Concerned, Confused, and Canaried

Why do they call it “political correctness,” when it’s simply political and so terribly incorrect?

Whatever we call it — “a totalitarian impulse” comes to my mind — placing Angela McCaskill on administrative leave from her job at Gallaudet University is just flat-out wrong.

“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,” Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz wrote last week on the University’s Facebook page. McCaskill’s terrible transgression was to sign a petition to refer the Legislature’s same-sex marriage law to the ballot, allowing Maryland voters to cast judgment upon — and potentially overturn — it.

Note that Hurwitz didn’t mention any specific university policy violated by McCaskill. Could this constitute a violation of employee rules? Is there a written policy against signing a petition? Or voting? Or speaking up at a town hall meeting? Or breathing without permission?

Worse, while specifically acknowledging her “right to sign a petition,” Hurwitz added, as if in clarification, that “many individuals at our university were understandably concerned and confused by her action.”

Yes, there appears to be much confusion at Gallaudet . . . about the most basic principles of our free society.

“We . . . are endowed by our Creator with certain . . . rights” — including the right to harbor opinions and utter words and even participate in democracy. These rights are so important that, in fact, they are “inalienable.” Even if one’s point of view confuses or confounds those in positions of authority at institutions of higher learning.

No matter how delicately President Hurwitz tap dances about using “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,” his actions have already clearly violated Dr. McCaskill’s civil rights. Adding insult to that injury, Hurwitz informed, “In the meantime an interim Chief Diversity Officer will be announced in the near future.”

Apparently, quick action is required, what with the importance of a university’s CDO. But what on earth does a Chief Diversity Officer do?

And if diversity is so important — and, personally, I really like it — why can’t diversity of political opinion be permitted?

Gallaudet bills itself as the only university in the world “with programs and services specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students.” The school was chartered by Congress in 1864, the act signed by President Abraham Lincoln, and to this day the University receives the bulk of its funding from taxpayers.

The august leaders of today’s higher education should be as alarmed at Ms. McCaskill’s treatment as coal miners are of finding their pet canary dead in its cage.

Still, President Hurwitz carries on, confident that a “resolution of this matter can be reached,” hazarding that it “will require that she and the university community work together to respond to the concerns that have been raised.” Since McCaskill has retained an attorney, the more likely resolution is a large lump sum settlement for violating her civil rights.

This controversy has had one positive effect: both sides of the contentious same-sex marriage issue have united to condemn the action of Gallaudet University and to call for Dr. Angela McCaskill to be re-instated at once.     references & links

October 21, 2012
This column first appeared on Townhall.com.