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Hot on Campus | January 8, 2013

Gallaudet reinstates diversity officer

Free speech

School president says he's looking forward to working with administrator he suspended for supporting traditional marriage

Dr. Angela McCaskill signs during a press conference in October. (Associated Press/Photo by Brian Witte)

The Gallaudet University diversity officer suspended for signing a petition calling for a statewide referendum on marriage in Maryland was reinstated Monday.

School President T. Alan Hurwitz announced Dr. Angela McCaskill's return to work in an email sent to students, faculty, and staff. The statement did not elaborate on the reasons for McCaskill's reinstatement. Officials at Gallaudet, the Washington, D.C., college for the deaf and hard of hearing, declined to comment further.

Hurwitz suspended McCaskill in October after someone spotted her name on a petition seeking to challenge a law allowing same-sex couples in Maryland to "marry." McCaskill said she signed the petition at church, after hearing a sermon about traditional marriage.

Supporters of same-sex "marriage" accused McCaskill of being anti-gay, a stance they said made her unfit to work in the school's office of diversity and inclusion. Gallaudet has a large gay population.

But McCaskill maintains she is not anti-gay. In her defense, McCaskill noted the petition did not expressly oppose same-sex "marriage." It only asked that Maryland voters have a say on the issue. Signing the petition made her pro-democracy, not anti-gay, McCaskill said.

Although she faced strong opposition, McCaskill's supporters included advocates for same-sex "marriage," who said she shouldn't be punished for her opinion.

In a press conference held just days after her suspension, McCaskill said the school owed her compensation for tarnishing her reputation.

"This has been a tremendously horrific time for myself and my family," McCaskill, who is deaf, said through an interpreter. McCaskill is the first deaf African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. at Gallaudet and has worked at the school for 23 years.

McCaskill's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment about her reinstatement.

In his email, Hurwitz said he looked forward to working with McCaskill again.

"This has been a period of reflection for all of us," he 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."