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November 18, 1987 - Image 33

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-11-18

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the conversation (signed) seems
quite compatible with the more
than 300 watts of music from
four Peavey speakers. From the
outside, Gallaudet's dorms look
like the same architecturally
modern buildings as those at
many other colleges. But in-
side there are differences. The
hypersensitive fire detectors,
which went off more than 200
times last fall, flash blindingly
powerful strobe lights as well as
clang a bell that makes the
walls and floors vibrate. Junior
Greg Haretos, one of five hear-
ing students among the 1,747
undergrads, says the numerous
false alarms sometimes make
his room "like living in Dante's
Inferno."
Yet Haretos, who is studying
to be a free-lance interpreter, Real-life
wouldn't go to any other school
to prepare for his field. Gallau-
det president Jerry C. Lee is counting on
the school's uniqueness as a draw for hear-
ing and deaf students alike to ensure its
survival and growth: "What better place
in the world," he asks, "can you go to learn
about deafness than at Gallaudet?" It is
precisely because they yearn to revel in
their own culture, communicate freely
and participate fully in college life that
many deaf students choose Gallaudet in-
stead of a hearing school. "Deaf students
at a hearing school may play football, but
they won't be a quarterback. They may
have dates, but they will be very limited
because of communication," signs Merv
Garretson, special assistant to Gallaudet's
president. "Here they are just like any
other college student."
For years Gallaudet was one of the few
practical college options available to those
who could not hear. Congress required all
schools and colleges to become accessible to
the deaf when it passed the 1973 Rehabili-
tation Act, which required that all handi-

class: Students learning how to cope in the w
capped students be educated in the "least
restrictive" environment. Since then, how-
ever, many angry parents have complained
that placing deaf students in classes for the
hearing-so-called mainstreaming-only
ensures that they will be treated as second-
class citizens. Last year Congress tried to
rectify the problems by naming a 12-mem-
ber Commission on the Education of the
Deaf, which is expected to make wide-rang-
ing recommendations early next year.
Mindful of the congressional review, Lee
unveiled a master plan for Gallaudet last
year. The plan calls for the university to
seek "new constituencies." About 4,500
deaf teenagers graduate from secondary
programs each year, and Gallaudet re-
cruits the top one-third as measured by the
Stanford Achievement Test for the hear-
ing-impaired. But this pool of potential
students is shrinking, in part because bet-
ter prenatal care has reduced the number
of children who suffer hearing loss after
their mothers contract German measles.

To help maintain the quality of
its academic programs, Gallau-
det is going after more gradu-
ate students with a planned
new business school; it is also
increasing the percentage of
- s foreign students. In a more con-
troversial move, the school also
admitted hearing undergrads
for the first time to its fall 1986
class. The deaf community pro-
tested that Gallaudet's spe-
cial character might change,
prompting Lee to limit the
hearing to 8 percent of under-
graduates. (About 75 percent of
the grad students have always
been hearing; they attend Gal-
laudet to prepare to work with
the deaf.)
State of the art: Gallaudet stu-
dents follow the same curricu-
lum as liberal-arts students in
uorld other schools. What is different
is the extraordinary teaching
methods in the classroom. "I first went to a
community college in Michigan, and I real-
ly felt lost. When I came to Gallaudet, I was
motivated to learn something," signs John-
ston Grinstaff, who graduated in TV, film
and photography Jast spring. Students like
Grinstaff are able to get production experi-
ence in the school's state-of-the-art studios.
With the help of special TelePrompTer-
like monitors that translate speech into
writing, students can operate the studio
cameras and editing machines. Their ef-
forts have paid off spectacularly. For three
years the Gallaudet TV studio has pro-
duced an Emmy award-winning national
magazine show called "Deaf Mosaic,"
which is broadcast over PBS and the Dis-
covery Channel. As a result, says Marin
Allen, chair of the department, "our stu-
dents are more competitive when they
graduate because they are part of the proc-
ess from preproduction meetings right on
through."
The English department offers classes

A Bizarre Rite of Passage for Freshmen

W hy do the first-year stu-
dents at Gallaudet raise
rats, then kill them? There
seems to be no clear expla-
nation, except, well, it's
been a tradition for half a
century. Each spring the pre-
freshmen preparatory stu-
dents-or "rats" as they call
themselves-adopt a pair of
real male and female white
rodents as class mascots. Al-

though upperclassmen spend
weeks trying to kidnap the
pair, the creatures ultimately
will suffer a worse fate. Tra-
dition calls for the preps to
kill the rats, secretly, in what

they claim is some humane
way; care is taken not to
repeat the method of past
classes.
School officials insist that
because of protests from ani-

mal-rights groups, the stu-
dents now use stuffed rats.
Students claim that the rats
are real. They place the re-
mains in elaborately decorat-
ed (sometimes brass) coffins.
After a day of vigil, preps
dressed in black funeral attire
march two abreast around the
campus, through the coffin-
shaped door of College Hall
and on to a secret burial site.
The graveside service marks
the final rite of passage to the
actual freshman year.
NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS 17

NOVEMBER 1987

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