Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Oklahoma English Prof Denied Tenure at Public College Based On Gender Identity

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | April 26, 2011 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: academic freedom, Douglas McMillan, gender identity, Rachel Tudor, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, transgender discrimination

Dr. Rachel Tudor, Assistant Professor of English, Humanities and Literature at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma for the past seven years, is an accomplished scholar.

According to Dr. Tudor, she has been recommended for promotion and tenure twice in the last two years by the Faculty Tenure and Promotion Committee, based on the well-known university criteria of teaching, scholarship and service. The school's rules require the Administration to grant tenure in such cases, unless there is an extraordinary circumstance requiring denial. Indeed, according to Dr. Tudor, tenure applications are routinely approved by the Administration once the Faculty Tenure and Promotion Committee makes a positive recommendation.

So what "extraordinary circumstance" requires denial of Dr. Tudor's tenure application by the Administration of Southeastern Oklahoma University, which according to Dr. Tudor has never before occurred at the school to her knowledge? And not only that, but rather than being allowed to apply again, as is usual, a University Vice-President took another surprising step, and notified Dr. Tudor that she is not even allowed to submit another application but must leave the school at the end of the semester?

The only thing extra-ordinary about Dr. Tudor, as far as I can tell, aside from her excellent credentials, is that she is transsexual. That leads me to suspect that Southeastern Oklahoma University might be discriminating on the basis of Dr. Tudor's gender. Let's look at the evidence.

Petition to sign after the jump, as well.

According to Dr. Tudor, the Interim VP of Academic Affairs, Douglas McMillan, issued a memo explaining his decision. He said that nothing in the school's policy prohibits someone from re-applying for tenure, and re-applications are apparently routine, but they don't have to allow it, either. There are apparently a number of people at the school who have re-applied for tenure after denial. However, he said that allowing her to re-apply would "inflame tensions between faculty and administration," apparently because the Faculty Tenure and Promotions Committee was a bit understandably miffed that their recommendations as to her qualifications have been twice ignored, and because the Faculty Appeals Committee has found in favor of Dr. Tudor twice, and the Faculty Senate has passed a resolution in support of her application. Somewhat contradictorily, another reason he gave is his opinion that she is unqualified despite the faculty's opinion to the contrary, thus raising the salient question of who -- Vice-President McMillan or Dr. Tudor, is inflaming the faculty-administration tensions.

The most salient reason given by the Administration for her first tenure denial is that it was claimed that they were unable to verify that she was co-editor of two journals. 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. It's worthy of note that she now has 10 peer reviewed journals. At this teaching university, most professors have not written more than two or three articles.

Her teaching and service, the other two criteria for promotion and tenure, are exemplary. Her last teaching assessment called her "inspirational," and she's been on several major service committees. Interestingly, she was on one committee that spearheaded a major revision of the school's faculty handbook. It would have included gender identity protection, among other things. Unsurprisingly, the Administration has not yet acted on this, although the faculty Senate has approved it.

It's also relevant that, after transitioning in 2007, Dr. Tudor says that she was instructed by SOSU's human resource department to only use a single-stall handicap bathroom on a different floor than where her office is located. She presumes the direction came from Dr. Douglas McMillan, the vice president of academic affairs, who reportedly had also inquired whether Dr. Tudor could be terminated because her lifestyle "offends his Baptist beliefs." Human resources denied his request to terminate her based his religious beliefs, but there is no indication that his religious beliefs have changed. It would seem that his religious beliefs have colored the Administration's subsequent decision to terminate her. Vice-President McMillan isn't the only person who has these attitudes. According to Dr. Tudor, her Dean insists on calling Dr. Tudor by male pronouns.

Dr. Tudor's contract expires on May 31, 2011, at which time her employment with the school will end, unless something occurs to intervene. According to the University, her non-renewal is officially listed as "without cause."

