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.