Gallaudet suspends diversity officer for signing No on 6 petition

Chris Geidner has the story at BuzzFeed:

Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz suspended the school’s chief diversity officer Wednesday after he was made aware that the diversity officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, had signed the marriage referendum petition in Maryland.

In a statement to staff and students of the D.C. university for the deaf and hard of hearing that was sent about noon today, Hurwitz said:

“I want to inform the community that I have placed Dr. Angela McCaskill on paid administrative leave effective immediately. It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as Chief Diversity Officer; however, other individuals feel differently.”

Speaking with BuzzFeed, however, Gallaudet spokeswoman Catherine Murphy said, “We don’t have a policy against political participation.” …

This looks like a bad move by Hurwitz on many levels. There is no indication in the article that McCaskill’s opinions about same-sex marriage influenced her handling of her duties at the university. If Hurwitz is assuming that the holding of particular views on politics outside the classroom is inconsistent with the duties of a diversity officer or a university official, then he is assuming something that, at a minimum, deserves to be aired fully in a public controversy. (While not a federal institution as such, Gallaudet is intertwined with the federal government on many levels and would find it hard to claim that as a strictly private institution it can set whatever political tests it wants to.) If the problem is that critics who became aware of McCaskill’s signature on the petition and chose to publicize it have thereby made it harder for her to do a good job, then the university is opening itself to the equivalent of a heckler’s veto. There is no indication that McCaskill chose some path of high-profile activism that would inevitably reach the notice of the students she works with.

We can now expect a loud outcry from gay-marriage opponents who have been scouring the horizon for exactly this kind of fact pattern — an ordinary person subjected to indefensible retaliation for taking their side — and may at last have found it. Yet very few of these same figures raised their voices when Del. Emmett Burns abused his position as a public official by trying to silence pro-gay-marriage Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. If they found it prudent to say nothing about that case last month, is it too much to hope that they will watch and wait on the Gallaudet affair on the likelihood that Hurwitz will find it advisable to reconsider his decision even without a noisy public campaign on their part?

P.S. Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, issued this statement on behalf of that organization [WJLA]:

We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately. Everyone is entitled to free speech and to their own opinion about Question 6, which is about treating everyone fairly and equally under the law.

More: My followup post at Overlawyered; David Bernstein, Volokh; Ken at Popehat; Jim Burroway, Box Turtle Bulletin.



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5 responses to “Gallaudet suspends diversity officer for signing No on 6 petition

  1. As Gallaudet student, I’m one of majority of Pro-LGBT campus students, and asked Mrs McCaskill for resigning her high-rank position because Chief Diversity Officer requires strictly supporting equally all organizations including LGBTQA on bigot-free campus. It’s conflicted with her “imposed” belief that she allegedly signed Anti-Gay Marriage public petition. President Hurwitz didn’t fire her but he placed her on paid admin leaves until further notices. She might announce publicly her apology and explains her decisions, but she can switch to other low-rank position on same campus or leave Gally. Few months earlier, she should not sign on public petition UNTIL she resigns or retire on her position avoid conflict of interest. Of course, Religion of Freedom is big issues but hardly separation of personal belief and high-rank position.

    I’m Christian, but my parents are socially moderate Mennonite, those they don’t support ideas of gay marriage. Personally, I support Equality Marriage because I have many friends and some relatives who are gay

  2. Pingback: Gallaudet U. diversity officer suspended for signing marriage petition - Overlawyered

  3. Malcolm Smith

    “strictly supporting equally all organisations …?” Does that mean she has to support organisations which oppose each other, like the Republicans and the Democrats (assuming that both exist on campus)? I would assume it means she must treat all with equal respect, irrespective of her views.

  4. Pingback: Zampolit Angela McCaskill, Report For Reeducation | Popehat

  5. Pingback: In the news, October 18 | Maryland for All Families

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