As vice-chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the Meadville, Pennsylvania native was named president of Gallaudet University on March 6, 1988. This sparked a protest by many students, alumni, faculty, and staff who felt that although she was a qualified administrator, she didn't have the knowledge and skills necessary to lead Gallaudet University.

After failing repeatedly to sway student leaders and to assume her responsibilities, she resigned. At that time, she said, "My resignation was not in response to demonstrations ... but to pave the way for the civil rights movement to progress."

Zinser maintained she bore no ill will against the protesters who advocated for her resignation. Although she never stepped a foot on Gallaudet's campus during her three-day term as president, a photograph of her has been placed alongside the portraits of the other past presidents of Gallaudet.