ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gallaudet University's chief diversity officer said Tuesday she believes she should be reinstated to her job after university leadership put her on administrative leave for signing a petition to put same-sex marriage on the ballot for voters to decide in November.
Angela McCaskill, speaking publicly for the first time after she was put on leave last week, sharply criticized the administration of the nation's leading university for the deaf and hard of hearing for placing her on leave, simply for exercising her rights as a citizen.
"I think that the university has allowed this issue to escalate out of control and it could have been handled much differently," McCaskill said through an interpreter using sign language. "They have allowed misinformation to be circulated throughout the campus community. They have attempted to intimidate me. They have tarnished my reputation and my 24 years of service."
Gallaudet University President T. Allan Hurwitz said in a statement Tuesday that the university wants to work with McCaskill and that he believes a resolution can be reached that would enable McCaskill to continue in her job.
"Because of her position at Gallaudet as our chief diversity officer, many individuals at our university were understandably concerned and confused by her action," Hurwitz said in the statement.
"Dr. McCaskill has been, and can continue to be, a valued member of this community and we are very much interested in working with everyone to come to a shared understanding in an environment that allows the community to rebound and move forward."
McCaskill, who lives in Upper Marlboro, said she signed the petition in order to give Maryland residents a chance to vote on same-sex marriage.
"I exercised my rights," McCaskill said. "I felt it was important that we as the citizens of Maryland have an opportunity to vote."
She also said she had wanted to hold a campus-wide dialogue on the issue of same-sex marriage.
"I thought that this would have been an incredible opportunity to teach our campus," McCaskill said. "Unfortunately, that opportunity was lost."
McCaskill declined to say what her personal view on same-sex marriage is, and she said it was wrong for people to assume she was anti-gay for signing the petition.
"No one has the right to decide what my signature meant," McCaskill said. "Only I could do that."
J. Wyndal Gordan, McCaskill's attorney, described the statement by the university's president as a start, but he questioned the statement's sincerity.
"Their actions and their statements today is a flip-flop, that is a 180-degree turn from where they were not only seven days ago, so we are encouraged to hear that they want to take some initiative to right the wrong that has occurred to Dr. McCaskill, but at the same time we are questioning their sincerity in light of the media attention that this matter has received," Gordon said.