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October 12, 2012 11:00 AM Gallaudet University’s Diversity Officer Problem

By Daniel Luzer

The president of Washington, DC’s college for the deaf, Gallaudet University, has apparently placed the school’s chief diversity officer, Angela McCaskill, on administrative leave after Gallaudet discovered that McCaskill signed a petition to bring a gay marriage bill to a public vote in Maryland. Maryland has already passed a gay marriage bill. Opponents of gay marriage organized the new petition.

According to an article by Lenore Hellman in The Buff and Blue, Gallaudet’s student newspaper:

Gallaudet University’s Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to President Hurwitz’s campus-wide email. This decision is made after a community member found McCaskill’s alleged signature in a petition to bring a same-sex marriage bill to a public vote in Maryland this November.
According to Planet Deaf Queer, a faculty member noticed the signature and met with McCaskill about it. McCaskill “explained that she had done so while at church, after her preacher had preached against gay marriage.” On the way out, she signed the petition after her husband pointed it out.

The Maryland legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill earlier in the year. Maryland Governor Marvin O’Malley signed the bill in March. Opponents are working on a petition, which McCaskill apparently signed, to bring the issue before Maryland voters again.

Now, the fact that the diversity officer signed a petition like this is probably a good indicator that she might not be all that sympathetic toward gay students, but the human resources principle here seems questionable. Does Gallaudet get to decide what the right political stances for its employees are?

The diversity officer at a college exists to “nurture diversity inside an educational institution by leading change and working with all types of people,” according to the article. That obviously includes gay people. Still, while McCaskill’s signature doesn’t exactly indicate blazing support for the LGBTQ community, it’s not exactly the same thing as intolerance.

Is the chief diversity officer required to be politically progressive? Is it not good enough for the person to be kind and sympathetic and good and facilitating community interaction? Does being the diversity officer require someone to support a state law on gay marriage?

Perhaps she believes the law is just bad policy.

Until January 1 this year Gallaudet University itself didn’t seem to offer health insurance benefits to registered domestic partners of employees. Is the diversity officer required to oppose university policies like these?

Perhaps she even believes that same-sex marriage is wrong. Is that allowed? Many Catholics believe this and have been instructed by bishops to work to oppose the initiative.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer