CSUN President Ousts Chief of Deafness Center in Wake of Fund Cuts

Times Staff Writer

Saying that new leadership is needed, James W. Cleary, president of California State University, Northridge, has removed Ray Jones, longtime director of the university's National Center on Deafness.

The ouster comes at a time when the nationally recognized center, the first of its kind in the country, has suffered a cut in federal funding that caused the scuttling of a major program for deaf professional educators.

Cleary and university officials had been trying to persuade Jones to resign since May, but the 68-year-old director refused, said Donald Cameron, associate vice president of faculty affairs. Finally, the administration sent a letter to Jones on Oct. 9, giving him two days to vacate his office.

Reached at home Wednesday, Jones, the center's director since its creation in the early 1960s, said he has retained an attorney and hinted that he might fight the removal.

Fighting for Rights

"For the past 25 years, I have fought to protect the legal rights of deaf persons. Now I am fighting for my personal rights to maintain my reputation and personal dignity," he said.

Jones said he was particularly upset at the swiftness of his ouster. "I'm not questioning the president's right to replace me, but I'm shocked and disappointed that, after 27 years of dedicated service . . . I've been given only two days' notice."

However, Marcella M. Meyer, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Council on Deafness, said Jones' departure was necessary to stop the steady deterioration of CSUN programs for the deaf. She said the center has lost contact in recent years with the deaf community in Los Angeles.

She credited Jones with doing a good job in the past, but said, "I don't think the administration was wrong. In the last few years the program itself has slowly been going downhill. I've been very concerned."

Disappointed With Direction

Although he said Jones has enjoyed a "distinguished career" at the university, Cameron said the university administration and federal agencies that provide some of the center's funding have been disappointed with the direction the National Center on Deafness has taken in recent years.

"The agencies in Washington believe we have not kept pace with the changes in the field with our own curriculum," Cameron said.

"There isn't any scandal involved. . . . There is just a feeling the program would benefit from new leadership."

The center suffered a setback this year when the federal Department of Rehabilitation declined for the first time to provide money to the center's National Leadership Training Program for the 1986-87 school year, Cameron said. The eight-month training program provides intensive instruction to visiting deaf educators from around the country.

Denies He's to Blame

Jones, however, said he was not to blame for the cut in federal funds and that it is a nationwide phenomenon. Jones said he has wanted to revitalize the training program for several years but has not received the cooperation or the staff to do so.

Founded with a federal grant in 1963 to improve the teaching of deaf children, the National Center on Deafness has instructed some of the leading deaf educators in the country and, through interpreter services, helped hundreds of deaf students to graduate from CSUN. It has been credited over the years with proving that deaf students can succeed at regular universities.

The center is considered one of the big reasons why the San Fernando Valley has a large population of the deaf.

A nationwide search for a nationally recognized scholar in deaf education will be initiated in November, and Jones' replacement should be at CSUN by next summer, Cameron said.

The university has offered to give Jones back his tenured postion in the department of educational administration, supervision and higher education, beginning next semester.

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