Dr. Tudor has brought her case to the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, the US Department of Education, and the EEOC. She is waiting to hear from them.

There is an online petition to protest the University's actions. More information is available at Tenured Radical.


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Are people so inured to this type of thing happening that no one has any comment on how wrong and damaging this is?

Not inured, just too busy writing my own Bilerico and Metro Weekly pieces.

Or too busy reposting it and making our comments elsewhere, rather than preaching to the choir.

this is yet one more reason why i need to move out of oklahoma :(

One of the best things I ever did!

Really, the only comment I had was, what do you expect of rural OK? And esp if religious conservatives are involved...I mean, obviously it is b/c she is trans, and just as obviously, she has no recourse b/c there is no law against discrimination against trans ppl.

She isn't being descriminated against b/c she is a woman, though I seem to remember someone won a case like this somewhere by using this approach. I doubt she is going to have any success with the OK 'Human Rights' council, though, I am guessing they are all good-ole-boy Repub appointees.

I didn't think you'd welcome these comments, so I just didn't post. I did read it, though, and shrugged. If you are trans, esp a trans woman, you aren't shit and noone cares. If you are allowed to have any rights, it is just b/c someone in power doesn't find it counter to their purposes for you to have them.

I assume she knew all that when she transitioned. If she didn't, I guess she does now.

Ah Carol, I can always count on you for something pithy and wise. And I always welcome your comments, Carol. :)

Yes, what do you expect of rural Oklahoma, although I note that a lot of people from Oklahoma are on Dr. Tudor's side, including a lot of the faculty and students there. I also note that, while there is no specific protection in Oklahoma for transgender "ppl" as you so rightly note, there is federal protection for sex discrimination, and that includes sex stereotyping. In some federal courts, that has included transgender people. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where Oklahoma is located, recently issued an opinion that seemed to say no to that. (Etsitty) However, that opinion involved very different facts, it clearly misunderstood the role of legislative history according to our current Supreme Court, and the Court, in fact, assumed that a claim of protection was available, finding that instead that the employer had a good reason other than prejudice to fire the employee. I also think that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of a transgender plaintiff. (See my article in the Temple Political and Civil Rights Reporter from 2009 for more details.) So I think Dr. Tudor has a pretty good case.

Pithy, yes, and very cynical these days, but rarely wise--I think you are poking me there! ;)

Yes, students and faculty are on her side, which is great! However, in my experience, the ppl who become administration are far more rigid and hide-bound than students and faculty. In fact, Iknow of plenty of ppl who didn't get tenure b/c they had a bad relationship with some Dean or Chancellor or something. Most of those ppl tend to be pretty high-handed about things.

I esp love the right-wing-type strategy of blaming the victims of the summary judgement (Dr. Tutor, and the groups who put her forward for tenure) for the problem. I love how the ppl who are being treated unfairly speaking up are the ones who are the troublemakers.

I hope Gina is right, that Dr. Tutor goes somewhere else and does a great job, and that this situation gets widely known in the higher-ed community (Chronicles of Higher Ed peice, maybe?). I feel that the more gay and trans ppl who move from intolerant areas the better. Sure, fight, but then leave.

Its kind of sad. The students will end up with a less experianced teacher. The staff will end up with someone new to train. The school itself will suffer for it.

But, in my experiance and opinion she will find a far better job at a school that is accepting and supportive of her.

I wonder if Brittany is involved in this yet.

If only it were true, Gina, that it were that easy to go out and find another job. In academia, there are only a few positions every year in your specific niche, and in these days of budget cuts, there are hiring freezes everywhere.

And who is Brittany?

At the time I transitioned, almost every woman of history I knew had a similar story. No one in the "community" lifted a finger to help any of us. In came Peter Oiler and every one rallies, including the ACLU. When it happened to me, I went to the Civil Rights Commission in Ohio and was told not once, but twice, you are a transsexual, you have no civil rights.

