Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Audacity of Political Engagement

“[An abortion protester at a campaign event] handed me a pamphlet. 'Mr. Obama, I know you're a Christian, with a family of your own. So how can you support murdering babies? I told him I understood his position but had to disagree with it… I will pray for you,' the protester said. 'I pray that you have a change of heart.' Neither my mind nor my heart changed that day, nor did they in the days to come. But that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own–that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that had been extended to me.”—Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope 

Governor Dennis Daugaard has recently announced that he is not able to make it to the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) conference in Louisville this summer. Because of this announcement, some might wonder, “What is the point of continuing the discussion on engaging Daugaard?” To answer this question, there is actually no point but only because that would be the wrong question to ask. Although my original article on May 30th talked about the importance of engaging Governor Daugaard, it was actually about the importance of political engagement and not about enabling his voting record. (Thus the revised title of this article.)

To be clear, my dream for the NAD is akin to that of Alison Aubrecht, Elena Ruiz, and Octavian Robinson. We are all bothered about how deaf and hard of hearing Americans are being systemically excluded from serving our country in the military; students of color are leaving Gallaudet and NTID/RIT in disproportionate numbers; the NAD is not as transparent and inclusive as it should be; deaf schools are being closed; online video content are not captioned and accessible; and marginalized communities within the Deaf Community remain marginalized. But how should the NAD carry out its mission and address those unacceptable realities? That is precisely where we differ.

In other words, my rationale for continuing this dialogue is to clarify two fundamentally different visions of how to promote, protect, and preserve the interests and rights of deaf Americans. The choice is solely yours to make, as it should be, and it will ultimately shape the future of our community and, more importantly, the real lives of deaf Americans. I, for one, want to believe that by deliberating policy specifics with unexpected people to find common ground and build imaginative coalitions, we will make incremental progress in rectifying social injustices. Individuals such as myself endorse deliberation and engagement with those who see the world through different lens because we could help each other see more clearly. We also recognize that democratic politics makes for strange bedfellows and attempt to extend the same presumption of good faith to others that we wish to be extended to us.

Since Ms. Aubrecht, Ms. Ruiz, and Mr. Robinson’s response to my article was if they were conducting a live conversation, I will continue in that spirit to address some misunderstandings and to continue the healthy dialogue about the ideological, philosophical, and political direction to which the NAD should head. I have organized their comments based on common points and highlighted them in bold. My responses are immediately found below.


BS: “As a white, deaf, heterosexual male majoring in political science with a special focus on civil rights and minority movements, I have been following the controversy about the NAD’s decision to invite Governor Daugaard to present at its biennial convention in Louisville over the past several weeks with fascination and trepidation.”

ER: “…the disclaimer that one specializes in studies of ‘civil rights and minority movements’ does not remove the complicity that one would have with systems of privilege that act as deterrents to social justice if an intensive ally-building process has not been sought out.”

AA: “Yes. There does seem to be an insertion of the suggestion that “I’m white… but I can speak to those issues because I learned about them in school.”

BS: My comment that I study civil rights and minority movement was never intended to be a “disclaimer.” It was a rationale for my fascination with the ongoing debate. Similarly, my acknowledgment of my status as a heterosexual and white male was not to suggest that I understand privilege completely or to absolve myself of my privileged positions. Instead, it was to explain my trepidation, knowing too well that I was speaking as a white, heterosexual male and without the lived experiences of those who are not white, heterosexual, or male. I am sensitive to this fact and appreciate how your ongoing dialogue, along with your hard work in the past several weeks, has contributed to a larger appreciation of the importance of examining systems of privilege in our society and community, including those of my own.

AA: “There was an underlying message of…us powerless deaf people gotta take what we can get…One might infer from this statement that we are “stuck,” and that we “need” people like Daugaard. This is exactly the type of framework that our community is actively working to transform: we are not powerless.”

OR: “Daugaard isn’t simply presenting a difference in opinions or diversity of views. He legislated against disenfranchised groups. Groups that were already not in possession of political and economic power, and shoved them even further down into the pits. I mean, really, ever heard of the bully pulpit? We’re giving a pulpit to a bully.”

BS: Let me be clear here: we are not powerless. From the Deaf President Now (DPN) movement to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we have proved, time and again, that the Deaf Community has the awesome capability to command social and political reform. It is simply that this power has been, and will continue to be, located in working with people of influence, including ‘bullies’ who do not lack pulpits.

From the Deaf President Now (DPN) movement to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we have proved, time and time again, that the Deaf Community has the awesome capability to command social and political reform.

Take the ADA, for instance. President Reagan, considered by some well-respected commentators to be a bully for his racist imagery, which capitalized on the anger of white voters, introduced the first version of the ADA in April 1988. President H.W. Bush, who had been accused of sexism, signed the ADA into law. President Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act, vigorously enforced the ADA.

Another instance of working with unlikely allies is the DPN movement. I. King Jordan may not have been president if not for the support by labor unions that have been steadfastly opposed by the Republican Party, with which many deaf individuals are affiliated. The DPN movement was also aided by the support of Jesse Jackson, who famously said, “The problem is that not that the students do not hear… [but] that the hearing world does not listen.” He is also a man who once remarked that he was “sick and tired” of hearing about the Holocaust and has made anti-Semitic remarks several times.

