- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Being tapped by the president to serve in a federal post would normally be viewed as huge career boost, but Whitney Bailey says her year with the Trump administration cost her professionally, and she’s blaming it on politics.

Mrs. Bailey has sued five Oklahoma State University administrators and faculty members, arguing that she was denied a promotion to full professor and deprived of teaching opportunities as a result of her 13 months as a deputy administrator with the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Mrs. Bailey suffered discrimination at a public University that has been intolerant of her political beliefs and affiliations, but more specifically, her public service for the Trump Administration,” said Geoffrey Tabor, an attorney with Ward & Glass in Norman, Oklahoma, in an email.

An associate professor in OSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Science, Mrs. Bailey took a year of unpaid leave to serve in the administration starting in December 2017, consistent with the university’s policies on faculty leaves of absences.

A few months earlier, she had begun the process of applying for a full professorship after 13 years at OSU. Despite positive reviews, recommendations and awards, she was rejected, a decision that came the same day as her departure for the federal post.

“The final decision in this promotion process was rendered to me 47 minutes prior to my leaving to serve in the Trump Administration,” she said in an email.

Mrs. Bailey is a Republican, while the provost, dean and three professors in charge of deciding on her promotion were Democrats who made no secret of their dim view of the president, according to the lawsuit.

One professor compared a Trump official to a “fictional movie villain,” while Stephan Wilson, dean of the College of Human Sciences, “has a myriad of Facebook posts that readily demonstrate his disdain for President Trump, Republicans, and anyone that aligns with President Trump and his administration,” the complaint said.

Gary Sandefur, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, “has been highly critical of the Trump administration in general, those who voted for President Trump in 2016, and those who appear inclined to vote for President Trump again in 2020,” said the lawsuit.

After Mr. Trump was elected in November 2016, OSU offered counseling to employees “who were having difficulty dealing with Trump’s election as President of the United States.”

OSU denied that political considerations were a factor.

“There is no merit to this lawsuit,” the university said in a Tuesday statement to The Washington Times. “Partisan politics did not play any role in any decision relative to Dr. Bailey’s teaching position and class schedule.”

The Times has reached out to the five university officials named in the lawsuit.

Mrs. Bailey has also filed a tort claim against the university, which could be added later to the lawsuit.

“If the tort claim is denied by the University, we will be amending the suit to include the University as a named defendant based on state law legal theories,” Mr. Tabor said.

The lawsuit filed Nov. 18 in Payne County District Court seeks at least $75,000 for economic loss and non-economic damages, including “humiliation, embarrassment, [and] injury to reputation.”

“Plaintiff’s political beliefs, status as a registered Republican, and/or acceptance of an appointment to the Trump administration were substantial or motivating factor in Defendants’ actions,” the lawsuit said.

Her promotion was rejected even though the faculty committee, on which none of the defendants served, voted 6-2 to recommend her request. Another committee found that the faculty in charge of the process “distressed, confused and humiliated a valuable and productive faculty member.”

After returning to OSU in January, Mrs. Bailey said the university denied her summer teaching jobs that she had undertaken since 2010, as well as other assignments, resulting in a loss of compensation.

She was assigned to teach two classes she had never taught before, even though other faculty had taken leaves and returned to their previous assignments without incident.

“None of these other similarly-situated faculty members were appointed to the Trump administration, however,” said the lawsuit.

Mrs. Bailey added that she and her attorneys had spent “many months attempting to work with the university on these matters. Regrettably, those good faith efforts have failed.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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