Whose ‘Diversity’?

updated 10/20/12

Gallaudet University, the premier institution of higher learning for the deaf, has put its chief diversity officer on leave for signing an anti-gay marriage petition—a move that was quickly met with criticism.

School President T. Alan Hurwitz announced the decision to place Angela McCaskill, the school’s chief diversity officer (and a deaf African-American woman), on paid leave.

Apparently, “diversity” and “inclusiveness” do not extend to scriptural literalists!

I think it was bad policy to put McCaskill on leave, playing into the hands of the anti-gay Family Research Council and others who claim that legal recognition of same-sex marriage will curtail the civil rights of those who oppose marriage equality on religious grounds.

More pertinent is the whole issue of diversity educrats. Institutions of higher learning have been cutting back on academic departments while expanding their diversity staffs. Worse, these diversity initiatives often encourage minorities and women to view themselves as victims entitled to special privileges – as documented superbly by Bruce Bawer in his recent book The Victims Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind. You can sample the front pages at Amazon.

More. While opponents of marriage equality take advantage of McCaskill’s suspension, she says she remains neutral on the gay marriage ballot referendum, and that her decision to sign the petition to place the marriage question on the ballot was based on her strong belief that all controversial issues should be put before voters in Maryland. Would she feel the same way about a referendum on mixed-race marriage? On the other hand, should that matter?

11 Comments for “Whose ‘Diversity’?”

  1. posted by esurience on

    “Apparently, “diversity” and “inclusiveness” do not extend to scriptural literalists!”

    No, they don’t. And it’s important to understand why they don’t.

    A precondition of inclusiveness is that that people who do not believe in inclusiveness be *excluded*. If that seems contradictory or hypocritical to you, then you’re not grasping what is meant by inclusiveness.

    Inclusiveness would be an entirely meaningless concept if it was inconclusive of people who went against its very purpose.

    If a bunch of people were to sit down at a table and say to themselves “This group right here… we’re an inclusive group. We believe in inclusion.” What is necessary for that statement to be true? What’s necessary is that anyone who doesn’t believe in inclusion be excluded from that group.

    Let’s get more specific. There is indeed a conflict between gay people and scriptural literalists. Scriptural literalists cannot confer dignity upon gay and lesbian people. That’s what makes them non-inclusive. That’s what makes it impossible for them to be included when considerations of “inclusiveness” and “diversity” are made. They are, due to their beliefs, incapable of being inclusive.

    If you want to be inclusive, you can either be inclusive to gay people, or inclusive to anti-gay people, but you can’t be inclusive to both. Just like you can’t be inclusive to both misogynists and women, or inclusive to racists and and black people.

    So we do need to make a value judgement here, and decide which of these groups of people are actually in accordance with the principles of inclusiveness, and which are not.

    Being gay is an intrinsic and benign trait, being anti-gay is neither intrinsic nor benign. So the inclusive thing to do, is to include gay people, and exclude anti-gay people.

  2. posted by Doug on

    The diversity officer was hired to do a job which was to promote diversity at the university. If you can’t or won’t do the job you are hired for, Stephan, you get fired. Even you should be able to figure that out.

    • posted by another steve on

      How was she not doing her job? She signed a political petition she didn’t know would be made public, in accordance with her personal views. But professionally no one is suggesting she wasn’t doing her job of supporting LGBT inclusion on campus.

      Lawyers defend clients they believe are guilty (they’re paid to provide the best possible defense), PR pros create campaigns for products and candidates they may not personally endorse, people work for companies that take positions they may disagree with. But if they do their jobs, should that matter?

  3. posted by Jorge on

    This is one of the stupidest stories I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t just “play into the hands” of people who claim legal recognition of same-sex marriage will curtail people’s civil rights, it provides strong evidence that they are right on the merits. But as a private organization, that university has a right to punish people for their political opinions, even if those opinions are mainstream and mundane.

    If a choice needs to be made between siding with evil gay people and siding with good anti-gay marriage opponents, good needs to win out over evil.