ER: …Stern wrapped up his article by stating that “… the real challenge for the diverse members of the Deaf Community and the NAD is probably not to exclude people of influence but to work together in finding creative ways to engage them on a variety of issues, not in spite of but precisely because of their intolerant positions.” With this line, we see the most problematic aspect of the piece…

AA: “…there’s a sense of that separation between “we” (white, male, heterosexual as central) and “the diverse” (people of color, LGBT, women as those who are “different.”)…We often don’t see ourselves as diverse, too—rather, we’re the norm, everyone else is diverse (read: “different.”).”

OR: “…it does place “diverse folk” on the periphery…”

BS: When I referred to the diverse members of the Deaf Community, I was referring to everyone in the Deaf Community, not simply people of color, women, or LGBT. In fact, I recognize that the NAD, including its leadership, is not as diverse as it could be, which is why I wrote, “the diverse members of the Deaf Community,” and not of the NAD.

ER: “….I have had a tenuous relationship with NAD for this very reason—I have not seen any authentic action on NAD’s part for disenfranchised groups within our community, and like many other deaf People of Color, this continues the legacy of mistrust between us and NAD.”

BS: I have not had the best relationship with the NAD, but my experience probably pales in comparison to that of yours, Elena. The legacy of mistrust between members of disenfranchised groups within our community and NAD is real and unacceptable. I would like to add that reaching out and embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do, but also the helpful thing to do from a practical standpoint. A good metaphor would be to think of the NAD as a political party, which would make it more reasonable to view NAD membership as a choice and to craft its mission and membership around what is 'politically sustainable.' Party leaders understand that in order to win elections, they have to retain their current members and attract new members. They (supposedly) attempt to remain close to the political center in hopes of enticing new supporters. 

As long as we view the NAD as a political party, it is morally and politically impotent for NAD leaders to be ideological purists on either side of the aisle, insisting on a specific vision, if it drives off the support of valuable members who could be rather easily brought into the community with authentic action.

ER: “I would go on to counter the idea of the university being a “neutral” space—universities, like most of the institutions we know and see in society, are determined by specific power structures. If we analyze how the university is structured, we see that it is a space steeped in the Western, male tradition—just as our political system is. Thus, there is no real “neutral” space, and I think it’s essential that we identify how any given space is still determined by those in power. A level playing field is more mythical than it is reality.”

ER: “Stern threw out that we could engage in a “free exchange of ideas” with Daugaard. “Free exchange of ideas” for whom? And how? And with that? A “free exchange of ideas” requires an even, level playing field—where the “players” can be equal contributors in order to ensure actual equity. Is such a thing even possible at the NAD conference?”

BS: I agree with Elena in that everything is political, neutrality is impossible, and a level playing field is more mythical than it is reality. We are ethnocentric beings steeped in power relations. This is to simply recognize how we are permanently culturally and politically situated, no matter how unbiased, apolitical, private, or disinterested we might think we are, or frame our actions to be. The central question here, however, is how to level the playing field to the best of our ability? I certainly do not have the answer, but it is somewhat un-American and depressing to say a level playing field is mythical then go on to say that a level playing field has to occur before a free exchange of ideas can happen. Is such a thing even possible? If so, can you tell me where the field you would like to meet is?

AA: “…In examining the above statement with a critical lens, several things are noted: First, the “majoritarian political system” is an illusion. Our current political system favors the few powerful, not the majority.”

BS: Alison, I agree somewhat, but we are probably confusing two different things here. If we look at the increasing wealth of the top 1% and decreasing economic mobility in the U.S., for instance, it is certainly fair to conclude that we currently have a political system that favors the few powerful.

However, it is still a ‘majoritarian’ political system, albeit one that favors the few powerful, because the fact of the matter is our local, state, and national representatives can only capture office with a majority of the votes, political representatives are beholden to follow the wishes of the majority of their constituents, and legislation is only passed with a legislative majority—or supermajority.

Therefore, talking and working with those with whom we agree on little is essential for political representation. That is precisely where our power lies. It is, in no way, an indictment of the Deaf Community because the American political system requires imaginative coalition building for all communities. This is how our Founding Fathers intended it to be. For instance, federalism, the constitutional principle of dividing power between local, state and national systems, forces representatives and constituencies from different segments of the U.S. to work together in coalitions to influence and shape desired reform. They are forced to coalesce diverse interests into blocs among disparate groups in different regions, with some chance for a local, state, or national majority—or risk obscurity.

Talking and working with those with whom we agree on little is essential for political representation. That is precisely where our power lies. It is, in no way, an indictment of the Deaf Community because the American political system requires imaginative coalition building for all communities. This is how our Founding Fathers intended it to be.

OR: “Alison, the word accommodation, historians have argued that accommodation was an ineffective model for advancing civil rights. I won’t bore anyone with historical details but various groups have tried that approach and history has shown the accommodation approach was ineffective. Yes, the more we pull this apart, the more we see privilege and lens become apparent. Speaking of which, Stern is suggesting that we copy the past, but as a historian I suggest we learn from history. We must evolve and cannot rely upon outdated models of activism.”

