It’s happened again. Another academic administrator has fallen victim to the hierarchy of victimhood. Just like Crystal Dixon before her, Angela McCaskill has learned the hard way that being a woman, being black, and–in Dr. McCaskill’s case–being deaf simply does not give her a valuable enough perspective on “diversity and inclusion.” Until her “administrative leave” effective yesterday, Dr. McCaskill served as Deputy to the President and Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion at Gallaudet University, a position to which she was appointed in January, after having worked at Gallaudet for over twenty years in various other capacities. You would think after more than two decades of service to an institution it would have the measure of your character. You’d think that after multiple promotions, and earning the distinction of being the first deaf African-American woman to earn at PhD from that institution, your colleagues would know what kind of person you are.
You’d be wrong.
Gallaudet’s President President T. Alan Hurwitz posted the following statement on Facebook:
“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. 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.”
What on earth did this woman do that got her in such trouble? That has the Gallaudet Student Body President–also on Facebook–reaching out to his fellow students with leadership and compassion:
[W]e recognize how critical it is for students to be an important part of this decision making process.Therefore, we will ensure that every student has the opportunity to be heard and supported, regardless of their opinions….We will have multiple discussions with different communities to determine what actions the student body will like to see from the administration. If you have ideas that you would like to contribute to the discussions, please feel free to contact our organizations’ presidents.Should you seek support during this difficult time, the LGBTQA Resource Center, the Office of Diversity and Equity for Students (ODES), Peer Health Advocates (PHAs), the Coordinators of Residence Education (CREs), the Graduate Assistants (GAs), or the Mental Health Center (MHC) are available for all community members.
Apparently, Dr. McCaskill is a one-woman force of destruction and doom–a creator of “difficult times”–who must be banished from campus and who leaves in her wake mentally unhinged students seeking succour at the hands of an army of acronymonous counselors.
Dr. McCaskill signed an initiative petition. In her home state of Maryland, where a recently enacted law enabling gay marriage created a grassroots movement to put the law to a vote come November. Yup. Here is a woman who simply signed a petition asking for a referendum. A woman whose right to partake in the elective process took not one but two constitutional amendments (14 and 19) to ensure has been censured by her employer for a completely legal act of citizenship. Gallaudet should be ashamed of itself.
I confess that I do not fully understand why whether gays can have their unions blessed by the state and call those unions “marriages” is such a big deal. Before the end of this decade–if not sooner–it will be legal in all 50 states. This is a good thing. As a single woman, however, all this means to me is when gays marry they add yet another presence to the long list of folks who are ahead of me on the social food chain–that’s a screed for another time. But I do understand that passions run high on both sides of this debate, and that, for those who oppose gay marriage, an evolving opinion takes time.
What I do not understand is the intolerance and cowardice that motivated President Hurwitz to place Dr. McCaskill on what appears to be an indefinite leave. Such hypocrisy is common on college and university campuses. It is frequently complained about by right-wing blogs and commentators: certainly Dr. McCaskill is getting her fifteen minutes and more from pundits she never dreamed would take up her cause. The dismissive response from the academy will be 1) there are parts of the story we don’t know; 2) Dr. McCaskill is entitled to her opinion, but Deputy Provost McCaskill is not; and 3) our campus encourages all points of view. Uh-uh.
The concept of academic freedom was born to separate state and classroom. Its lofty and essential goal is to protect faculty holding unpopular political views from having their teaching jobs taken away from them because they spoke out in favor of the wrong candidate or on the wrong side of an issue. Over the years, academic freedom has become as corrupt an institution as tenure: its meaning perverted to inhibit critique of the content or pedagogy of faculty member’s course.
I hope that President Hurwitz, his board of trustees, and his faculty senate understand that he has nullified academic freedom at Gallaudet. I imagine there will be no protests, no votes-of-no-confidence, no occupations in support of Dr. McCaskill. But there should be.