Angela McCaskill is the first African American deaf woman to earn at PhD from Gallaudet University. She is also the recently appointed Chief Diversity Officer, a position she is in danger of losing because she signed a petition opposing gay marriage.
McCaskill was put on paid leave after a fellow faculty member saw her signature on a petition signed by over 200,000 Maryland residents to overturn state law that allows same-sex couples to marry. The faculty member reported what she had seen to the president of the school, who took immediate action.
“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,” Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz said in a statement.
“I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university. In the meantime an interim Chief Diversity Officer will be announced in the near future.”
The school’s actions elicited responses from anti- and pro-gay marriage groups alike. Anti-gay-marriage groups have accused the university of discriminating against McCaskill for her personal views. McCaskill signed the petition at church after her pastor had spoken out against gay marriage. The state’s leading pro-gay-marriage group is calling her suspension “an affront to the principles of inclusion and respect for others that they are trying to advocate.”
Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the state’s biggest supporters of same-sex marriage, agree that McCaskill was treated too harshly and should be reinstated. “We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately,” Josh Levin, campaign manager, said in a statement. “Everyone is entitled to free speech and to their own opinion about Question 6 (the referendum on the ballot), which is about treating everyone fairly and equally under the law.”
With both sides lobbying for McCaskill’s reinstatement, the university’s decision has created an array of arguments on various social media outlets. Planet DeafQueer comments that certain staff has been disheartened by McCaskill’s actions. “In her role as Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. McCaskill has made many advances for Deaf people of color, LGBT and other minorities at Gallaudet,” said a university staff member. “This situation is very disheartening for all of us.”
Some are concerned that action was taken in the first place, arguing that the petition was signed by McCaskill in her personal time and had no relevance to her abilities in her role as Diversity Officer.
Maggie Gallagher of The National Review brings up a question well suited for the Question 6 debate. Gallagher writes, “Nobody that I know of is losing his job for being for gay marriage. Is this more evidence of what gay marriage means — not diversity but a new public moral norm?”
Enough people signed the petition, so it will be up for a referendum vote on the November 6 ballot.
Readers: What do you think? Should McCaskill be disciplined for voicing her personal opinion because of her position at the university, or does “diversity” mean that her personal views should be allowed and accepted?