Posts tagged ‘NAD conference’

NAD Leadership & Transparency

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.

Bobbie Beth Scoggins Screenshot

Note: she is currently the chief operations officer of CSD. This Screenshot was taken May 27, 2012.

Deaf School Closures are Connected to Racism and Classism

This letter will be submitted to Huffington Post to address errors and misconceptions in Courtney O’Donnell’s Article Published Today, May 30.

Correction of Errors in “Anti-LGBT Rights Governor to Speak at Prominent Deaf Civil Rights Group’s National Conference” article.

Courtney O’Donnell and Editors of the Huffington Post,

I am Octavian Robinson, the original author of the post at Deaf Politics and the blogger behind the blog site referenced in Ms. O’Donnell’s article in HuffPost. I am writing to clarify errors and misconceptions in her article, “Anti-LGBT Rights Governor to Speak at Prominent Deaf Civil Rights Group’s National Conference.”

First, Ms. O’Donnell states in her article that the NAD organized the luncheon for LGBTs and announced a new LGBT equality policy in response to our objections surrounding Governor Daugaard’s invitation to speak at the NAD.

Allow me to quote from my own article, “Hosting this luncheon then turning around and inviting an anti-gay speaker speaks volumes to your commitment to equal treatment for your membership.”

Kindly note the placement of the word, “then.” The luncheon was arranged long before Governor Daugaard’s invitation. Our objection lies in the context that the LGBT population of the NAD has been struggling for a long time to combat marginalization within the organization. The NAD leadership assured us they were serious about that by establishing a GLBT (that is the acronym they use although it is not stylistically proper) Equality Team and by organizing the luncheon.

Then they turned around and invited a legislator who has actively circumvented the LGBT’s community efforts to achieve marriage equality. This lent to the sense that the NAD was not serious about equality and rather was giving us “lip service” in not carefully making decisions that reflected its commitment to equal inclusion of all members.

To the second portion of the erroneous statement, the NAD did issue a statement supporting marriage equality. Is that the “LGBT equality policy” you are referring to? Otherwise, I am unaware of such a policy that has been released in response to this situation.

Second, it is not the only LGBTs who are raising concerns about the leadership at the NAD. This is symptomatic of a larger problem that centers on all marginalized populations within the organization including women and people of color. We must recognize that it is a broad coalition of individuals within the deaf community and their allies that are speaking out as to the NAD’s commitment to inclusion.

Third, your statement about the South Dakota School for the Deaf shows a limited understanding of the true issues surrounding schools for the deaf, their closure, and the political implications of such decisions. By claiming that deaf school closures are exclusively economic, this is a claim that denies how deeply and intimately connected all forms of marginalization are to political decision-making.

Allow me to illuminate how closures of schools for the deaf are shaped by racism and classism.

The closure of deaf schools has a close relationship with issues surrounding race and class. Closing schools for the deaf are not exclusively about economics. Closing deaf schools is not a purely economic decision. The political right often veils racist, sexist, and classist legislation as decisions of economic and fiscal responsibility. But anyone familiar with the issues surrounding schools for the deaf will tell you that deaf education is closely intertwined with class and privilege. That schools for the deaf are now increasingly serving students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students from deaf families.  Oralism and deaf education are closely tied to class, race, and privilege. Those schools, along with every other program that serves women, people of color, and the disabled are being subjected to funding cuts. Those cuts are justified as economically and fiscally necessary, but one cannot deny the burden of spending cuts fall within arenas where they most affect affect women, people of color, people from low-income backgrounds, or the disabled or taxes being raised. There is an undercurrent of racism and sexism in debates surrounding taxation that can be traced to the tax and property rights revolution of the 1970s.

You cannot separate issues of race, class, ability, and gender from political decision-making. Nothing is purely economic. That includes the schools for the deaf. This demonstrates that we must always cast a critical eye to the decision making processes undertaken by politicians and leaders, including the leadership of the NAD, to ensure that those decisions do not somehow have underlying factors of privileges surrounding race, class, gender, or socioeconomic status.