Lesson?, tell them you are a crossdresser not born transsexed if you want folks to rally to your cause.

As a resident of Oklahoma and a fired public school teacher. I am not surprised at this in the least. What I find surprising is they didn't fire her on the spot when she announced to the powers that be of her intention to transition in 2007. On the last day of school I held a meeting with my superintendent and the building principal and told them of my intention to transition over the summer break.. His statement was " You know you can't stay and work here don't you?" and I knew I had no rights having looked into it all prior. Moral Turpitude was what the legal people I talked to said the school would employ against me should I decide to fight for my job of 10yrs. Family asked me I not fight and drag the name threw the press.. So I decided to walked away..

And with Oklahoma falling more and more under the control of the EVANGELICAL based Republicans, I don't foresee any improvement for personal rights any time soon. When I am done caring for my parents I will be moving and never looking back at Oklahoma or Texas with their push to deny any T persons right to get married. As Texas goes Oklahoma will soon follow.

http://www.dallasvoice.com/texas-senate-adjourns-voting-trans-marriage-ban-tomorrow-1073038.html

Oklahoma Republican party platform 2009
http://www.okgop.com/pdfs/PLATFORM2009_APPROVED.PDF

and as along as they hold the house the senate and the governors office we are persona non gratis

http://www.dallasvoice.com/texas-senate-adjourns-voting-trans-marriage-ban-tomorrow-1073038.html

This is what i was talking about texas and denial of marriage right .. seems so lil being made of this to.

That's not the case. The Texas (particularly Houston) community has this in hand, has received help which they have requested, and are doing their best.

There are blogging who are demanding more out of one side of their mouth, while demanding less out of the other side. None of that is helpful. Leave it to the locals who know the terrain and the players.

The fact is that the Oiler case is the only major lawsuit brought on behalf of a cross dresser. Every other case has been a transsexual woman (and rarely, man).

It is plain old fashioned bigotry. Predjudice is predjudice if Black, or female, or handicapped, or Transgendered. Unfortunately, it remains stronger in the Heartland, I know - I am in Mis-zer-ree! Dr. Tudor is obviously a gifted scholar, while I think she should fight this denial of tenure for herself and all Trans people, she could defininately get a professorship at a more progressive University.

Although I have no doubts that Dr. Tudor was denied tenure due to her gender identity, it is misleading to say that she was not allowed to re-apply due to her gender identity.

In most colleges and universities across the country, someone who has been denied tenure is told to leave the university. That is why tenure is so important; if they do not achieve tenure after so many years of working toward it, they must start over at a different university. I think this rule should be changed, but it will not be changed for one person at one university.

Please make sure you understand the rules of academic promotion and tenure before assuming that her inability to re-apply was also due to her gender identity when in fact it is the nature of promotion and tenure.

Thanks for your comment, PS. I should note, first, that I am a full professor and understand the rules of academic promotion and tenure fairly well. Second, you are correct that many colleges and universities tell people to leave the university after denial of tenure. However, I am given to understand that the situation at Southeastern is different from many other institutions. There is no rule requiring that faculty leave after denial of tenure, and there are a number of faculty there who have not been asked to leave after tenure denial, but have been permitted to reapply. In those circumstances, I think that it is fair to say that the bar on reapplication is a function of discriminatory intent.

As a student of hers, I personally have experienced her class. And truthfully she hasn't done anything that is impressive for someone with a doctorate. She is a horrible English professor. I stand by the schools choice to not re-instate her. If this was about her trans-gender operation she would have been dismissed back in 2007. However, as of 2011 she has had a lot of complaints by SOSU students who have had her. Not about her choice, but by the way she teaches. She simply does not belong as a teacher from my own experiences. Assuming that it is due to her lifestyle is radical at best.

