Fostering Trust

Starting us off with a Tweet from Marlee Matlin, Deaf America’s leading celebrity and Oscar winner. “Trust is hard to earn when it is met with silence. Stay silent too long & people will reach their own conclusions. Be honest; be loud.”

I e-mailed the National Association of the Deaf on Tuesday, June 5th. This was my message: “Given the questions surrounding transparency with the NAD, we would like to know who the members of the election committee are.”

Mr. Rosenblum’s response as of 9:26 a.m. on Wednesday, June 6th:  “I am forwarding your request to President Bobbie Beth Scoggins for further discussion.”
As of the morning of June 8th (today), there has been no response. Why did I ask? Because community members have raised concerns about the integrity of the election process for the upcoming elections for the NAD Board.
What Do We Know?
Three of the 12 elected Board Officers of the NAD have close ties with Communication Services for the Deaf. That’s 25% representation. Current President Bobbie Beth Scoggins, Vice-President Chris Wagner, and Region III Representative Judith Gilliam have held or currently hold high-ranking positions with CSD or its affiliates. Chris Wagner is also a Senior Vice President at ZVRS. CSD remains a major shareholder in ZVRS. Wagner is now one of the two candidates for the Presidency. The NAD Presidency has been in the hands of individuals closely affiliated with CSD for 14 of the last 19 years. Those former Presidents also serve on the President’s Circle and influence decision making processes. Which means there will be not 1, not 2, but 3 CSD-affiliated folks advising the next President of the NAD.
According to what I have gleamed via multiple sources, two of the five election committee members are: Ben Soukup, the very face of CSD, and Bobbie Beth Scoggins, current NAD President who worked as Chief Operating Officer of CSD.*  I asked Rosenblum to release an official list of election committee members. Just for transparency’s sake. So that the community can sleep easy knowing the election processes are being held in a transparent manner and the best leader to best deal with contemporary challenges will be elected.
After 2 days of no response from Scoggins, I wonder just what there is to discuss.
 
Deaf Americans must monitor the NAD elections closely. We must preserve the integrity of the election process. We have raised questions about relationships between Daugaard, CSD, Ben Soukup, and Bobbie Beth Scoggins. We have questioned how personal interests and relationships may have affected the leadership and decisions made in regard to Daugaard’s invitation, including the response they issued in the aftermath of Daugaard’s inability to attend. We must critically monitor for conflicts of interest, push for transparency and integrity, and monitor financial transactions/jobs/favors/ and any sign of a political machine at work. We must push for a neutral, transparent process that serves the best interests of the NAD and the American Deaf Community.
I call upon Deaf America to place the weight of their collective gaze upon the election committee and the election process for the NAD Board this summer. The spotlight is now on the NAD leadership to work together to monitor for conflicts of interest and dishonest electioneering.
There have been concerns about NAD leadership and transparency within the NAD. Below, I have re-posted my original blog post wondering about some issues with communications, transparency, and leadership that emerged in the last two weeks.
*On May 27 I took a screenshot of the NAD’s About Us Page. According to that screenshot, Scoggins was currently the Chief Operating Officer of CSD. Today, that About Us page has been updated to reflect that Scoggins is now a private consultant with several non-profit entities and her position as COO of CSD has ended. According to my network of sources, one of those non-profit entities is CSD and that she will be returning to work full time at CSD at the completion of her term as President.

The REPOST

I am writing a quick post to update you on what has been happening as of late. I cannot write/type/text much those days due to a severe case of tendonitis in both hands and my torn rotator cuff is acting up. I did want to write a quick post because we are heading into the election season for the NAD Board with today’s announcement.

Daugaard’s not attending the NAD conference does not mean that the problems have been solved. What issues have we confronted during recent weeks?

1) Issues with leadership and the leadership model. See Erin Esposito’s letter. In Esposito’s letter, there is the suggestion that more responsibility and greater scope of decision making should be granted to the NAD’s CEO and Headquarters Staff. In relation to this issue are three points to consider: First, motions passed in 2008 and 2012 have not been followed through. This reflects the need for leadership that is conscientious about follow through. Second, we must consider more carefully the potential conflicts of interest  in the leaders we select and have the trust in them to govern impartially. Either that or to recuse themselves in situations where their impartiality is questionable. Third, how well can our leaders take ownership for the decisions made, both the difficult and the easy, in spite or because of popular opinion?

