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Sep 28, 2022
National Deaf Life Museum
The Deaf President Now (DPN) Protest
In March 1988, Gallaudet University experienced a watershed event that led to the appointment of the 124-year-old university’s first deaf president.
Since then, Deaf President Now (DPN) has become synonymous with self-determination and empowerment for deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere.
A day-by-day chronology of events:
Profiles & Viewpoints
Brief biographies of key individuals involved in the protest and personal accounts
How DPN affected deaf and hearing people around the world
This website was initially created as part of the 10- and 15-year celebrations of DPN. Much has changed at Gallaudet University and for the deaf community around the world since DPN. The content has been lightly updated for the 25-year celebration but for the most part remains a snapshot of the events of March 1988.
Photo credits: Yoon K. Lee, Chun Louie and Ken Kurlychek
Check out this video of the panel of women at DPN.
Resource Type: History
More about the DPN protest at Gallaudet University.
A government major in 1988, Bridgetta Bourne-Firl was heavily involved with college politics and once ran as Jerry Covell's running mate in a bid for Student Body Government leadership.
Brief profile biographies of key individuals involved in the protest and personal accounts
Below are links to the text of a wide variety of documents related to the 1988 DPN protest. Although they have been re-typed for this website, we have retained the look, wording and spelling of the originals.
The DPN 25th Anniversary Program Schedule
The spark that ignited DPN was the announcement on March 6, 1988, by the University's Board of Trustees that a hearing person had been selected as Gallaudet's seventh president.
Elected president of the Student Body Government only a day before the March 1 rally, Hlibok found himself thrust into the spotlight as the official student leader of DPN. A member of a close-knit New York deaf family, which included two older brothers who had attended Gallaudet, Hlibok quickly mastered the political savvy of politicians twice his age.
I. King Jordan speaks on his personal experience becoming Gallaudet's first deaf president.
An impassioned speaker and activist, Covell was well known at Gallaudet for his involvement in campus politics and extracurricular activities. He was tagged as the protesting students' "spiritual leader" due to his fire-and-brimstone speaking style.
A collection of quotes from alumni, current students, and members of the deaf community inspired by the DPN protests on Gallaudet campus.
Despite his short tenure as university president, Jerry Lee guided Gallaudet through an expansive period. The college became a university and the campus served thousands of deaf students from the "rubella bulge."
An endorsement letter from then-Congresswoman Pat Schroeder in support of DPN.
An endorsement letter from then-senator Lowell Weicker in support of DPN.
An endorsement letter from Rev. Jesse Jackson in support of DPN.
Letters of support from important individuals during the DPN protest.
One of just four deaf Board of Trustee members in 1988, Bravin was chair of the presidential search committee responsible for the selection and screening of finalists. A 1966 graduate of Gallaudet and an IBM executive, Bravin became the intermediary between student leaders and the Board during the protest.
The appointment of the new president of Gallaudet University has resulted in an OVERWHELMING vote of NO CONFIDENCE in the Board of Trustees!
As vice-chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the Meadville, Pennsylvania native was named president of Gallaudet University on March 6, 1988. This sparked a protest by many students, alumni, faculty, and staff who felt that although she was a qualified administrator, she didn't have the knowledge and skills necessary to lead Gallaudet University.
Jane Bassett Spillman was a problematic figure during the DPN protests. She sat on the Board of Directors but never learned to sign. Students fought for her resignation.
The following quotations were made during, or shortly after, the DPN protest of March 1988 or come from letters sent in support of the DPN protest.
An endorsement letter from then-senator Bob Dole in support of DPN.
An endorsement letter from then-senator Bob Graham in support of DPN.
An endorsement letter from then-senator Paul Simon in support of DPN.
An endorsement letter from then-senator Tom Harkin in support of DPN.
The long-lasting impact of the DPN movement on Gallaudet campus can still be felt to this day. Read now for more information on how DPN brought about legislative and social change in the United States.
In 1988, Gallaudet University was the site of a student-led protest that today is called Deaf President Now, or simply DPN.
Resource Type: Archives & Exhibits
A living piece of Gallaudet history: the DPN 1988 protest synopsis.
Resource Type: Program Information
Tim Rarus, a government major from Arizona, was the most politically experienced of the "Gallaudet four," the students who quickly rose to leadership positions during the DPN protest. The other three were Greg Hlibok, Jerry Covell, and Bridgetta Bourne.
An endorsement letter from former president George Bush in support of DPN.
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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