I hope I have made myself adequately clear on this subject. While I appreciate you have brought attention to an important issue and highlighted our struggles with eliminating marginalization within the deaf community, I think you have done our cause a disservice by not representing the facts or our positions with care.

Our issues are far too large to adequately cover in this letter, but I invite you to carefully examine our issues, read all the posts, and talk to individuals intimately involved in the issue before doing any further reporting on the issue.


T. Robinson

Follow Up Letter: Call for Scoggins’ Removal As President of the NAD

Dear NAD Board Members,

On May 27, I issued a call for the removal of Ms. Bobbie Beth Scoggins as President of the NAD outlining conflicts of interest and perceived failure to act in the best interests of the Association. The intent of that letter was to be a message to the Board to start thinking about where true responsibility and power lies. Let me put this simply:

You are the elected representatives of the People. You answer to the People. You have a duty to act in the best interests of the Association.

You are faced with a difficult decision. Either way you decide has repercussions. You have to weigh the consequences then decide on the choice which serves the best interests of the Association.

1) Keep Daugaard. You risk intracommunity division and sending a poor message to the public at large about the NAD’s values. You risk a massive loss of membership and future difficulties in recruiting membership. You risk the inability to build coalitions with other populations also agitating for civil, human, and linguistic rights. You risk sending a message that all of your activities to date about being more committed to diversity e.g. the GLBT Equality Team, the Diversity Statement, the appointment of two women of color as appointed members of the Board, and so on is all just for “show” and is not supported by real action. You risk allowing the NAD to actively practice what I call “socially acceptable” discrimination.  You risk losing the Public’s trust.

2) Uninvite Daugaard. You risk injuring his ego. You risk upsetting the Republican establishment. By doing so, you are admitting that someone, somewhere, somehow made a mistake. However the selection process worked, however the selection was finalized and authorized, there were mistakes made. Thoughtlessness and carelessness. Assumptions made. That means you lose the Public’s confidence in your decision making processes to date.

The letter to you calling for Ms. Scoggins’ removal as president was a reminder of a few things:

1) You, as a body, have a responsibility to vigilantly monitor each other for potential conflicts of interest that prevents an individual from making decisions that serves solely the Association’s best interests. We, the public, have a responsibility to also monitor for conflicts of interest and to share perceived conflicts of interest with our elected representatives on the board. There is the perception of a conflict of interest in regard to the CSD’s relationship with Governor Daugaard and CSD’s significant relationship with the NAD.

2) You, as a body, have a responsibility to police and monitor all activities and political decisions made by the NAD to ensure that they adhere to the Association’s mission, values, principles, bylaws, and to all motions that you have passed at previous board meetings. The motions you pass as our elected representatives reflect the will of the people. It is your responsibility, as a whole, to  to preserve the integrity of the board’s power and trust as an elected governing body by enforcing the bylaws and the motions you pass in board meetings.

This is about the larger issue of taking ownership of your responsibilities as members of the Board of the NAD. At the end of the day, it’s also about taking ownership of your conscience.

You have options based on what is happening so far.

1) Unify as a board and declare a joint statement that you have decided to Keep Daugaard and outline the reasons to your Public. Accept the criticism with dignity and the understanding that it is not personal but about your abilities and thought processes as leaders.

2) If a majority believes that Daugaard should be uninvited but Ms. Scoggins is somehow circumventing your ability to make that decision, remove her from office on the basis that you genuinely believe she is not acting in the best interests of the Association.

3) If a number believes that Daugaard should be uninvited but there is not the impetus to remove Ms. Scoggins, you can go rogue by releasing a statement of dissension to show us the NAD is not entirely composed of people blind to privilege and the messages being sent by the Association’s invitation and decision, thus far, to stand by Gov. Daugaard. This statement is an affirmation that there are people within the leadership that are committed to inclusion and change on that front. Although, for us, it will take more than that to regain our confidence and trust.