2) Transparency. Many, including myself, feel there is a lack of transparency on part of the NAD Board. First, surrounding the decision making in inviting Gov. Daugaard to the conference as a plenary speaker. Who made the decision? Who did the vetting? What criterion were in place? Who authorized the final decision? Were any objections raised? If so, on what basis? Where are the records to reflect the discussion regarding Daugaard and the plenary sessions? Should we have something along the lines of Sunshine Laws? Stricter requirements for record keeping and transparency?

3) Communications. I have had two-way dialogues with five members of the NAD Board. According to CEO Rosenblum, all of my messages submitted via the NAD’s online contact form were forwarded to the entire Board via a listserv with my e-mail address included. However, on the basis of my communications with those board members, I wonder about the effectiveness of this mode of communication. All of my two-way communications with the Board occurred only when direct contact was made and this was possible only because of Facebook and the size of the deaf community which allowed me to hunt down e-mail addresses via community networks. Needless to say, there were affirmations from the individuals I corresponded with that not all of my correspondence or e-mail addresses came through. Even if they did all come through the listserv, sending correspondence to the board via a listserv dilutes the message and does not really serve to facilitate two way dialogue. Some have suggested the State Associations as a conduit of communication with the regional representatives but this also serves as a barrier to full dialogue with our representatives and may serve as a deterrent to those who wish to communicate with the Board. Needless to say, there were questions about the Board actually receiving, reading, and considering all correspondence sent via the online contact form provided by the NAD’s website.

4) Stagnant leadership. There are concerns about consistently choosing leaders who come from the same “pool” of candidates. Although I recognize the NAD’s relationship with business entities are valuable in many ways, I believe the NAD, as any other organization or institution, benefits from leaders who come from diverse backgrounds. The NAD will benefit from fresh perspectives. Also, we must critically consider potential influences rising from close relationships with particular business entities. This is a question that we all must consider carefully as we elect new leaders.

5) Larger Questions remain regarding the sentiment of marginalization, lack of understanding of the diverse population within the deaf community, intersectionality, coalition building beyond cross-disability rights organizations, and so forth. We need further discussion on those topics and we will continue the conversation.

What’s to Come? I am writing an essay on issues surrounding #5 when I have secured permissions from all individuals involved who have shared their experiences with me to share those experiences with my readers. I also am planning a vlog to introduce myself to the community- some have asked who I am and what my background is, what my experience is with privileges and oppression. Those are questions I am happy to answer. I do have a dissertation to finish and so will be slowing down on this front in the near future. However, I assure you I have full intent to pursue the ideal of advancing the NAD to become the organization I know it is capable of becoming- and urge all of those who have expressed concerns in recent days to continue the conversation as well.

On a personal note: I have enjoyed meeting so many brilliant people through the last two weeks. I have learned much about my own privileges, I have been reminded to revisit questions I thought I had settled long ago, confronted new questions that I need to consider in the days/months/years to come, and introduced to new ideas (Thanks to Sordaradical and FacundoElement!). I look forward to continued growth as an individual and continuing this work as a scholar-activist.

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Comments on: "NAD Leadership & Transparency" (21)

  1. Anonymous said:

    Ya hoo

    Thanks for all u do.

    Take care of ur hands We need all good hands on deck.

    Peace

    Patti durr

  2. Alec C. McFarlane said:

    You’ve got some points well made and I will be adding more for you shortly, but in the meantime check out the NFB at http://www.nfb.org and see what they are doing. You might be surprised that the NFBm which represents a claimed 1.1 million blind people has more than 50k members and $18M annual budget. It will be good to make a comparison and realize that we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to real activity.

    • Thanks for adding your input. The NFB’s budget and membership shows something must be working. Do you have specific questions or ideas as to how the NAD can reach those numbers?