BS: Octavian, I am afraid we will have to agree to disagree on this point. While it is true that the strategy of accommodation has failed at times in breaking political, social, and economic dominance, it has also succeeded spectacularly in other instances. To say that accommodation was an ineffective strategic model to advance civil rights would be to call Marin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass—just to name a few—unsuccessful leaders.

American political and social leaders actually have a long history of successful accommodation politics to serve their ends. For instance, Douglass and Lincoln worked patiently with the electoral and economic motivations of political elites, including slave owners, before finally ending slaveryAnother instance would be the year of 1968 when the Vietnam War was openly challenged, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, and Robert Kennedy were all assassinated, violent riots racked major cities, race anxiety was prevalent, and the Black Panthers gained prominence. Despite those radical challenges, the strategic direction of minority and partisan leaders in that year was still toward accommodation politics.

Besides, what is the alternative to accommodation, if I may ask? Revolution and separation? That might work for some minority groups but will probably not succeed for a community that is .2% of the American population. To be clear, I am not endorsing submission. Instead, what I mean is to recognize how democratic societies require a certain extent of sacrifice, moderation, and patience. Put differently, my vote is for democratic participation and incremental reform, and I point to Martin Luther King Jr. for inspiration.

King combined the strategies of Booker T. Washington’s accommodation and W.E.B. DuBois’s confrontation to appeal to traditional American values such as participation, freedom, and economic opportunity. This combination attracted new, unlikely supporters and brought meaningful reform to the real lives of African-Americans. This is certainly where I agree with Octavian when he points to the importance of the NAD reframing its lens to create powerful coalitions with organizations with economic and political clout.

ER: …We need to stop approaching the deaf community as a monolithic community, wherein us being deaf ASL-users is all-encompassing, an automatic bond. When I see members of our own community tell us to stop tearing down NAD, to focus on the “real” issue at hand—hearing oppression of the deaf community—I am instantly brought back to Audre Lorde’s line “there is no hierarchy of oppressions.” We cannot let those who assert and maintain their dominance in our community preach to us what we should think/feel/do. NAD needs to take authentic action in stating that our community is indeed a diverse one that struggles with multiple systems of oppression, and that NAD, as a civil rights organization, should not and cannot be complicit with said systems of oppression.

BS: None of us could have said it better, Elena. The deaf community is in no way a monolithic community, and it also irks me when people expect deaf people to unify simply because they are deaf and ASL users. This is akin to telling Democrats and Republicans to move past their partisan disagreements because, after all, they are American and speak English.

To expect deaf people to unify simply because they are deaf and ASL users is akin to telling Democrats and Republicans to move past their partisan disagreements because, after all, they are American and speak English.

If the NAD and the Deaf Community expect to make inroads in making the NAD stronger and in building valuable coalitions, the emphasis in public conversation should be toward minimizing one difference at a time in each conversation. The goal should be to, as Richard Rorty put it, “sew such groups together with a thousand little stitches—to invoke a thousand little commonalities between their members, rather than specify one great big one, their common humanity,” or, in our case, our great big deaf experience.

It is our responsibility to challenge members of our community, including ourselves, about our self-images, vocabularies and the society and community to which we belong. No longer can we rely on the deaf man, the white man, or the straight man to provide valuable insight on ‘the deaf experience’ and to find commonalities and differences. We must look elsewhere. A helpful case study would be Henry Louis Gates, current director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research. He claims as long as there are 40 million African-Americans in the US, there are 40 million ways of being African-American. Is this also true for Deaf Americans? I think so. This is definitely worth exploring, not to glorify or denounce the deaf experience, but to remind our brothers and sisters that, while we share distinctive social, cultural and linguistic parameters, there are infinite ways to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The NAD would benefit from not only engaging with people like you three—Alison, Elena, Octavian —but also people like Gates inside and outside the community; from activists to bullies; from deaf advocates to audists; from Governor Daugaard to Governor O’Malley. If we engage with those individuals, we could find a thousand ways in which our dreams and frustrations as members of a minoritized people collide and rhyme with others.

ER: You mentioned that we are enabling a “bully,” Tavian—this takes us to the needed critique of who is really in charge of this conference. Stern threw out that we could engage in a “free exchange of ideas” with Daugaard. “Free exchange of ideas” for whom? And how?

OR: “The point of this discourse we’re trying to have with the NAD and with the larger Deaf Community–that this is joint work and we all share the burden in this effort toward creating an organization that is truly representative of the diversity of the deaf community.”

BS: As President Obama has said, if the United States stands for anything as a country, it is the rejection of “absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea of ideology or theology or ‘ism,’ any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course.” This pragmatic nature of the U.S. political system is largely the cause of the beauty and ugliness of our American democracy, which subscribes to the Madisonian principle that all opinions are “open to the force of argument” in the public square. 