4) If you feel that speaking out while serving on the Board is an disservice to the Association because the organization needs a unified leadership front but struggle with your conscience then resign. That sends a powerful message as well.

5) If you feel it is wrong to keep Daugaard but you would serve the organization best by muzzling your opinions and staying on, then you have to go with #1 and accept the criticism.

You are not powerless. You are not absolved of your power and duty to act in the best interests of the organization. Ms. Scoggins may be the leader of the Board but she does not have absolute power. As a collective, you have powers you can exercise. Then, as individuals, you have the power to decide how you respond. I urge you to respond in a way that demonstrates you are serious about redressing our grievances.

I do not envy the difficult decisions you confront. But you can’t unring the bell. The only way forward is to take ownership of your positions and act.

Tavian Robinson

Call for Removal of Bobbie Beth Scoggins as President of the NAD

A Call for the Removal of Ms. Bobbie Beth Scoggins as President of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD)

Dear Board Members of the National Association of the Deaf,

I call upon the Board of the NAD to undertake a due process hearing in order to remove Ms. Scoggins from her position as President of the NAD.

One basis for my call for Ms. Scoggins’ removal falls under Article Four (4.14) of the Bylaws of the NAD which governs the Board of Directors. This states: “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.”

The NAD has a close relationship with Communication Services for the Deaf (CSD), a long time major sponsor of the NAD and a significant sponsor of the 2012 NAD Conference. Ms. Scoggins is currently the Chief Operating Officer of CSD. CSD has a close relationship with Governor Daugaard of South Dakota. The relationship between Gov. Daugaard, CSD, and Ms. Scoggins’ position as an executive officer of CSD casts questions upon her objectivity.

The membership cannot be confident in her ability to remain wholly objective in meditating communications between the membership and the Board given her personal and financial stake in the matter as an employee of an organization that has a close political relationship with Governor Daugaard. The membership is not confident in her ability to remain objective in order to make decisions that puts the NAD and its membership first and foremost.

Gov. Daugaard is a divisive figure who serves the antithesis of the NAD’s core values and missions. One core mission of the NAD is to preserve schools for the deaf. Gov. Daugaard oversaw the closing of the South Dakota School for the Deaf. Gov. Daugaard has also acted in ways that exclude or narrow civil and human rights which is in contrast to the NAD’s core value of inclusion and diversity.

There is clearly a personal conflict of interest that may be and is interpreted as one of a material nature between Ms. Scoggins’ employ at CSD, its relationship with Gov. Daugaard in South Dakota, and her service as President of the NAD.

Furthermore, according to 4.13, elected members may be removed…”for other good and sufficient reason.” Ms. Scoggins has damaged the public’s trust in her by failing to give careful thought to the public image of the Association in the view of the public. By doing so, she has damaged the reputation of the Association and its standing amongst civil rights organizations. As President, she bears the penultimate responsibility for the selection of speakers and the public image of the organization among other responsibilities. She authorized the selection of a highly divisive political figure to present at the NAD conference without sensitivity to the diverse composition of the NAD membership or to understand the deeper nuances of the significance of giving a prominent platform to someone with Gov. Daugaard’s record on civil and human rights.

By overseeing and authorizing the selection of Gov. Daugaard, Ms. Scoggins has failed to honor and uphold the motion passed on diversity at the January 2012 NAD Board Meeting in Louisville, KY.

On the basis of the language of the diversity motion, Gov. Daugaard’s invitation works against the building and maintaining of a totally inclusive environment.  This invitation also works against expanding membership, participation, and leadership that reflect the diversity of the American deaf community. This invitation also clearly does not adhere to the highest standards of diversity and inclusiveness. This invitation demonstrates that the Board did not work closely with all affiliates to further this commitment. Ms. Scoggins, as President of the NAD, has a duty to uphold the motions passed by the Board.