      • Alec C. McFarlane said:

        Yes, Tavian, besides the obvious –getting the NAD to stop acting like a secret society– we could embrace the power of the American Government by way of the Library. I have, along with my boss and mentor Alice Hagemeyer, worked over the last year and a half to get a bill passed in the Maryland General Assembly; we have started the creation of a Deaf Cultural Digital Library –DCDL for short– and you can find the bill at:

        http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/billfile/SB0571.htm
        and
        http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/billfile/HB0390.htm

        We have been working with the ALA, the American Library Association, the CML; the Citizens for Maryland’s Libraries, the MAPLA; the Maryland Association of Public Library Administrators, Irene Padilla, the State Librarian of Maryland, as well as our state and federal legislators in addition to the MDAD; the Maryland Association of the Deaf and the NAD; the National Association of the Deaf. The only place where we have any problems (disagreement, opposition, and oppression) are from the MDAD and the NAD whose leaders have refused to support the concept or share it with the people…. Nothing About Us Without Us is a hallow slogan. Our support in the larger community mentioned is near unanimous and the bill itself passed unanimously in both houses of the Maryland Assembly (you will also note that the bill was cross-filed in both houses and that we have 14 sponsors listed).

        The bill, which Martin O’Malley signed on May 22, 2012 puts the concept to a Legislative Task Force (TF) whose charge is clearly a question of “how” rather than a question of “whether” and we believe that our sponsors (Luedtke in the House and Montgomery in the Senate) will reintroduce the bill during the 2013 General Assembly in Maryland after the TF completes its work in December of this year. Once this passes in Maryland it will be a model for the Nation as the only Public Library for the Deaf.

        If you look at the IMLS or the Institute of Museum and Library Services (a Federal Grant Making Body. See: http://www.imls.gov) you will see that they just gave the NLB, the National Library for the Blind, the final installment of $75 Million Dollars that has been distributed to them over the last 6 years to digitize their collection. You will see that the NFB works closely with and utilizes the resources of the NLB.

        Deaf people are complaining about “Access”, “Exposure”, “Understanding”, “Acceptance”, and we are saying that the DCDL is a perfect vehicle to answer these objections because it is the proper function of the American Library to provide for the people. The NLB collects, researches, and propagates information related to all aspects of blindness. The DCDL will not be a panacea or a solution-for-all, but it is a powerful matter where the Library is a Civil Right and where this should be a National thing. We are of the opinion that there is no single means more powerful than the DCDL on a National Level because it benefits all: Civil Rights are not singular. Librarians for the NLB have a legal obligation to procure information, resources, and research related to blindness but no such law of equal stature exists for the deaf, therefore the librarians have no obligation to the deaf community.

        Information and knowledge equals power, it will be an important first step for us as a people.

      • I am curious if MDAD or NAD has explained why they have been resistant to DCDL?

    • Southside7 said:

      Alec, I read your email to NAD Board and your post above about blind organization and You have valid point as well as this post above.

      Contact US Dept of Justice and file complaint that NAD claims to be represent all deaf and hard of hearing people which they never represent us except themselves and elites who donate large sum of money.

      http://www.justice.gov/

      DOJ investigates impropriety of funds by non profit organization, violation of bylaws, etc whatever you feel that needed investigating.

  3. Alec C. McFarlane said:

    Yes, they insisted we add ASL to the Bill Title.

  4. Alec C. McFarlane said:

    We are talking about a public library, and a library –as such– does not and cannot discriminate. Is ASL included in this Library? Yes! Is Braille included in the NLB? Yes! Do they need to add Braille to the title? No. Not everybody who is blind uses Braille and not everybody who is deaf uses ASL.

    The NAD leadership has said that they cannot support the bill unless MDAD supports the bill and certain leaders from the NAD have insisted that if the MDAD does not support the bill then the NAD cannot. Essentially Charm Smith, alone, has shut down support for this bill. Very few people outside of this short collection have any knowledge or understanding of this bill and definitely it deserves discussion among the people.

    • Thanks for the clarification. So to make sure I understand you correctly: you are advocating a digital library that includes a variety of media in both ASL and English that center on deaf themes, deaf experiences, deaf authors, deaf sources, etcetera? And the naming of the bill does not include ASL in order to represent a full spectrum of diversity within the library collection while not sending the message to the public that it’s oriented exclusively to one specific linguistic community? But you have clearly, definitely, expressed the sentiment that ASL materials will be included in this library as well?

