Is Sexual Asssult Something DCARA Takes Seriously?

By Mary Pat Luetke-Stahlman

The DCARA Board has chosen Brian Lucas to be the new interim Executive Director. Lucas is a former law student and was also a graduate student at Gallaudet University. This begs the question: has the Board done their due diligence when selecting Brian Lucas? Does the Board believe that hiring somebody, who has been subject to a recent investigation for sexual assault, as well as not releasing the position to the public, is an act of good faith by the organization to its constituents?

Confronting the Board with the topic of racism has been one of the biggest challenges for the DCARA staff. The staff have been and are still currently demanding for all of the Board members to resign due to issues related to this topic. Additionally, the staff are demanding that the Board reinstate Raymond Rogers and provide a written apology for the staff for what they have experienced for the past 80+ days.

With this new announcement from the Board, it is clear that they will be gaining a new Executive Director instead of listening to the staff and responding to their requests. There were not any formal announcements made about the Executive Director position being vacant, nor was there any job posting being open for the community to be aware that they were searching for someone to fill the position. The question remains: what are the steps that the Board went through to conduct their selection of the new interim Executive Director?

While the Board is legally bound by personnel policies, they are not required to reveal to the community the reason why Raymond Rodgers was let go from his position. Showing at least a minimal amount of transparency during the hiring process is to be expected, because it is a standard practice among other organizations as well.

Most nonprofit organizations put forth a position announcement for the public to be aware of the developments surrounding any change in executive level positions. Once the announcement has been posted the Board would proceed with their selections, provide transparency of the process of hiring, and finally make an announcement. This usually requires some due diligence on their part coupled with some level of accountability. However DCARA’s bylaws do not state any particular process nor do they limit the Board’s authority on how to proceed with the selection of a new Executive Director.

There are many reasons why agencies generally practice transparency when hiring an executive officer, as it sets a standard for everyone to expect from them. For example, what happened with Raymond Rodgers three years ago was that there was an interview panel consisting two DCARA employees, two board members and two community members. The panel screened and interviewed candidates then made recommendation to the Board, who made the final decision. It was a long process but thorough.

Consider the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) as an example: they have a current search for a new Executive Director and is practicing transparency in their hiring process, which allows people to track their decision-making process. In the past, RID has allowed the community to view their candidate selections and review their candidates’ qualifications and professional history, and RID still is expected to use this approach.

Compared to RID, the DCARA Board’s selection was done with haste and little regard for their community.

If the Board was aware of the recent investigation that recently occurred at Gallaudet University, the question still lies, how much due diligence did the board do prior to offering the position to Brian Lucas? While the DCARA Bylaws allows the board to select an interim Executive Director without due process, it is a question on whether they are going to go through the process of selecting a new permanent Executive Director by allowing other people to apply for the position.

A private conversation between a non-disclosed individual and Brian Lucas was publicly posted and the conversation addressed Lucas’ history and his thoughts about his past actions, and the post was later removed.

In a publicly shared video, Lucas’ comments show a lack of understanding of the complexities that come with the term “rape” and what it really means when the term is applied to real world situations. As the head of a social services agency, some of the qualifications that are expected includes personal perceptions and values that match the agency’s values and mission statement. Number five in DCARA’s list of “values” is, “The health of a Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deafened, and DeafBlind individual as a DCARA employee, board member, volunteer, or community member leads to better community relationships and services.”

Under the D.C. Code Statute 22-30 (Washington DC being where the incident happened, as well as it being the area that Mr Lucas is expected to understand the limits of the law best due to his employment history being in the area) Second Degree Sexual Abuse is classified as a person engaging in a sexual act “where the person knows or has reason to know that the other person is incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct. Incapable of declining participation in that sexual act or incapable of communicating unwillingness to engage in the sexual act.”

An individual that witnessed the survivor being too drunk to consent said, “It happened during homecoming. He admitted that he took advantage of her and says that it is not rape because she was walking and talking. He did not care that she was losing her balance and slurring her signs.” (Anonymous due to fear of retaliation)

Brian Lucas himself made a vlog stating his side of the story and elaborating on his interpretation of how drunk the person was.  However, he was told by multiple viewers of his vlog, “you shouldn’t have had sex with her while she was drunk!” Several other men had turned her away when she had advanced on them due to her being too drunk to mentally give consent in their opinions.

This article ultimately brings the question of whether the board had the best interest of DCARA at heart, or is worried about their own reputation and wants to showcase a form of tokenism. There is a need for a call of action to make the board reconsider their approach to the whole process of selecting a new director for the DCARA. The DCARA staff have done their part in making their concerns and requests that explain how the board could fix the situation heard. Now it is up to the community to decide if they believe if this process has been done in the best interest of DCARA Board, the agency as a whole, or its community at large and if they really do reflect the values that they claim to hold dear.