Gallaudet University’s chief diversity officer — on administrative leave for signing a petition to bring Maryland’s same-sex marriage law to a vote — demanded on Tuesday to be reinstated to her old job and to be fairly compensated by the university for the emotional damage and embarrassment her suspension has caused.
Speaking through a sign-language interpreter at a news conference in Annapolis, Angela McCaskill said she signed the petition because she supports the democratic process and that she finds the university’s actions to be “utterly wrong.”
“The students are watching. The world is watching,” Ms. McCaskill said. “I ask that the administration makes the right decision and rights their wrongs.”
Ms. McCaskill signed the petition earlier this year at church, after a sermon about marriage, said her attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon. Her signature on the petition had nothing to do with opposition to same-sex marriage, she said. The definition of marriage is a controversial issue in Maryland, and Ms. McCaskill said that she wanted to exercise her right to participate in civil discourse on the issue.
Two weeks ago, she said, a colleague at Gallaudet had been looking at a database of signers on the website of the Washington Blade, a gay newsweekly, and asked Ms. McCaskill if she had signed the petition. Ms. McCaskill responded that she had.
Ms. McCaskill said the colleague and her partner then wrote a letter to University President T. Alan Hurwitz asking that disciplinary action be taken. Mr. Hurwitz responded by placing Ms. McCaskill on paid administrative leave, saying that some at the university felt it was inappropriate for a diversity officer to sign this kind of petition.
The letter announcing her suspension, sent to the entire university community, insulted Ms. McCaskill.
“I’m dismayed that Gallaudet University is still a university of intolerance, of management by intimidation, which allows bullying among faculty, staff and students,” she said.
In the week since Ms. McCaskill’s suspension, people on different sides of the issue — from the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposes same-sex marriage, to Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which supports it — have asked that she be reinstated.
In a statement Tuesday, Mr. Hurwitz “indicate[d] forcefully” he would like to have Ms. McCaskill back on the job. He wrote that Ms. McCaskill was initially suspended so that the university community could rationally consider whether her signature on the petition interferes with her ability to do her job.
“While I expect that a resolution of this matter can be reached that will enable Dr. McCaskill to continue as our chief diversity officer, this will require that she and the university community work together to respond to the concerns that have been raised,” Mr. Hurwitz wrote.
How that resolution will be reached is yet to be seen. Mr. Gordon characterized the university’s latest statement as a “complete flip-flop,” but said he looks forward to meeting with administrators.
“I am questioning their sincerity in light of the media attention this issue has received,” he said.