Campus Left Mobilizes Against Diversity Officer

Gallaudet University acts swiftly to punish woman who supports Maryland's right to vote on same-sex marriage.

For more than 50 years, leftists have subjected Americans to countless pronunciations about their dedication to "tolerance." And nowhere has that support for tolerance been more forcefully promoted than on college campuses across the nation. Last Wednesday at Gallaudet University, a nationally recognized college for the deaf and hard of hearing, the fraudulent nature of that support was laid bare. "I want to inform the community that I have placed Dr. Angela McCaskill on paid administrative leave effective immediately," Gallaudet president Alan Hurwitz said in a statement. "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." McCaskill's "inappropriate" behavior consisted of signing a petition to allow Maryland residents to vote on the state's recently passed gay marriage law.

Apparently President Hurtwitz is immune to the irony that permeates the suspension of Gallaudet's chief diversity officer for expressing her opinion. That irony is compounded by the mission statement from Gallaudet's Office for Diversity and Inclusion. It contends that the office is dedicated to the promotion of "an academically enriching and supportive climate that allows all the diverse members of its community to thrive and succeed"; its mission will be achieved "by collaborating with units on campus to intentionally design a comprehensive, university-wide approach to diversity; facilitate equity, access, social justice and inclusion; and, empower students, faculty, and staff to build a diverse and inclusive campus community."

Among the items listed under the heading of "Value Statements," the office further contends it is committed to "[F]ostering an inclusive environment," and "[C]reating a climate that respects individual differences." It would appear those values can be suspended when they clash with Gallaudet's leftist worldview.

Ms. McCaskill was one of more than 200,000 Maryland residents who signed a petition to put the state's Civil Marriage Protection Act, a law amending the Maryland constitution to allow for same-sex marriage, up to a vote. The initiative has already been enacted by Maryland General Assembly, and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the marriage equality measure last March. The election day vote on "Question 6" is aimed at letting the people themselves decide whether to uphold it or reject it. McCaskill signed the petition last July on her way out of church after her pastor had given a sermon asking the congregation to reject redefining marriage.

Her "transgression" was reportedly discovered by a faculty member who found her name on an online database of signers posted by The Washington Blade. He confronted McCaskill, who confirmed her action at the church. That faculty member who, in the tradition of gutless wonders, wishes to remain anonymous, then filed an official complaint with the university. McCaskill met with Hurwitz on October 5th. At that point, according PlanetDeafQueer, the website that broke the original story, McCaskill was "expected to issue a public apology." One can logically conclude that she must have refused to do so, leading to the suspension.

Compounding the irony yet again is the reality that McCaskill was a supporter of Gallaudet's LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning, and Allied) Resource Center. “She’s been a great ally to the LGBT community and supported many of the LGBTQA Resource Center’s programs,” an anonymous student told Planet DeafQueer. “I’m heartbroken about this."

Not as heartbroken as McCaskill herself. The 23-year education veteran, who earned the school's first Ph.D. as a deaf, black woman, is reportedly stunned by the suspension. Furthermore, her husband reports that she is under a doctor's care.

Someone familiar with Gallaudet University, who spoke to the Blade also on condition of anonymity, claimed that Hurwitz’s decision to place McCaskill on leave has aggravated what the source characterized as "longstanding" racial and gay-straight tensions at the college. "There is a long history of competition between black and white deaf people and gays and straights on this campus," said the source. Such tensions are apparently stoked by the fact that Hurwitz, who is white, has removed one of the few high-level black administrators from her position, for nothing more than exercising her First Amendment rights as a private citizen. “Angela is tarred and feathered and lynched without ever having a chance to defend herself. Shame,” contended an unidentified person in a posting sent through the anonymous email network of people affiliated with Gallaudet known as the “Gallynet.” “So now it’s the LGBT community vs. us black deaf. Sigh!”

Campus divisiveness and unseemly hiring/firing practices are nothing new for Gallaudet. In 1988, I. King Jordan became Gallaudet University's first deaf president, after Elizabeth Zinser, the original woman appointed to the post, generated protests that shut down the campus. Zinser, who can hear, was chosen over two finalists for the position, both of whom were deaf. The protesters presented the school with a list of four demands: Zinser's resignation; the resignation of Board of Trustees chairperson Jane Spilman; a Board where deaf member constitute a 51 percent majority; and no reprisals against the protesters. All of the demands were met, and Jordan became president.

In 2006, student protests erupted once again, leading Gallaudet's Board of Trustees to dismiss university president Jane K. Fernandes from her position after only four months on the job. Students claimed she was ill-equipped to handle the presidency, citing a lack of leadership ability and personal skills. Fernandes, who is deaf, claimed she was dismissed for not being "deaf enough."  This was due to the fact that she was raised reading lips and only learned American Sign Language in graduate school at the University of Iowa. Ironically, Jordan's reputation also took a hit due to his support for Fernandez. That support earned him a no-confidence vote from the faculty senate the same year. In 2007, after a stint as interim president, Robert Davila was formally installed and served until December 31, 2009. Hurwitz became president January 1, 2010.

Now it is Hurwitz's turn in the spotlight. Yet it would seem his efforts to maintain a politically correct atmosphere at Gallaudet is backfiring. The suspension of McCaskill has united both those in favor of Question 6 and those against it. “We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately,” said Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign manager Josh Levin in a statement released last Wednesday. “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.” Derek McCoy, the head of the Maryland Marriage Alliance that supports traditional marriage, took a different approach, but reached a similar conclusion. “If her employer is able to restrict her right to engage in the petition-gathering phase of democracy, are they also allowed to enter the voting booth and dictate how she votes?” asked the Rev. Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance that favors traditional marriage.

Last Thursday, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh addressed yet another twist, telling reporters that it is Hurwitz's job, not McCaskill's, that could be on the chopping block. "Under the D.C. Code, it is a criminal violation for '[a]ny person threats or intimidation, interferes with, or attempts to interfere with, the right of any qualified registered elector to sign or not to sign any initiative, referendum, or recall petition,'" he noted.

Hurwitz may have put something else in jeopardy as well. The most recent poll conducted Sept. 25-27, 2012 by the Baltimore Sun shows that keeping gay marriage legal in Maryland is likely to prevail, with 49 percent saying they support the legislation, versus 39 percent who support traditional marriage. Yet that support is considerably less than the 57-37 edge that same-sex marriage enjoyed in a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling May 14-21, 2012. Hurwitz's suspension of McCaskill could ignite a voter backlash. For Alan Hurwtiz, who has revealed himself to be a self-important totalitarian, that would only be fitting.

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