Deaf President Now
March 6-13, 1988
DPN March to the US Capitol
What is DPN?
Deaf President Now was a watershed event; prior to the events of March 6-13, 1988 Jerry C. Lee stepped down as the 6th president of the University. This set off a search for a new president. The Board of Trustees had narrowed it down to 3 candidates. Two were deaf- I.King Jordan & Harvey Corson and one hearing- Elisabeth Zinser. The ultimate choice of the Board is what set off the week of DPN- and grabbed the world's attention.A Brief Timeline of the events:
- Day 1 (March 6)
- Day 2 (March 7)
- Day 3 (March 8)
- Day 4 (March 9)
- Day 5 (March 10)
- Day 6 (March 11)
- Day 7 (March 12)
- Day 8 (March 13)
Sunday evening. The Board of Trustees had the University's Public Relations Office distribute press releases 1.5 hours before the time many had expected. The press release stated that the chosen candidate was Dr. Elisabeth Zinser who was the sole hearing candidate of the 3.
Once the news was known, reaction were of disbelief and anger. Eventually Gary Olsen, then the president of NAD encouraged the crowd of students to head to the MayFlower Hotel where the Board of Trustees had been meeting-- since they did not come to the campus to make themselves available, they decided to march to the hotel to demand some answers regarding their decision.
Attempts to speak with the Board Chair Jane Spilman did not go well- students decided to stand firm. As a result Spilman agreed to come to the campus to discuss the situation further the next day.
After much planning, the first of the protests began with students blocking each of the entrances to the campus with cars and deflating the tires. They also prevented many Adminstrators from walking onto the campus though they did allow many staff and faculty to pass.
Upon the arrival of Spilman and other Board members, they were presented with a list of four demands. After a meeting that lasted more than 3 hours, Spilman stated that all 4 demands were rejected and that the appointment of Zinser would stand.
Just before the announcement to the students, someone got up on stage and announced that they did not accept any of the 4 demands. This prompted, and was encouraged by many, the students to walk out. They proceeded to march to the US Capitol- where more rallies and speeches occourred.
By this point the protest had made front page news in Washington DC and local TV stations descended upon the campus.
The gates were reopened to allow people to come and go however students boycotted classes and continued to attend rallies. Meanwhile the faculty convened a meeting of their own to decide what to do.
4 students- Bridgetta Bourne, Gregory Hlibok, Jerry Covell and Tim Rarus- became the visible leaders of the protest while many worked tirelessly behind the scenes.
By this time the news had spread across the nation and was featured on national telelvision programs.
Many meetings occurred including one between the student leaders and 2 Congressmen; two Congressmen and one Senator are regularly appointed to the Board of Trustees. I. King Jordan, one of the deaf candidates, gave his support to Dr. Zinser while many- including the Congressmen- urged Zinser to resign.
Greg Hlibok, one of the student leaders, Marlee Matlin- actress and Elisabeth Zinser appeared on ABC's Nightline hosted by Ted Koppell (it was quite contentious).
Rallies continued through the day. Greg Hlibok appeared on Good Morning America. Student once again blocked the gates- with hot-wired school busses this time and flattend the tires because of rumors that Spilman and Zinser would try to force their way onto campus.
I. King Jordan retracted his support of Zinser and aligned himself with the protesters after much thought and reflection. Support from all around the US including from the American Postal Workers Union poured in. That night Zinser announced her resignation.
Celebrations- 3 1/2 demands to go. Still much work to do. Students again marched to the US Capitol (this time with proper permits!). Many vowed to stay on campus for Spring Break to keep the momentum of the protest going.
A day of rest- a break from the intensity of the previous week.
Board Members who had gone home, traveled back to DC to meet again. After an all day meeting, it was announced that the final 3 demands were met and that I. King Jordan was named the 8th president of Gallaudet University (Zinser was technically the 7th).