Who Got It Right?

by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
Contact

Gallaudet University Chief Diversity Officer Angela McCaskill’s job was to promote a diverse and inclusive university community. Not only was she the institution’s first chief diversity officer, she was the first black, deaf woman to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet, which was founded to serve deaf and hard-of-hearing students. As Deputy to the President and Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, McCaskill’s job included fostering and advancing a strategic and integrated approach to diversity priorities in all aspects of university life and establishing diversity priorities. As Chief Diversity Officer, she was responsible for enforcing guidelines for the university that ensured equity, inclusion, and social justice.

On July 12, 2012, McCaskill signed a petition supporting placement of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the November ballot. The petition was part of an effort to overturn a state law allowing same-sex marriage. In October 2012, a Gallaudet faculty member learned that McCaskill had signed the petition and filed a complaint with the university. This soon became widely known on campus, prompting concern among some students and faculty that McCaskill seemed to be advocating anti-gay views while serving as the university’s chief diversity officer. Gallaudet administrators decided that McCaskill’s ability to advocate for her constituents—in particular, the university’s gay community—had been compromised. McCaskill was placed on paid administrative leave, the decision was broadly publicized by pundits and the national media, and groups of all stripes and political persuasions cried foul.

Opponents of the marriage law said Gallaudet’s decision confirmed that the law would lead to intolerance toward persons of faith who oppose gay marriage. Marriage equality supporters, including Maryland’s governor, weighed in to say that McCaskill should not be penalized for expressing her personal views. One commentator pointed out that there had been no complaints about McCaskill’s performance of her professional duties, while another compared her to a high school physics teacher who believed the solar system to be a new creation. At a news conference one week after she was placed on leave, McCaskill said Gallaudet had violated her right as a citizen to petition the government.

A blog post by journalist Josh Swiller boiled the situation down to the real issue.:

[Gallaudet students] are all minority students, part of the seldom-seen, seldom-heard deaf minority. It can be incredibly difficult to find common ground and understanding between deaf and hearing people, more so than between races and sexual orientations. For deaf students diversity is not a politically correct buzzword. The support of diversity programs and laws are some of the most powerful tools Gallaudet students have in their quests to have satisfying lives rich in opportunity.

According to Swiller, Gallaudet’s students deserved inclusiveness, which McCaskill’s actions, on their face, did not support.

McCaskill initially stated that she had signed the petition at church, following a sermon advocating against gay marriage. As she was leaving, her husband pointed to the petition, and she signed it without giving it any thought. She later stated that her signature on the petition “solely represented her desire to have same-sex marriage vetted through public discourse.” According to McCaskill, her support for the petition did not mean she supported a ban on same-sex marriage. Rather, she was “expressing herself as a married, heterosexual, African-American, Christian woman/voter, who, through prayer and worship, searched for a means to enlighten Maryland voters on the issue of same-sex marriage in such a way to foster discourse, tolerance, and respect for the democratic process.”

Maryland voters narrowly upheld the same-sex marriage law on November 6, 2012.

McCaskill was reinstated as chief diversity officer, but, according to her subsequent lawsuit, not as Deputy to the President or Associate Provost. In addition, her budget was cut by 32 percent. When Gallaudet failed to restore her to her previous positions, McCaskill filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging in part that Gallaudet had discriminated against her on the basis of race, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, and political affiliation. On April 14, 2014, the court dismissed her claim, stating, “McCaskill . . . does not allege any facts here that could allow a jury to conclude that Gallaudet took prohibited actions because of her membership in any of her claimed protected groups. This omission is fatal to her discrimination claim.”

Ultimately, McCaskill lost the confidence of the university community, which suspected that she was not personally committed to equality. Gallaudet’s decision to keep McCaskill as chief diversity officer while stripping her of leadership responsibility may have seemed a reasonable compromise, but the question remains whether a commitment to diversity and inclusion must be manifested in one’s personal life to be real.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
Contact
more
less

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!