      I can understand the NAD’s position in wanting the MDAD to take the lead because it’s a state-side effort- although I do see the NAD should endorse the effort anyway as a model to other states and as being a digital library, would be accessible to deaf folks all across the country. But I imagine the NAD does not want to step on state association’s toes- that’s historically been an issue. Have you continued to pursue the matter with the deaf community in terms of an educational campaign? Continued conversations with MDAD and NAD to think about the endgame- which is that ASL will be included anyway, and the benefits outweigh the politics of ASL being included?

  5. Alec C. McFarlane said:

    Again, Tavian, the answer is yes… this library will NOT be a Deaf library if it does not have ASL, and ASL will be an important component of this library without question. Your statement that the purpose is to “…represent a full spectrum of diversity…” is spot on.

    There is nothing in the Bylaws of the NAD that prevents the NAD from acting on Civil Rights and we want to emphasize that this is not a State right, not a National right, this is a worldwide Civil Rights matter. Stepping on anybody’s toes is not a question, supporting Civil Rights and equality is not subject to –in all practical purposes– a popular vote. Ditto for GLBT rights or any other, Civil Rights just are, period.

    We have appeared before the MDAD Board, we have appeared before the NAD Board, we have appeared before the DCAD Board and made motions before their members as well. The motions before the DCAD and MDAD membership were made recently and rejected largely because the members knew nothing of what we proposed. This fact proves that our correspondence with the leaders over the past 2 has NOT been shared with some of the other Board members or the general Membership. We have traveled to nearly a dozen states and made presentations on the DCDL and the Library in general (I am the business manager for LDA; Libraries for Deaf Action, a private company founded by Alice Hagemeyer) and much more. We shared our research, our testimony, our contacts with the leadership to no avail. At every instance we have used ASL to convey our message and we have emphasized the inclusion of ASL as being non-debatable.

    Our campaign includes an upcoming event in Anaheim, CA where we will attend the ALA Annual Convention and where we will make our third presentation to them (the priors at the ALA were at New Orleans and just last January Dallas where we hosted two events). Our work is not done and getting the word out is –and has been– our mission.

  6. Alec C. McFarlane said:

    Another thing I’d like to bring up and which I perceive as one of our biggest problems; the deaf community is unwittingly discriminating against itself by putting up different classes of people. For instance we have a motion before the NAD to drop the additional terms “… and hard of hearing…” We say, in our presentations, that we consider all people with various hearing levels to be deaf. It doesn’t matter what one’s level of hearing is, we are all deaf. I wear reading glasses and without them I cannot read and therefore I am –for all practical purposes– blind: I can’t read the printed word. I could call myself hard-of-seeing, but we just keep adding new terms, new distinctions, new definitions that divide and classify us. The people I have spoken with at the NFB say simply that the definition that they use below shows true equality.

    See:
    http://www.nfb.org/straight-forward-answers-about-blindness

    7. Am I really blind?
    Some people use terms such as visually impaired or low vision instead of blind. However, the National Federation of the Blind uses the term blind for all people, regardless of their visual acuity, who need to use alternative techniques to accomplish the same thing that a sighted person can do using eyesight. Individuals experiencing severe vision loss may find it helpful to learn some nonvisual ways of accomplishing everyday tasks, if they are struggling with visual methods. It is estimated that only 20 percent of blind people are totally blind. Most blind people have some remaining vision. The legal definition of blindness is visual acuity of not greater than 20/200 in the better eye with correction or a field not subtending an angle greater than 20 degrees. In everyday language this means that a blind person sees about 10 percent of what a sighted person can see.

    Equality is a simple word, either we are equal or we are not. The concern now is that –as used above– the 20% of the truly DEAF people are controlling and discriminating against the other 80%.

    • Alec, Thank you for educating me- I was unaware of the efforts to establish a DCLS. I think I may have heard something of it but not in great detail. Have you contacted NAD delegates to ask them to propose that the NAD support efforts to establish a library of this kind? If Maryland is willing to foot the bill, that’s an amazing accomplishment and should be taken advantage of. As to your other points, I agree that the NAD will be strengthened if it can expand the perception of what its membership base is supposed to be- I can imagine that’s a little difficult in some contexts due to communication and cultural differences- but certainly a point that’s worth further discussion and worth considering how we can parlay this into a strength.

      • Alec C. McFarlane said:

        We have made a motion to set up a committee to push this DCDL or Deaf Cultural Digital Library on a National scale as one of the Top 20 priorities, but unfortunately my request to the NAD for a full listing of the Delegates has been denied… there is a pattern here.