I call for the immediate removal of Ms. Scoggins as a demonstration that the NAD is committed to honest, open, transparent leadership absent of conflicts of interest along with diversity and inclusion. There cannot be questions as to whether our President is serving her employer’s interests in regard to the Governor or the Association’s best interests. This must be addressed before the Conference and irreparable damage is done.

T. Robinson

The relevant bylaws:

§ 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.

§ 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.

The diversity motion in full which was motioned, seconded, and passed:

“The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) embraces diversity and inclusiveness as one of its core values in achieving its mission. We are committed to:

-encompassing a wide range of human abilities and perspectives that includes, but are not limited to language, culture, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, and socioeconomic status

-building and maintaining a totally inclusive environment where differences of opinions, beliefs, and values are sought, listened to, respected, and valued

-expanding membership, participation, and leadership that reflect the diversity of the American deaf community; and

-enhancing its policies and practices to adhere to the highest standards of diversity and inclusiveness, and to work closely with all affiliates to further this commitment.”

A Sample Letter to Sponsors of 2012 NAD Conference

Folks, I am including my e-mail to Purple Communications as a sample letter of what you can e-mail to Sponsors of the 2012 NAD Conference. Please tailor your letters in consideration of each business/organization’s service mission. I sent this e-mail to Purple this afternoon.

Dear Purple,

My name is Tavian Robinson. I am a long time loyal consumer of Purple communications and its services. I appreciate your support of the National Association of the Deaf and support for the civil rights of deaf and hard of hearing Americans. Thank you for your financial support of an organization that works hard to secure our accessibility to telecommunications.
However, I have learned of some things recently in regard to the planning of the 2012 NAD conference that concerns me.  I am asking you to participate in the deaf community’s call for true equality and civil rights. The NAD is making a statement that sends mixed messages about civil rights and the place of minorities within the American Deaf Community. I believe that your organization stands for equality, diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism. I remain a proud Purple consumer but believe that you can add a powerful voice of reason in persuading the NAD to reexamine its commitment its principles of civil rights and equality for all.
Thank you,
T. Robinson

E-mail to Gallaudet University for Equality in the NAD

Feel free to use this as a template and write to Stephen (dot) Weiner at Gallaudet (dot) edu and Angela McCaskill at Angela (dot) McCaskill (dot) edu. You can also address this email to NTID/RIT if you are an NTID/RIT Alumni and contact the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at RIT at rkgpro at rit (dot) edu or the appropriate officials at RIT. RIT is also an equality level sponsor of the NAD 2012 conference.


Dear Dr. McCaskill and Dr. Weiner,

My name is Tavian Robinson and I am a proud Alumnus of Gallaudet University. I am writing you to express my concerns surrounding Gallaudet University’s sponsorship of the 2012 National Association of the Deaf conference in Louisville, Kentucky. You are a Diversity Level Sponsor, and ironically enough, the conference has invited Governor Dennis Daugaard as a plenary session speaker. Gov. Daugaard is known for his anti-equality and anti-diversity stances. I have composed a longer article which can be found at:
I understand the university has had a relationship with the NAD dating back to 1880. I understand the University is committed to civil rights for the deaf and hard of hearing community and views the NAD as the community’s premier civil rights organization. It is not my interest to damage the NAD but to hold them to a higher standard by urging them to examine their white, heterosexual, cisgender, and primarily male privileges. It is my understanding that Gallaudet is committed to diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism. What message is the University sending if it stands idly by and sponsors a conference that features a prominent anti-equality speaker? I believe that we can begin a constructive dialogue to better our understanding of how deaf minorities have long been marginalized within the deaf community and strive to change that. This begins with Gallaudet, the nation’s premier higher education institution for the deaf and hard of hearing and NAD’s historically most powerful ally and sponsor.
T. Robinson