The Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Gallaudet University has been placed on paid administrative leave, after allegedly signing a Maryland referendum petition opposing same sex marriage.
Dr. Angela McCaskill became a Deputy to the President and the Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion in January 2011.
This afternoon, President Hurwitz released the following statement to students, faculty and staff:
"I want to inform the community that I have placed Dr. Angela McCaskill on paid administrative leave effective immediately. It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as Chief Diversity Officer; however, other individuals feel differently. I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university. In the meantime an interim Chief Diversity Officer will be announced in the near future."
As first reported in the blog Planet DeafQueer, "a Gallaudet faculty member, who at this time wishes to remain anonymous, noticed Dr. McCaskill's name, address and signature on the anti-gay marriage petition (published by the Washington Blade) and inquired about it. When confronted by the faculty member, Dr. McCaskill confirmed that she had in fact signed the petition and explained that she had done so while at church, after her preacher had preached against gay marriage. As she was leaving, her husband pointed to the petition and she signed it without giving it further thought."
Opponents of gay marriage gathered enough signatures to place Question 6 on Maryland's ballot in November. Voters will decide whether uphold the Civil Marriage Protection Act passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley. If approved by voters, the law would extend marriage rights to same sex couples in the Free State.
After learning of McCaskill's participation, an official complaint was reportedly filed with the University last week by the anonymous faculty member.
Since then, the Planet DeafQueer story has spread across social media sites and other blogs, sparking outrage among some in the GBLT deaf community at Gallaudet and beyond. On Twitter, gay deaf activist Jasun Hicks wrote, "Shame on you, Dr. Angela McCaskill!" Carey Ballard tweeted, "She got 2 faces!" Others are calling on the university to reassign or fire her.McCaskill could not be reached for comment.
According to her online biography, "McCaskill has worked at Gallaudet University for 23 years in various capacities She was also the first deaf African American female to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet University."
On the University website, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion says it's mission is "to promote an academically enriching and supportive climate that allows all the diverse members of its community to thrive and succeed. The Office for Diversity and Inclusion will achieve its mission by collaborating with units on campus to intentionally design a comprehensive, university-wide approach to diversity; facilitate equity, access, social justice and inclusion; and, empower students, faculty, and staff to build a diverse and inclusive campus community."
WJLA's Mike Conneen interviewed McCaskill in February 2011 for a Black History month story, along with her two sisters - who also work at Gallaudet.
In response to McCaskill being placed on administrative leave, Josh Levin, the campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, issued this statement on the organization's behalf:
"We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately. Everyone is entitled to free speech and to their own opinion about Question 6, which is about treating everyone fairly and equally under the law."