Dear Gallaudet community:
I am pleased to share with you that on October 9, Netflix will release a new docuseries called Deaf U. Deaf U is a reality show that will follow seven Gallaudet students. As with other reality shows, these seven students will give you a close-up view and often deeply personal look at their college journey.
Deaf U will give the mainstream world an opportunity to experience the deaf community in its “raw” form – our rich culture, our diversity, our ASL vibrancy, and, yes, real deaf college experiences. Like many reality shows, Deaf U will spark conversation both inside and outside of our community, but I also hope that it will also help redefine society’s perceptions about deaf people and serve as a spark for healthy conversations and new opportunities.
Most importantly, I want to commend the Gallaudet students for daring to be part of Deaf U, and for their courage and confidence in choosing to go ahead and open their personal stories and private experiences for the world to see. They believe, as Gallaudet does, that it is critical to depict our community authentically with various perspectives, and provide a counterpoint to the monolithic and stereotypical portrayals of deaf people that we still see so often, especially in television and film. Please join me in recognizing the students’ courage.
Soon after Deaf U’s premiere on October 9, each of you can make your own conclusions about this show, but I want to sharing a little more information with you before it starts.
This show will reach millions of people worldwide: Deaf U was filmed by New York-based Hot Snakes Media, Netflix purchased the distribution rights and will stream Deaf U worldwide in 190 countries in 20 different languages.
Gallaudet University’s role: Each of the seven students decided to participate in the show themselves, and each signed a contract with Hot Snakes Media. Gallaudet had a limited role, only allowing filming to take place on campus. Gallaudet had no creative or artistic rights to the content, and to the changing of the show. Gallaudet also did not have any role in the selection of the cast members. The students worked directly with the production crew to discuss their stories. Following Deaf U’s release, Gallaudet will host a series of panels with our students to talk about their experiences and viewpoints. We also have a dedicated page on the Gallaudet website where you can learn more about the show, its cast, and its crew.
Deaf U shows a microcosm of the Deaf community: You will see that our students come from many different backgrounds. Not all of them knew American Sign Language when they arrived at Gallaudet. Together, they represent a microcosm of our community, highlighting the diversity and layers of the deaf experience. Ultimately, the students show that there is really no singular “right way” to be Deaf.
Some of you may like Deaf U. Others may not. Whatever conclusions you end up drawing about the Netflix series itself or the students’ personal stories, I hope you will agree on, or at least consider, three things:
- Our students were incredibly brave to open up and offer the world a glimpse into their lives.
- Deaf U will spark healthy conversations in our community and about who Deaf people are.
- This docuseries has the potential to reshape society’s misperceptions and stereotypes about deaf people.
Without question, this show portrays an authentic view of the deaf experience, an experience that few in the mainstream ever get to see.
Please be sure to tune in October 9!
Chief Marketing and Undergraduate Admissions Officer