October 18, 2012
I am respectfully submitting this letter on behalf of the Board of Directors and the general membership of National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA). As a national organization of Deaf People of Color, NBDA has maintained a long standing 30 year relationship with Gallaudet University. Many of the NBDA members, including its President and several members of its Board of Directors, are proud alumni of Gallaudet University. For these reasons, among others, NBDA received numerous inquiries about the controversy surrounding Dr. Angela McCaskill, who was placed on an administrative leave by her employer, Gallaudet University, for signing the petition for a referendum on same-sex marriage. While we reserved our judgment until official statements from both sides were released on October 16, 2012, we were deeply disappointed Dr. McCaskill’s name was not protected, was not afforded an opportunity to a due process, and endured threats and intimidation as a result of this action.
NBDA takes the opportunity to defend Dr. Angela McCaskill’s invaluable professional and personal record in the deaf community and at Gallaudet University. As a valued member of NBDA, she is more than just the first African-American woman to earn her Ph.D. from Gallaudet University. She has excelled in every aspect of her job performance, making numerous advances for Deaf people of color, advocating for student services of LGBT students, and other minority groups at Gallaudet University. We take into consideration that her exercising rights as a private citizen outside of her job should not outweigh her conduct during the years of her valuable contributions to the university.
The American Deaf Community has historically been oppressed by society in terms of equality and equal access; and even more so for Deaf people of color, and Deaf people of color who are also part of the LGBT community. Thus, it is unfortunate that vestiges of oppression and intolerance continue to arise at an esteemed University such as Gallaudet. As recently as the 2006 Gallaudet Protest, instances of racism, sexism, and audism, among others, occurred on campus and wounds were opened for many.
NBDA respectfully asks Gallaudet University’s Board of Trustees and President to ensure neutrality in every aspect of future administrative investigations involving faculty and staff members. Furthermore, we implore Gallaudet University to take constructive steps to put in place preventive measures including a zero tolerance policy on threats, harassment, bullying, retaliation, and intimidation including vendettas and personal attacks by, among, and against faculty, staff, and students of the Gallaudet Community. Gallaudet University is the place where every deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing individual should experience and partake in an environment free of discrimination and harassment regardless of his or her views and beliefs. It is our hope that the spirit of openness on sensitive issues and different views would benefit all constituencies that comprise the Gallaudet community.
At present, NBDA has great concerns about the divisiveness that erupted on the university campus and the deaf community at large over this controversy. NBDA takes the issue with the fact we are a very small deaf community and could use time and energy to work together to open dialogue on sensitive and controversial issues and thereby ensure that we move toward attaining unity among our diverse constituencies. NBDA itself has members who are part of the LGBT community, and we are proud that we can all unite around our common mission of seeing progress for Black Deaf and Hard-of-Heard Americans. NBDA urges the university to take into account the fair and respectful treatment of Dr. Angel McCaskill in light of all that has transpired over the past week.
Finally, NBDA is indeed in agreement with the Maryland Marriage Alliance and Marylanders for Marriage Equality in supporting Dr. Angela McCaskill’s reinstatement at Gallaudet University and protecting her constitutional rights to participate in the democratic process. We support the right of everyone, including LGBT individuals, to be treated fairly and equally and respect their views and their rights. We hope for a successful resolution between Dr. Angela McCaskill and Gallaudet University.
Benro Ogunyipe, President
National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc.
Posted in: NBDA in the Press