  4. posted by Mark on

    I wonder if Galludet’s administration is secretly in the pay of the anti-marriage equality campaign. It’s hard to imagine a more politically damaging story.

    On the merits, though, for schools that have “diversity” officers, given that the job of the “diversity” officers is to promote the interests of groups that have experienced discrimination, this issue is a tough one. If the requirement of a “diversity” officer is to support equal legal rights for all, Ms. McCaskill clearly fails. If she had signed a petition calling for putting an interracial marriage ban on the ballot, what would Galludet have done? Can a “diversity” officer support legal discrimination against blacks?

    Given that there’s no way to have the position without infringing on 1st amendment rights (employees shouldn’t be compelled to support equal rights), I think Stephen’s correct: schools should just get rid of diversicrats.

  5. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    A few thoughts:

    (1) Gallaudet’s suspension of Dr. McCaskill has been condemned by both sides of the political fight over marriage equality. Governor O’Malley’s statement (“It’s just wrong to suspend someone for signing a petition to get a bill that was passed through the legislature before the voters of Maryland.”) is typical.

    (2) Gallaudet’s suspension of Dr. McCaskill is not a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment constrains government actions; the First Amendment does not constrain private employers.

    (3) Dr. McCaskill may have a legal remedy, but it is not a First Amendment remedy. Whether or not she has a remedy involves two intersecting questions: (a) Did Dr. McCaskill violate her employment contract with the University? and (b) Did signing the petition impair Dr. McCaskill’s ability to act as a “diversity officer” to the extent that she can no longer act effectively in that capacity?

    (4) The merits of the suspension have not been tested yet. I have not been able to find a full copy of Dr. Hurwitz’s statement about Dr. McCaskill’s suspension, but it appears that the suspension was based on the latter of the two issues: “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.” If it is the case that Gallaudet’s action was based on a reasonable belief that Dr. McCaskill can not, going forward, effectively act as a “diversity officer” after it became known that she had signed a petition to deny equal treatment under the law to an entire class of people, then Dr. McCaskill will not prevail in a legal fight for reinstatement.

    (5) As others have pointed out, a private company or institution has, within the boundaries of the law, the right to establish the internal culture that it wants. We may think that the culture being created is harmful and dead wrong. But so long as the private company or institution complies with the law, what it does is on its own dime. If David Siegel wants to send out memos to his employees threatening to shut his company down if President Obama is re-elected, that is his business. On the other hand, If Robert Murray did, in fact, coerce employees into making political contributions to the Romney campaign, that is a violation of law, and no longer his business. Whether or not Gallaudet’s suspension of Dr. McCaskill fell afoul of the law remains to be seen; based on the known facts (which are few), it does not appear to have done so.

    (6) The issue is politically damaging, and the anti-equality forces seem to be milking it as best it can. That is to be expected, given the tactics of the anti-equality forces over the years. But Gallaudet University is not charged with making our path to equality any easier, and it has the right and responsibility to act in its own interest, the devil be damned.

    (7) The issue has nothing to do with the value (or not) of diversity programs in colleges and universities, or more generally. Whatever we may think of Bruce Bawer’s reasoning (my personal view, having read his book, is that he is more wrong than right in his basic premises and conclusions), the two issues are distinct.

  6. posted by Houndentenor on

    If all she did was sign a petition, I don’t think she should have been fired. However, many of us have worked for employers with whom we disagreed over political, social or other issues and the vast majority of us were smart enough to keep our big mouths shut until we could find another job. This reminds me of the conservatives in Hollywood bitching and moaning about how liberal everyone else is and how hard it is for them, ignoring that millions of liberal Americans put up with the same from conservative neighbors, coworkers and employers.

    And finally, I will gladly laugh in the face of anyone who claims to be a biblical literalist. Anyone who has actually read the entire Bible (which most so-called literalists have not, in my experience) can go point by point through passages in the Bible with whom very few modern people would agree. I call BS on her for making that argument.

