Thursday, October 11, 2012

Outed on Coming-Out Day?

The Washington Post reports that the Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Gallaudet University, Angela P. McCaskill, was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday October 10th after her signature was discovered on a petition advocating for exactly the opposite of diversity and inclusion–a public petition against gay marriage which effectively made second-class citizens out of thousands of Maryland residents. The petition is public knowledge, and the name appears to have been discovered by another member of the University faculty. McCaskill claims the signature is a mistake, and that she signed the petition without looking at its purpose, as this article from Queerty states.

Ironically, as recently as Friday, McCaskill was sending out e-mails to the Gallaudet campus community encouraging participation in Coming-Out Day (October 11th.) Some students at the University feel this is more than somewhat hypocritical. Even more ironically, she recently lead a campus forum on "Civility." While her signature was admittedly non-violent, it is not civil to deny civil rights to tax-paying Americans. Many are residents, teachers, and students at the University whose diversity she claims to represent.

Responses to the University President's decision to place McCaskill on leave have been mixed. Some have called for her removal from the position, stating it may not be possible to carry it out. Others have stated her right to free speech is being compromised, but free speech in connection with employment is limited. One doesn't have the right to reveal confidential information, for example, and many jobs already restrict free speech on public websites like Facebook, and you can easily think of many professions–especially those related to education–where expression of individual preferences are limited because of the open, inclusive nature of the institution.

Predictably the conservative bloggers in the Deaf community have jumped to defend McCaskill's "freedom of speech" against the "PC bullies." They have yet to explain how it's possible for someone who's a bigot to perform the duties of this particular position appropriately. It's not possible to only be 50% inclusive. It's not easy for someone who's made this sort of statement to maintain trust in their role.

She's expected to make an apology to campus. Given her reason for signing the petition has been that her husband pointed to the petition and she signed it without thinking, one hopes she will take the opportunity to recant her accidential position and state her support of the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans.

Hopefully gay and lesbian advocates and their supporters will immediately begin blogging to support University President T. Alan Hurwitz in his decision, which clearly reflects a desire to have the University led appropriately by trustworthy people and to ensure the University fully investigates any questionable representations of University ideals.

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