EDUCATION

Gallaudet gay marriage protests: Dueling groups rally for Gallaudet's McCaskill

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Gallaudet officials sent the following to the university community Thursday:

PHOTOS: Angela McCaskill rally and protest at Gallaudet University

PHOTOS: Angela McCaskill rally and protest at Gallaudet University 11 Photos
PHOTOS: Angela McCaskill rally and protest at Gallaudet University
Angela McCaskill

Our accrediting body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), has 14 standards that all accredited institutions are expected to follow. MSCHE Standard 6 on Integrity states that “academic freedom … should be extended to all members of the institution's community.” Institutions are expected to support “a climate that fosters respect among students, faculty, staff and administration for a range of backgrounds, ideas and perspectives.” In its 2007 exit report, MSCHE expressly encouraged “the free, open, and unfettered exchange of ideas,” and explicitly stressed that “closing an institution through protest, preventing or intimidating students from attending class, or precluding the open exchange of ideas brings the institution out of compliance with Middle States’ accreditation standards.” MSCHE stated that “…any further such actions will have dire consequences in terms of accreditation.”

What would the loss of our accreditation mean? Simply stated, it could threaten our ability to continue as an institution. We faced such a threat in the aftermath of the 2006 protests. It was only through the work of many people that our accreditation was reaffirmed in 2008. We face an accreditation review next spring. Needless to say, a divisive response to the current issues and concerns surrounding the Chief Diversity Officer could jeopardize our accreditation.

MSCHE’s words are strong, and important as well. With this in mind, we encourage students, faculty, staff, and administration to continue to engage in civil and respectful discussion of the issues and concerns that have surfaced in the last two weeks. We are justifiably proud of how most community members have acted during this time. While many have strong views, they have expressed them appropriately and responded with civility to other views.

Two and one-half years ago, our community saw a wave of external dissent over a theatre production. At that time, Provost Weiner wrote, “our ability to discuss even the most controversial issues, the ones that inflame the most passion, is what makes us a university. [This production] is an opportunity for reasoned, respectful dialogue, in the true spirit of an academic community.” This still holds true today, and in the tomorrows to come.

 

We – the leaders of the Division of Academic Affairs, the faculty, and the undergraduate and graduate student organizations – thank you again for coming together. We join President Hurwitz in writing that we “have complete confidence that the community will emerge stronger because of this situation.”

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