The president of Gallaudet University said Tuesday that the chief diversity officer who was put on administrative leave after signing an anti-gay marriage petition is welcome to eventually return to her position.
But an attorney representing Angela McCaskill said that would likely only happen if the university compensates McCaskill for the emotional distress she endured, along with the damage to her reputation. There are also calls for university trustees to examine the situation.
“I am dismayed that Gallaudet University is still a university of intolerance, a university that manages by intimidation, a university that allows bullying among faculty, staff and students,” McCaskill said at a press conference in Annapolis on Tuesday afternoon, with the assistance of an interpreter.
This summer McCaskill and her husband signed a petition at their church calling for Maryland’s same-sex marriage law being put to a referendum vote instead of being implemented by lawmakers, according to her attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon. When the names on the petition became public this month, a Gallaudet faculty member confronted McCaskill and then alerted university leaders in a formal letter, Gordon said.
The two faculty members who reportedly signed the letter were referred to during the press conference as “extremist faculty” and “a few rotten apples.”
McCaskill was put on paid administrative leave last week after refusing to issue an apology for signing the petition, Gordon said. McCaskill has not publicly stated her position on gay marriage, and during the press conference she said that she supports all students, regardless of their race or sexual orientation.
In the last week, the Internet has erupted with support for McCaskill and calls for her to be reinstated by Gallaudet, which is a university for the deaf and hard of hearing. Opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage have both criticized the university for disciplining McCaskill for signing the petition.
Last week President T. Alan Hurwitz said in a statement that given McCaskill’s job description, signing the petition was an act that “some feel is inappropriate.” On Tuesday morning, Hurwitz released another statement to clarify that he wants McCaskill to return to campus after her paid administrative leave, resolve this matter and continue as chief diversity officer.
Part of the statement from the president reads: “Dr. McCaskill has been, and can continue to be, a valued member of this community and we are very much interested in working with everyone to come to a shared understanding in an environment that allows the community to rebound and move forward.”
Hurwitz’s full statement is below:
The following statement was released by Gallaudet University on Tuesday morning and attributed to President T. Alan Hurwitz:
“I am sending this communication to indicate forcefully that Gallaudet University would like to work with its Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, to enable her to return to the community from her administrative leave.
As many know, Dr. McCaskill exercised her right to sign a petition concerning legislation on gay marriage. Because of her position at Gallaudet as our Chief Diversity Officer, many individuals at our university were understandably concerned and confused by her action. They wanted to know ‘does that action interfere with her ability to perform her job?’
I placed her on paid administrative leave as a prudent action to allow the university -- and Dr. McCaskill - the time to consider this question after the emotions of first reactions subsided. While this has become an issue beyond our campus, as President of Gallaudet University, my number one concern is our university community - our students, faculty and staff and so many others who support us. I act on their behalf, not with any agenda other than their well-being as all of us work to prepare these university students for the future. While I expect that a resolution of this matter can be reached that will enable Dr. McCaskill to continue as our Chief Diversity Officer, this will require that she and the University community work together to respond to the concerns that have been raised.
My practice, which I will continue, is to reach out to the campus community to ensure that we are acting with their best interests in mind. To accomplish that, dialogs among those with differing views are common on our campus as a way of fostering understanding of the opinions, and the individuals holding them, which are different from ours.
I have complete confidence that the community will emerge stronger because of this situation. In particular, I am incredibly proud of our students - as well as our faculty and staff -- who have shown maturity and restraint under the pressures of the complexities of the situation.
Dr. McCaskill has been, and can continue to be, a valued member of this community and we are very much interested in working with everyone to come to a shared understanding in an environment that allows the community to rebound and move forward.
Each of us would benefit from remembering that everyone should be treated with civility and respect as we work together to create a positive and welcoming environment that is open to the free exchange of ideas and the acceptance of others who may hold views that differ from ours.”
NOTE: This blog post was updated on Tuesday afternoon to include information from the press conference.