and long lasting change to those students lives and for the future of an institution which is very important in the Deaf world.