As Octavian said, and I am paraphrasing here, this is a burden that we all share in working for a more perfect community. Whether we are for or against abortion, for or against gay marriage, for or against cochlear implants, for or against bilingual education, for or against engaging Governor Daugaard, we are left with no choice but to test our beliefs in public, open to the force of argument, and to leave room for refinement and compromise.

Put differently, agreement is never guaranteed. Real and fundamental differences can be found in all parts of our daily lives, and as long as we live in a free society, the difficult struggle to reconcile disagreements of what is true, good and beautiful will go on forever. And this is why we must relentlessly pursue a free exchange of ideas, whether as a civil rights organization or a university.

Why, you may ask? What is it in for us? Why should we engage with people whose social and political positions contradict the NAD’s mission? Let us look inward first. For instance, the NAD and Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AGB) offer almost incommensurable positions in respect to what they believe is genuinely in the best interests of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. If we prohibit Governor Daugaard from speaking at the NAD because his positions conflict with the NAD’s mission, then how can we expect AGB, with their mission of ensuring that “every child and adult with hearing loss has the opportunity to listen and talk,” to eventually invite deaf advocates, who believe in teaching ASL to deaf children, to speak at their conference?

If we prohibit Governor Daugaard from speaking at the NAD because his positions conflict with the NAD's mission, then how can we expect AGB, with their mission of ensuring that "every child and adult with hearing loss has the opportunity to listen and talk," to eventually invite deaf advocates, who believe in teaching ASL to deaf children, to speak at their conference?

For me, to engage with people like Governor Daugaard would be to embrace what Obama calls the audacity of hope: “Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty.” Hope would be to acknowledge the difficult and uncertain nature of coalition building with the politicians, scholars, activists, leaders, artists, school administrators, business owners, and lawyers of our national community—but to engage, nonetheless.

Is political engagement an easy task? Certainly not. It takes audacity to work with people of influence with whom we do not agree. However, is it a necessary task? Absolutely, as long as we wish to promote, protect, and preserve the interests and rights of deaf and hard of hearing Americans.

Brendan Stern is a PhD candidate in American Politics at the Catholic University of America currently working on his dissertation proposal.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NAD Responds to Alec McFarlane

Sent June 18, 2012
to Alec C. McFarlane 
via email to

Dear Mr. McFarlane:

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is in receipt of your letter entitled, “An Open Letter to the National Association of the Deaf” that was sent to us via electronic mail on June 14, 2012.

This letter responds to the various points you raise in your letter. The NAD wishes to correct the inaccurate statements in your letter, and to address your overall request. This letter has the approval of the duly elected Board of Directors of the Association.

We strongly disagree with your statement that the NAD Board “oppressed, suppressed, and discriminated” against the Library Friends Section of the NAD and the Deaf Community at large. We have worked closely with all members of the community and all sections of the NAD. We respond specifically to your letter’s statements with respect to “the last two years” as this is the only information you provide herein.

Proper Name of Deaf Culture and History Section

A point of clarification is needed with respect to your use of “Library Friends Section.” Pursuant to a priority voted on and passed by the Council of Representatives at the NAD 2010 Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Library Friends Section has been renamed the Deaf Culture and History Section. We understand that you and Ms. Hagemeyer take issue with this renaming, but the Board is bound to follow the directives of the Council of Representatives.

Necessity of Board Action to Temporarily Freeze Section Funds

While your letter correctly states that the “NAD Board, in its January 2012 Board meeting, voted to freeze the accounts of the Section on the grounds that there was no written policy governing their functions,” you mischaracterize the basis for such action. As you state, Mr. Christopher Wagner in his role as Vice President of the Board along with the two Region I representatives, Ms. Margie English and Mr. Sean Gerlis, met with you and Ms. Alice Hagemeyer to discuss this issue on April 20, 2012, despite a busy schedule with a Board meeting. The Board was sensitive to the concerns that you and Ms. Hagemeyer shared regarding the funds of the Deaf Culture and History Section and authorized this meeting with Board representatives.

You and Ms. Hagemeyer had submitted an invoice to the NAD seeking reimbursement in the amount of $2,389.58 for the travel and participation costs of attending the American Library Association Midwinter meeting in Dallas, Texas on January 20-24, 2012. The invoice was submitted to the Board of Directors for review, since there are no guidelines to cover expenses for reimbursement submitted by any Section chair other than for NAD conference purposes.

As this was a departure from any previous Section practice, the Board looked to the Bylaws which only state in Article 3.01(e) that the NAD “shall, within its corporate structure and criteria, allow for the formation of Sections to focus on specific areas of interest consistent with the overall aims of the Association.” Consequently, Sections are an internal component of the NAD and subject to its 501(c)(3) tax exempt requirements. This subject then is in the direct purview of the Board of Directors. Given that this Article does not specify the use of Section funds, the Board determined that guidelines needed to be developed to help everyone, including Section chairs and members, with the handling of Section funds. Consequently, with the exception of the usual practice of allowing Section funds to be used for conference expenses, the Board as a whole voted to freeze the use of Section funds for any other purpose. The purpose of doing this was to ensure that any use of Section funds are appropriate under the Internal Revenue Service requirements for 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations such as the NAD.

