A professor at Oklahoma State University alleges that she was denied tenure and her employment terminated as of the end of the Spring semester because she is transexual.
The woman in question, Dr. Rachel Tudor, Assistant Professor of English, Humanities and Literature at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, is reported as being a highly accomplished scholar who frequently receives positive evaluations and enjoys the respect and support of other faculty members. Yet, Tudor claims that the University administration not only denied her tenure without providing her with a good reason, they also changed the rules so as to side-step a further request that she be considered.
From Tudor’s own account of these events (spaces added for ease of reading):
In fact, last year my colleagues recommended me for tenure and promotion. The administration rejected their recommendation. SE policy recognizes faculty as the best judges of who should be retained, promoted, or let go. As a matter of fact, our policy states that the president is obliged to honor faculty recommendations unless the president shows that there is a “compelling reason” or that “exceptional circumstances” exist for rejecting the recommendation of faculty.
The president failed to cite any evidence that remotely meets the criteria required. This year, the interim vice president for academic affairs, Doug McMillan, issued a memo prohibiting me from applying for tenure. This is quite unusual — as far as I know — unprecedented. I personally know of at least three people who were granted tenure and promotion at SE after an initial denial.
I filed a grievance with the Faculty Appellate Committee and they unanimously ruled that I should be allowed to apply for tenure and promotion. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution respectfully requesting the president, Larry Minks, to honor the decision of the FAC. The president chose to eschew the judgment of the FAC as well as the Faculty Senate’s request. He denied me the opportunity to apply for tenure and promotion, and issued a letter stating my contract for next semester will not be renewed “without cause.”
The FAC is the only safeguard that due process and policy are followed. What is the point of having a FAC if the president may decide at his pleasure which decisions he will respect and which ones he will eschew? As a matter of fact, in my case the administration wrote new policy (without consulting the faculty) allowing the president to disregard the FAC’s decision — effectively changing the rules of the game once play had commenced.
According to the Daily O’Collegian, Douglas McMillan once told Porter that her being trans was a “lifestyle” that “offends [his] Baptist beliefs.”
Further hinting at a prejudiced attitude, Dr. Tudor also claims that she was instructed by the human resources department that, following her gender reassignment, she would only be allowed to use the single-use handicapped restrooms.
Among several excuses, one concrete reason was given as to why Tudor was denied her first bid for tenure: that the Administration could not confirm she had been the co-editor of two journals she had listed in her portfolio.
As the Bilerico Project notes in its detailed coverage of this case, “That would be a serious accusation indeed, if it were not for the fact that the journals are journals of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and a trip down the hall to the Journal’s offices could probably clear up the problem. In fact, according to Dr. Tudor, she spoke to her colleague Dr. Mark Spencer, with whom she co-edited, and he noted that no one from the school had even asked him about it to verify the question. It appears that the journal’s website had mistakenly failed to list her name, but her name was on the cover of the printed journal and was in the tenure portfolio.”
Dr. Tudor’s employment is set to expire at the end of May. Her case is currently before the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, the US Department of Education, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The University has yet to issue a comment, so it would be improper to draw concrete conclusions at this juncture, however if this case is as reported, it would be typical of the kind of prejudice and discrimination that transexual and transgender people face in the workplace.
Oklahoma does not have a trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law and so, as in 38 other states, it is still legal to terminate someone’s employment based on their gender identity or expression.
A federal, trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) currently sits in Congress but it is not expected to gain traction with a hostile GOP majority in the House. President Obama has been pressured to issue an executive order against workplace discrimination as, while limited in scope and longevity, this would serve as an interim measure until ENDA can once again be moved. You can read more the precedent for an executive order here.
Dr. Tudor’s supporters have already created a great Care2 petition which you can sign by clicking below:
TAKE ACTION: REINSTATE DR. RACHEL TUDOR!