  7. posted by Jorge on

    Whether or not she has a remedy involves two intersecting questions: (a) Did Dr. McCaskill violate her employment contract with the University? and (b) Did signing the petition impair Dr. McCaskill’s ability to act as a “diversity officer” to the extent that she can no longer act effectively in that capacity?

    With respect, I think it hinges more on whether the university violated their employment contact with Angela McCaskill, and whether her signing the petition impaired the university’s ability to advance the value of diversity.

    If it is the case that Gallaudet’s action was based on a reasonable belief that Dr. McCaskill can not, going forward, effectively act as a “diversity officer” after it became known that she had signed a petition to deny equal treatment under the law to an entire class of people, then Dr. McCaskill will not prevail in a legal fight for reinstatement.

    This is probably true, but only if the university’s contract with her allows it to sanction people for off-duty conduct for this reason. My contract does (although as a government employee I do have First Amendment protections), so I’m guessing hers does, too. My state also has strong privacy laws so you have to consider that angle, too. Are we seriously going to say signing a petition for a mainstream political cause is legal grounds for disciplinary action? Not every state allows that.

    However, the way you frame the issue, I don’t think the university can have such a reasonable belief. Making it about her ability to do the job (instead of the university’s ability to advance this job function) is in my view going down a slippery slope into something subsersive. It also requires the university to litigate how they measure people’s values on an individual level–because the only conceivable way her ability to do the job would be impaired would be because of her values. Once again, are we seriously going to say that someone signing a petition on a mainstream political issue is legitimate grounds for believing that person does not have the values to advance the cause of diversity for gays?

    Here’s the link to diversity programs: it’s diversity politics. Once you start treating questions like these as fair game, you start making decisions to hire people who, ironically enough, do not reflect the diversity of their student bodies, because only a narrow group of people will meet the unspoken qualifications. This contributes to a certain culture on college campuses, one in which there are vaguely defined good guys (the ones supported by diversity officers) and bad guys (everyone else). The diversity officer in my college wasn’t just an educrat. People knew him, and every time there was some sort of real or imagined racial controversy (which was often) he would be part of the response. And he wasn’t always right. So this part of the reason why all of a sudden you wake up to find all these conservative commentators finding all sorts of loony sensitivity rules and double-standards on college campuses.

  8. posted by Don on

    Having worked in a university, I would like to add that not all “diversity officers” sit around all day planning diversity fair to be held once a year. Most often they are professors who work part time as a liaison. It appears that is not the case here, but I can’t tell for sure.

    Diversity should be a conservative position. Not the legal enforcement of diversity, but the aggressive forbidding of limitations on diversity through legal segregation. Unfortunately, many with a conservative temperament are not libertarian conservatives.

    Many in the black community do not support any other form of inclusion other than their own because they never understood why they were being excluded. They were different. All kinds of lies were told to exacerbate that difference. Those lies were born of fears of things that are different or unusual. We suffer the same problem.

    When conservatism shifts from its current state where fear of “otherness” drives much of the policies, then this stuff will fade. But the inherent human fear of differentness will always be exploited. I believe in very limited government intervention. But legislating against this destructive human impulse is one I do support. Conservative or not.

  9. posted by TomJeffersonIII on

    Its a private college, so I do not think that the First Amendment applies. It is possible that their are some non-Constitutional-enacted laws that do apply, but I am not sure.

    If your job is to promote (among other things) a culture where LGBT students/faculty/staff feel sale and you support putting an anti-gay measure on the ballot…well, I can see where that might just be worth having a conversation about.

    I am not sure she should be fired — I am not familiar with the contract/employment law in that State — but if that was her job, then the college needed to make sure that she was still capable of doing something that she, apparently, was personally or morally opposed to.

    Another example; Walmart employees get into trouble about this all of the time, if they are seen in any way, shape or form being in support of labor unions. Part of the training video is not to sign petitions and the like about labor rights.

    Can you still be a good Walmart employee and also be support labor rights?

Comments are closed.