At the April 20, 2012 meeting, you and Ms. Hagemeyer were told that although historically Section funds have been used solely to cover the expenses for Section chairs to attend the NAD conference, and although neither you nor Ms. Hagemeyer sought pre-approval for attendance at the Conference, the Board nevertheless authorized reimbursement. As a result, Ms. Hagemeyer has been reimbursed for the $2,389.58 with funds from this Section. At that time, the Deaf Culture and History Section funds were in the amount of $4,231.54. The reimbursement reduced the funds to $1,841.96.

To clarify, there is no “ultimatum” but rather a necessary step to ensure any Section funds comport with proper guidelines and protocol pursuant to 501(c)(3) rules. The NAD Board has a fiduciary duty to ensure all funds including Section funds that are raised through NAD operations are used in accordance with the rules and requirements of all 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations.

There Was No Willful or Deliberate Withholding of Information

Your letter also presents charges of “willfully and deliberately” withholding information with respect to: my withholding information regarding the activities of the LFS (DCHS) from the Board; Mr. Berger’s withholding of the list of delegates; and Mr. Feldman and my withholding of the NAD Policy Manual. We respond to each of these in turn.

In my capacity as the CEO, I provide a summary of numerous activities undertaken by Headquarters to the Board. This summary contains a great deal of information and does not include many aspects of the NAD that are outside the realm of Headquarters. We encourage Committees and Sections to submit reports of their own to the NAD Board.

The list of delegates is still being finalized and is not being withheld. Mr. Berger is hard at work contacting all state associations, all organizational affiliates, all professional organizations, and all sections to ensure that the list of delegates is complete and accurate. Once this is completed, it will be included in an updated version of the Delegate Manual and then distributed as well as posted online.

The NAD Policy Manual you refer to is the Board Policy Manual and specifically it is used to govern Board operations and procedures. This manual has not been posted online due to the frequency that it is updated, often at each Board meeting. The Board has received your complaint and will review whether it is feasible to post the Board Policy Manual online.

With respect to all of these so-called “withholding” of information, we dispute this characterization and believe we have comported with all legal and policy mandates for the sharing of public information.

Propriety of Bylaws Amendment Motions

First, we apologize for an error with respect to your motion. You and Ms. Hagemeyer submitted a total of five motions and four of them were submitted by the Bylaws Committee within the Delegate Manual. Through some oversight, the motion you refer to in your letter was not included in this submission. This was not an intentional rejection but an oversight. This motion is being submitted pursuant to the protocol of the Bylaws Committee. In the future, we encourage you to contact us to inquire as to any omission of this type of motion.

With respect to your assertion that it is improper for the Bylaws Committee to submit its own amendments, we respond that this has long been the practice of the NAD and is proper within the context of the structure of the Bylaws Committee. The Bylaws Committee not only receives and reviews proposals for Bylaws amendments from individuals and organizations that are NAD members but also reviews the Bylaws for areas that may require changes for efficiency and other appropriate purposes to propose possible amendments. Ultimately, it is the delegates at the Council of Representatives that determine which proposed amendments will be adopted.

Appropriate Handling of Donations and Finances

Without clearly explaining the relevance to your complaint for a due process hearing, you assert the impropriety of several financial matters, including two instances involving donations.

Specifically, you erroneously state that the “IRS requires that such endowments be listed.” In fact, the IRS states the opposite. According to the instructions on Schedule B of Form 990, the annual form required to be filed by all tax exempt nonprofit organizations such as the NAD, “the names and addresses of contributors are not required to be made available for public inspection.” In fact, the IRS even goes on to state that if “an organization files a copy of Form 990...and attachments, with any state, it should not include its Schedule B....” In fact, Guidestar, which operates the most comprehensive website on nonprofits at, states on its web page entitled “Highlights of IRS Form 990” that “Guidestar users are often surprised that they can’t find donor lists in a 990. With two exceptions, donor information provided in a 990 is confidential; when either the IRS or the filing nonprofit releases a copy of a 990 to the public, they must redact -- mask -- all information that will identify the donors, whether the donor is an individual, corporation, 501(c)(3) private foundation, or 501(c)(3) public charity.” Consequently, we are not allowed to disclose such donor information and this is the reason for the redacting of the information in the Board minutes, which was also at the donor’s request that the amount of the donation be kept confidential.

The NAD has properly filed its IRS Form 990 which you can find at:

Further, while you have incorrect information regarding payments to Ms. Bloch, the compensation of a CEO is within the authority of a NAD Board and all finances of the NAD have been scrutinized by the internal staff, the Board, the Treasurer, and finally by a licensed auditor. Through this process, it was determined that all financial decisions and transactions were proper and legal.

