Gallaudet University is a unique institution. Founded in 1864 in Washington, DC to meet the educational needs of the deaf and hard-of-hearing, the school currently serves just under 2000 students in various capacities. As one might imagine, it is a distinct community, aware that they educate a group of people who have often been victims of discrimination. The school asserts:
Gallaudet University as an institution embraces diversity… A university has an obligation to be a place where all views can be shared freely and any belief can be discussed respectfully, allowing the exchange of ideas to flourish. Accordingly, Gallaudet will integrate diversity into every aspect of its operations. This statement on diversity is only part of an ongoing process in which all members of the university participate. Gallaudet’s excellence and survival depends on respecting, honoring and embracing the diversity that exists within the university community…
Yet, the university recently suspended the school’s chief diversity officer, a 23-year employee of the school. Angela McCaskill was placed on leave for expressing a diverse viewpoint: she signed a petition (along with 200,000 others) to place “Maryland’s Question 6” on the ballot. “Question 6” states:
Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.
McCaskill, the first deaf African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet, said at a recent press conference, “I am dismayed that Gallaudet University is still a university of intolerance.”
On behalf of the university, President T. Alan Hurwitz noted,
…many individuals at our university were understandably concerned and confused by her action. They wanted to know ‘does that action interfere with her ability to perform her job?’
I placed her on paid administrative leave as a prudent action to allow the university — and Dr. McCaskill – the time to consider this question after the emotions of first reactions subsided…
As Gallaudet itself points out, a diverse place is one where “all views can be shared freely and any belief can be discussed respectfully, allowing the exchange of ideas to flourish.”
It appears, to paraphrase George Orwell, that some diversity is more diverse than others.