        The Maryland law will apply only to Maryland, but if you saw its language it embraces the country and the rest of the world in its language within. Once we have that model we will be able to replicate that model.

        You mention cultural differences and you hit it on the nose again; there are many cultures within the deaf community. Our program, presented in Puerto Rico, Indiana, Alabama, Connecticut, New York, Dallas, and other places is titled “Bridging Deaf Cultures” or “BDC” for short and therefore our NY program is called BDC:NY and we have plans to visit all territories of the USA (there are 56 in total). ASL represents but one of the cultures of the deaf community, and some will not accept that definition. I lived in Puerto Rico, as well as Chicago, Metro DC, Florida, California, and I have friends from every corner of the world. In fact our presentation says just that, deafness does not discriminate: anyone, anywhere, anytime could become deaf.

        Howard has talked about getting numbers and if you look carefully at his Philly presentation when he was running for CEO he was talking about getting “numbers” and his numbers add up to about 35 million. That is fair, but our number is much larger and includes everybody because we have Teachers, Doctors, we have people at the grocery store, barber/beauty shop, friends, neighbors, and more. The DCDL is ABOUT deaf people but FOR everyone.

        Howard’s goal of having 100k members is not out of line, but there is now way it will ever work unless the NAD adopts a lot of the practices that you will find at the NFB or the ALA. The ALA (www.ala.org) has 60k paying members and represents many millions more and we have two conventions every year without fail, one mid-winter meeting and one annual meeting. Both the ALA and NFB have multiple committees and groups and so forth and they all work FROM THE BOTTOM UP.

        The TOP DOWN operations of the NAD is a big part of its problem.

        I have made posts on Deafhood, Deafhood Discussions, Gallaudet University Class of “86 and Deaf Community Action sites on FB where you should be able to find links to the Bill and our published testimony to the House and Senate. You will find them posted under my name.

        Thank you for engaging me and sharing your thoughts and concerns. This will soon blow out for the whole community to see, and I hope that people such as yourself, Ricky Taylor, Ryan Commerson, and others can help get this out.

      • Have you made this public? The denial of a listing of delegates for you to contact to sponsor this proposal? What about your delegates in your home state? -Tavian

      • Alec C. McFarlane said:

        Negative, but we will and this blog will be included as a recipient.

      • Thank you for keeping us in the loop. The NAD has a Library Friends Section- what role do they play in your efforts? -T

      • Alec C. McFarlane said:

        The Library Friends Section plays a central role that has been oppressed by the NAD, in fact if you go to the Minutes of their January 2012 meeting you will see they froze our account… on account of what?, even we don’t know. There is no written policy or procedure for an organization that has been within the NAD for almost 20 years and they shut us down –effectively– with this action we consider illegal. I am going as the LFS Delegate and Alice is the Alternate (and the LFS founder.)

      • I saw this on board minutes:” 2012/20-07: M/S/P: Gerlis/McCowin move for NAD to freeze all NAD Sections financial expenses, not related to the 2012 NAD conference, until a policy on sections is developed by April 2012.” Have they developed a policy yet? It’s well past April- and have they communicated any changes in this policy to Ms. Hagemeyer? I don’t see anything posted for anything beyond the January meeting of the Board.

    • Alec, you have shared some really valuable information here. I think many will be interested in the work that you have been involved in- and how the NAD and MDAD has worked with you/or against you in your efforts. May I suggest you write an article for Deaf Politics? They are neutral and have many thousands of fans and daily readers. You can see the blog at blog.deafpolitics.org and the e-mail address for the operator is listed on the front page. I strongly urge you to consider submitting an article- you have already outlined your argument and situation through comments here and I think it’s worth sharing.

  7. Alec C. McFarlane said:

    Tavian

    No, the Board has not done anything to create any policies and we think it is backwards. There definitely should be policies and so forth, but we are talking about a substantial rewrite and that would be best served by a committee. This arbitrary action has served a single purpose that has a –really– 20 year history.

    I will definitely write up an article at a later date, which might not be too much later… We have other materials we will share first and that will be released simultaneously to the Board and the public.

    Thank you, again, for engaging me and sharing. We agree that this needs a lot of sunshine 🙂

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