Protocol for Removal of Board Members

In your letter, you request a “due process hearing” pursuant to Article 4.13, which states as follows:
§ 4.13 Removal from Office.
Elected and appointed Board members may be removed after due process hearing for failure to carry out their duties or for other good and sufficient reason by a two thirds (2/3) vote of the Board of Directors present and voting.
Accordingly, your letter has been received by the Board and reviewed for the merits of your allegations. This type of hearing is conducted in an Executive Session of the Board at its next meeting and is not open to the public. Your letter also cites Article 4.14 as a basis for the due process hearing, however this article contains no reference to such hearings as shown below:
§ 4.14 Conflict of Interest.
No member with a personal or financial interest of a material nature in the affairs of the Association shall be eligible to serve on the Board of Directors of the Association.
Nevertheless, we understand that you request removal of specified Board members based on the following allegations: personal conflicts, withholding materially relevant information, discrimination, and civil rights violations. Your letter fails to provide any information regarding any Board member’s personal or financial interest of a material nature in the affairs of the NAD. Your assertion that confidential information should be disclosed is baseless as are your claims of discrimination and civil rights violations.

Summary of Response

We have addressed each of the issues above and shown that we disagree on the facts and the applicable law and regulations. In summary, the temporary freezing of section funds was fundamentally necessary for the Board in compliance with its fiduciary duties. As soon as the guidelines are ready, these guidelines will be shared with all sections for input and implementation. No information was materially, willfully, or deliberately withheld in violation of the bylaws or any state or federal laws. Your overlooked Bylaws motion is in the process of being included, and the Bylaws Committee has appropriate authority to submit proposed Bylaws Amendments. Donor information is mandated by federal law to be kept confidential, especially when the donor requests it. The Board’s handling of financial matters have been audited and found to be proper. Finally, your request for a hearing has been received by the Board and dealt with internally pursuant to the Bylaws.

The Board is an elected body of volunteers who act in the best interests of our community. The members recognize that you disagree with some of our actions, but remain hopeful that we can return to a civil exchange of ideas.


Howard A. Rosenblum
Chief Executive Officer

To download a PDF of the letter, click here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

An Open Letter to the National Association of the Deaf

The Board of the National Association of the Deaf 
15 Members
The Library Friends Section 
75 Members
The NAD Membership
Unknown Number of Members
The Deaf Community 
Estimated at 35 Million People

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board:

In regard to the actions taken by some NAD Board Members named herein, we are filing complaint and notice of intent to sue. The NAD Board, over a course of almost 20 years has actively oppressed, suppressed, and discriminated against the Library Friends Section of the NAD and the Deaf Community at large. We will present matters and evidence relating to the last two years and relative to the current Board.

We are calling for Article 4.14 and 4.13 due process hearings for the named individuals who sit on the NAD Board and we are calling for expulsion of these individuals on the grounds of Personal Conflicts, of Withholding Materially relevant information, of discrimination and of Civil Rights violations.

There is a pattern of behavior on the part of these Board members—and oftentimes the whole Board—where they have acted against the interest of the NAD, its stated Objectives, its Mission Statement, Vision, and its declared theme of “Nothing About Us Without Us”, and more. To wit...

The NAD Board, in its January 2012 Board meeting voted to freeze the accounts of the Sections on the grounds that there was no written policy governing their functions. The The Library Friends Section (LFS) was founded in 1994 by Ms. Alice Hagemeyer, the current LFS Chair. We would only discover this Board action during the April 20, 2012 Board meeting at the NAD Headquarters when Mr. Shane Feldman, the NAD COO, told us that the LFS had been suspended. Later the same day Ms. Margie English, Region I Board Member and LFS liaison, Mr. Sean Gerlis, Region I Board member and Mr. Christopher Wagner, Vice President of the Board would use the same term: “suspended”. Without regard to terminology and According to Article 8.02, only the Council of Representatives (COR) can suspend the Bylaws, of which the Section is a creation.

The actions of the January and April Boards were justified by Mr. Howard Rosenblum, the CEO of the NAD on the grounds that the Board has a fiduciary duty. Article 4.09 clearly states that the powers of the Board are specific to the Operational Funds and Health of the Association. Mr. Rosenblum uses the word fiduciary as some magical thing but in reality “The duties of a fiduciary include loyalty and reasonable care of the assets within custody. All of the fiduciary's actions are performed for the advantage of the beneficiary.” (West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008) Now, when we speak of the Associations funds the Board has a fiduciary duty to the Associations Operations, where the Association is the beneficiary. Because the funds generated by the Sections do not contribute to nor take from the Associations Operating fund the Board's fiduciary duties to the Sections “are performed for the advantage of the beneficiary” who, in this very instance, are the Sections. The Sections are clearly identified as Organizational members under Article 3.01(e).

The power the Board has over the Sections under either its 501(c)(3) status or its fiduciary duties come into play only when the actions of a Section DO NOT meet the requirements of such. In order to take punitive action against an Organizational Member the Board must have specific and credible evidence, and must follow due process as given in Article 2.03 which clearly states in the very first sentence that The Association shall work with its State Association and Organizational Affiliates through their designated representatives.” At no point in time at or before the January or the April Board meeting were representatives of any Sections called to provide testimony. This is despite the fact that Ms. Hagemeyer and myself were in attendance to both April 2012 meetings.

