Oklahoma professor allegedly terminated for being transgender
An Assistant Professor of English, Humanities and Literature at Southeastern Oklahoma State University was allegedly denied tenure and terminated because of her gender identity.
Despite being a highly accomplished scholar who was recommended for tenure and a promotion by her colleagues last year, Dr. Rachel Tudor will be terminated from the university effective May 31. She claims to have been dismissed from the Southeastern Oklahoma State University because she is transgender.
“I firmly believe that I was not granted tenure because of discrimination,” she told Raw Story. “In addition to the egregious violations of policy, due process, and precedent, the administrators responsible for denying me not only tenure, but even the opportunity for an up or down vote, have repeatedly refused to heed the voice of the faculty.”
Tudor recently received the Faculty Senate Recognition Award for Excellence in Scholarship. According to Southeastern Oklahoma State University policy, the president is obliged to honor faculty recommendations, except in cases where there is a “compelling reason” or “exceptional circumstances” to reject a recommendation.
“President Minks and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Doug McMillan, have refused to meet with me in person,” she continued. “In addition, it has been reported to me from reliable sources that Doug McMillan is committed to severing me from the university because he disapproves of my gender identity.”
In an unprecedented move, McMillan issued a memo prohibiting Tudor from applying for tenure. After she filed a grievance with the Faculty Appellate Committee, they unanimously ruled that Tudor should be allowed to apply for tenure, but President Minks refused to honor their decision.
Claire Potter, a professor of American studies and history at Wesleyan University, told Daily O’Collegian that the dean and vice president of academic affairs deem Tudor’s “lifestyle” inappropriate. McMillan reportedly asserted that her lifestyle “offends his Baptist beliefs.”
“I have already been notified that my employment at the university will terminate at the end of May,” Tudor said. “I have no expectation that the administration will acknowledge its numerous violations of due process, policy, and the law. I anticipate participating in prolonged litigation and lobbying of the state’s oversight authorities to compel President Minks and Doug McMillan to simply do the right thing—allow me the same opportunities for employment and advancement that is guaranteed other citizens.”
She has brought her case to the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the U.S. Department of Education.
While Oklahoma’s non-discrimination law covers race, creed, gender, color and national origin, it does not currently address gender identity or sexual orientation. According to the Human Rights Campaign, no federal law consistently protects lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals from employment discrimination.
“Finally, I would like to acknowledge the faculty, staff, and students at Southeastern who have treated me with the dignity and respect that everyone deserves,” Tudor added. “I am especially grateful to my friends who are committed to fighting injustice and building a more welcoming campus and community.”
An online petition to reinstate Tudor has received over 1,000 signatures.