US: Gallaudet University reinstates diversity officer suspended for signing equal marriage petition

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The diversity officer of a university who was suspended for three months after she signed a petition sent by opponents of marriage equality in the state of Maryland has been reinstated.

Back in October, Dr Angela McCaskill, currently serving as, associate provost of diversity and inclusion at Gallaudet University, was placed on paid administrative leave after she had signed a petition to put the decision on equal marriage to voters, in the state of Maryland.

The Dr’s reinstatement was announced by an email to the campus from university president T Alan Hurwitz, sent on Monday. The statement did not give any reasons for Dr McCaskill’s reinstatement.

At the time, the diversity officer’s attorney said that she was not “anti-gay”, that she had not expressed her personal opinion on the matter through the petition, and that she would do so at the voting booth.

She later said that she thought the decision to put her on leave was “utterly wrong”, and said she would be seeking compensation, and reinstatement.

A petition was started with a view to having Dr McCaskill reinstated, and despite some opinions that she was unfit for her post as a diversity officer, both pro and anti equal marriage campaigners said she should not have been suspended. 

Dr T Alan Hurwitz’s statement read: “This has been a period of reflection for all of us,” Hurwitz said. “I am deeply appreciative of the time you have taken to communicate your views, of the clearly heartfelt manner in which you have expressed those thoughts, and of the overall maturity you have shown in your willingness to consider the differing views others may hold.

“The work of the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion is vital and must continue in an active and vibrant way. I personally look forward to working with Dr. McCaskill on the work of that office.”

On 7 November, the US state of Maryland voted in favour of civil equal marriage in a public referendum. The measure was supported by 57.8% against 42.2%.

According to her biography on the Gallaudet website, Dr McCaskill was the first deaf African American female to earn a Ph.D. there, serves on the Board of Trustees of the Maryland School for the Deaf, and has a lengthy résumé of positions held at the university, where she has worked for 23 years.

The Gallaudet University Twitter page says it is “the world’s only university where programs and services are designed for deaf & hard of hearing students.”