At the April Board meeting Mr. Gerlis, Ms. English, and Mr. Wagner illegally called Alice Hagemeyer and myself into a private meeting apart from the rest of the Board whereas they gave an ultimatum to the LFS, an ultimatum they had no business nor power to carry out. They offered to pay one invoice request, but that after that we would forfeit our rights to the funds. It is a clear conflict of interest for these people to attempt to muscle, dictate, or otherwise oppress the LFS. It would be at this same meeting that Mr. Gerlis and Mr. Wagner would admit that they heard about the Deaf Cultural Digital Library (DCDL) from Ms. English only 2 or 3 months prior when in fact Ms. English, Dr. Bobbie Beth Scoggins, president of the NAD and Mr. Rosenblum were privy to communications dating prior to 2011 dealing with the DCDL.

We, Ms. Hagemeyer and myself, on our own and without any support of any kind from the Maryland Association of the Deaf (MDAD) or the NAD (despite extensive communications and appearances before the respective Boards), successfully passed MD HB 390 and MD SB 571 for the creation of a Deaf Cultural Digital Library (DCDL) in the State of Maryland. We made our first presentation to the Maryland Association of Public Library Administrators (MAPLA) in January of 2011 and Governor O'Malley signed the DCDL bill into law on May 22, 2012.

Ms. English, Dr. Scoggins and Mr. Rosenblum willfully, with malice, withheld documents, correspondence, and activities from the Board and the Membership for a period easily exceeding a year. This is inexcusable in any organization, and especially one that touts a theme of “Nothing About Us Without Us,” among others cited herein.

Mr. Rosenblum willfully and deliberately withheld information from the Board regarding matters of the National Deaf History Month (NDHM) and its Ratified Status, that the LFS was negotiating a contract with Gallaudet University for the use of Jean Boutcher's oil painting of Abbe for LFS fund raising purposes, and that there were multiple events associated with the LFS where, for instance, Ms. English, LFS Board Liaison, was given a pass to the ALA Convention in New Orleans and invited to speak in our “Bridging Deaf Cultures in America” series. Also Mr. Rosenblum and Dr. Jack Gannon were specifically invited and featured at library events at the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) in December and again in March at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore. Mr. Rosenblum failed to explain to the Board that the LFS was possibly the most active Section at the NAD and that certain members had invested significant personal time and personal finances. This is a material breach.

The Boards continued insistence on control extends to the recent Bylaw motions where the Board and the Bylaws committee have both made motions to go before the COR. The Board cannot make or second a motion, the Bylaws Committee cannot make or second a motion, and neither the Board nor the Bylaws Committee can reject a motion. The NAD Bylaws clearly state in Article § 4.09 “General Duties. The Board of Directors shall have general control of the affairs of the Association between biennial national conferences, during which time they shall consider action on conference recommendations.” This sentence can be read to mean two things: to consider those made by the COR and those made to the COR. Otherwise there is not provision within the Bylaws for the Board or Bylaws Committee to do these things as specified in the Roberts Rules of Order, Newly Revised (RONR).

The Board can make recommendations but that recommendation cannot be seconded because it is not a motion. If that recommendation by the Board is not seconded by a member of the COR in good standing it dies. Neither the Board nor the Bylaws committee can reject a motion, and they rejected my motion regarding Article § 4.16 Chief Executive Officer. “The Board of Directors shall be empowered to appoint a Chief Executive Officer to serve as the chief administrative officer of the Association. The Chief Executive Officer shall report to the President of the Association and shall serve as a non-voting ex-officio member of the Board.” My motion proposed that the language be changed so that the CEO reports to the Board as a whole, not the president. The Board and/or the Bylaws committee has rejected that in a clear power play. The NAD is probably the only corporation in America where the CEO reports to the president, the normal corporate arrangement is for the CEO (or similar) to report to the Board as a whole and to serve at the pleasure of the Board as a whole. These are just a few of many examples where the Board is far and away exceeding its given powers.

The Board, by way of Mr. Michael Berger, has refused to share the list of Delegates. The Board, by way of Mr. Rosenblum and Mr. Feldman has refused to share the NAD Policy Manual of which is mentioned in the Delegate Manual. The Board has used the powers of the Board in an oppressive and dismissive manner. The Delegate Manual is required to be disbursed 30 days prior to the Convention but an easy 90 percent of the deadlines contained within that document have already expired prior to its release, this effectively negates any real value in having this document and is consistent with the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

There are additional matters of note where, (1) the Board has taken nearly $20,000 out of the Halex House fund to help compensate Ms. Nancy Bloch, the former CEO of the NAD with a $54,000.00 “parting gift,” (2) gave Ms. Bloch an additional $60,000.00 raise in pay for her final year, where #1 and #2 effectively give her $114,000.00 in total, (3) has actively and deliberately concealed donations made by Kathleen Anderson (Board Minutes January 20, 2012: 2012/20-03: M/S/P - English/Hawk move to strike out the dollar amount and revise the May 2011 board meeting minutes; Kathleen Anderson provided NAD with a large donation on behalf of her family foundation.), and (4) concealed funds received from the Motor City Association of the Deaf (MCAD) in or about 1993. The MCAD was dissolved and its funds, approximating $93,000.00, are now worth nearly a quarter of a million dollars. The NAD has, for years, refused to reveal the actual agreement with the MCAD, refused to reveal accounting for the MCAD and has not shown these sums in any financial reports. It is also notable (5) that the IRS 990 forms the NAD has filed do not show any endowments, and we are aware of several in addition to the recent “Bloch Leadership Award.” It is our understanding that the IRS requires that such endowments be listed.