Thank you for your comment, Student. According to Dr. Tudor, her teaching evaluations are quite good, including, among other things, the word "inspirational." As a professor myself, I know that some students like my teaching style, and others do not. It's a matter of personal preference. When dealing with employment matters, however, one has to go with the objective evidence, rather than the subjective observations of one student. At the same time, you say that she has had a "lot" of complaints by students. Unfortunately, there's no evidence for that as far as I can tell. Your statement that "she hasn't done anything that is impressive for someone with a doctorate" ignores the fact that, according to Dr. Tudor, she has authored many peer reviewed journal articles. It also suggests that you do not know the facts.

Current Sudent | April 28, 2011 1:12 AM

I am a current student of Rachel Tudor at SOSU. I cannot help but agree with my fellow student. Though I agree that the actions of the school administrators seemed "shady", this is about her teaching skills. It is truly sad that my senior honors english class was harder than this composition 2 class. If this was a transgender issue, she would have been dismissed in 2007.

Thank you for your comment, Current Student. I'm sorry to hear that you didn't like Dr. Tudor's teaching. I understand your complaint about the level of the class being too hard. I was also an undergraduate once (too many years ago to count), and I also loathed teachers who were too hard. I wanted them to leave me alone so I could play more Space Invaders and Centipede. Thankfully, they didn't.

I find it amusing you over look what my fellow student said. The other student didn't claim the class to be too hard. This student stated that the class was EASIER than a high school class she had taken. I personally agree. Being in her class she has shown that she isn't capable of handling the teaching of English. She went as far as to let a student write an essay like a Freshman in high school. You ignore the facts that you're going on Dr. Tudor's bias alone. You are going on what she has assumed to be the reason for her dismissal. In 2007 when the change of gender was announced to the school the University would have dismissed her within a year if this had anything to do with her trans-gender choice. HOWEVER we are now in the year 2011, 4 years of her working at the school since that decision. She may have all the "paper" qualifications, and may look good on paper. However, in a real life experience she is not capable of being a efficient teacher. Allowing students to slide with inferior writing styles and techniques and setting them up for failure as they are too ignorant of English themselves. This could be compared to Communism. Sure it looks great on paper, however the real life results varied from what was put on a sheet of paper. You can have all the degrees you want, but if students are being hindered from learning what they need to succeed, then it doesn't matter your gender, race, age, etc. This isn't about her gender issue. Yes she may have had some neglect, but if it was all about the trans-gender operation, the school would have fired her back in 2007.

I'm sorry I misunderstood your colleague. I assumed that the comparison made was between college courses, which is, I think, understandable, since the modifier "high school" appeared nowhere in the sentence. But now that I understand, and with the highest respect for the student body of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, I note that freshman courses often have to accommodate a wide diversity of student levels.

You make two interesting points. "[I]f it was all about the trans-gender operation, the school would have fired her back in 2007." Remember, the school tried to have her fired in 2007, as noted in the main post (paragraph 4 after the jump). Thus, by your own criteria, you would have to concede that gender identity played a role.

Second, you note that "She went as far as to let a student write an essay like a Freshman in high school." My dear, did she "let" them? After many years of teaching myself, I tell you one can hardly stop them from doing so. And one must correct them gently, because a bruised ego is one of the worst obstacles to learning.

After your reproach on this point, however, I would be remiss if I did not mention that comparing poor writing to Communism is called hyperbole and in ordinary speech and writing it should be well qualified and kept within reasonable bounds. (q.v. http://www.lousywriter.com/storytelling_hyperbole.php)

Current Student | April 29, 2011 2:59 AM

Maybe if you stopped reading these comments by me and my associate with already predetermined biased and arrogance you might actually understand what were are saying. You have thus far misread, and misunderstood two comments, one from my colleague and one from myself. My fellow classmate pointed out the comparison between Communism, a practice that looks good on paper, but fails in practice to Dr. Tudor, someone who may have the qualification and degrees yet fails as an educator. Until you sit in the class, and experience her teaching first hand you really do not know IF she is good as she claims. As papers claim.