The sum of the parts in this complaint show a pattern of behavior on the part of the Board where even the Delegate Manual comes into conflict with the Bylaws. The Board and the Bylaws Committee make 8 motions and these motions reveal their motives. Take for example “Form #4” where the Author is the NAD Board of Directors/Bylaws Committee and where the motion is seconded by the NAD Board of Directors/Bylaws Committee and the Bylaw Committee's recommendation is to SUPPORT this proposed amendment. That is like having 'Joe' make a motion, 'Joe' second a motion, and 'Joe' approve a motion, but that's not all. This particular motion is written by the Board to “...advise the Board of the Directors of the Association on specific areas of interest...” This is our complaint exactly. For more than two years we have actively engaged the people in the chain of command at the NAD and they have not shared this information with the rest of the Board or with the Membership. This must be stopped and this must be rectified.


NAD Bylaw Articles Cited:
  • Whereas 2.02 and 2.03 clearly outline membership and relationships
  • Whereas 3.01 clearly defines LFS (Sections) as an Organizational Membership in 3.01(e) and
  • Whereas 4.09 clearly defines and limits the Powers of the Board, and
  • Whereas 4.10 further defines Duties of the Board and where 4.10(e) applies to Ms. English, and
  • Whereas 5.01(e)(1,5) again clearly identifies LFS as an Organizational Member with more than 20 members and 1 delegate to the COR, and
  • Whereas 8.02 states the bylaws can only be suspended by a 4/5'ths vote of the Council of Representatives (COR), and
  • Whereas the Board has acted in contravention of the Bylaws of the Association as listed herein
  • We Then and Therefore call for a 4.14 and 4.13 due process hearing that should involve those named herein:
    • Mr. Howard A Rosenblum, CEO
    • Dr. Bobbie Beth Scoggins, President
    • Mr. Christopher D. Wagner, Vice President
    • Ms. Margie A. English, Region I Representative
    • Mr. Sean Gerlis, Region I Representative
    • Mr. Michael Berger, Region II Representative
  • Whereas these people have deliberately and willfully concealed materially relevant information from the Board and Membership over more than a years time, and
  • Whereas these people have deliberately and willfully violated 2.03, 4.09, 4.10, 5.01(e) and 8.02 of the Bylaws of the Association by assuming authority that does not exist, and
  • Whereas these people have deliberately and willfully concealed that 2.02, 2.03, 3.01(e), 5.01(e)(1,5), and 8.02 collectively identify the LFS as an Organizational Member, and
  • Whereas these people have deliberately and willfully ignored the Definitions of Responsibility as defined in 2.03, 4.09, 4.10, and 4.10(e)
  • Whereas these people have deliberately and willfully ignored the primary Object of the Association in 2.01, and
  • Whereas these people have deliberately and willfully mislead fellow members of the board and the members of the NAD, a personal conflict of interest in 4.14

We hold that it is proper to call for 4.13 hearings on these individuals.

Written by:
Alec C. McFarlane, NAD/LFS Member and LFS Delegate
April 20, 2012
Distributed June 14, 2012

Approved by:
Alice L. Hagemeyer, NAD Member and LFS Chair
Albert Berke, NAD/LFS Member and Past NAD Board Member

Alec McFarlane is the Business Manager for Library for Deaf Action (LDA) and Vice-President of the Friends of libraries for Deaf Action (FOLDA), both based in Silver Spring, Maryland, as well as a member of the Administrative Board of ASL Access, Inc., of Virginia.  Mr. McFarlane is a member of the American Library Association (ALA) and is the leader of a Special Interest Group (SIG) at the ALA called "Bridging Deaf Cultures @ Your Library" as well as a member of the NAD and is the Library Friends Section (LFS) delegate to the 2012 NAD Convention.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ASL Video of "The Importance of Refusing to Enable Governor Daugaard"


We are currently working on captioning the video. In the meantime, check out the text version of the original article. This discussion is a response to Brendan Stern's article, "The Importance of Engaging Governor Daugaard."

Friday, June 8, 2012

Responses to #CaptionTHIS Tweets


The big day has passed and many of you are curious about the responses from organizations and companies. Below, I have included tweets from JetBlue, Hulu, and the San Diego Chargers. You can view more responses in a photo album at the Deaf Politics Facebook page. If you have received a response, either via email or tweet, and would like to add it to the photo album, please feel free to email the image to jess at deafpolitics dot org.

Also, be sure to take a minute or two to thank the organizations and companies that have made efforts in making their content accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. If they know that they are doing a good job, they will continue to do a good job.

Many thanks to all that participated in the #captionTHIS movement on 6/6! The movement would not have been possible without each and every one of you.

Other #captionTHIS posts:
The #CaptionTHIS Social Media Movement
#CaptionTHIS: How to Take Action on 6/6