June 23, 2024

Second Professor Sues College related to LGBTQ+ Stance

Couple holding hands. Photo by Taylor Bradford

By Katie Simpson

Tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Work Margaret DeWeese-Boyd sued Gordon College in Massachusetts Superior Court, Essex County, Wednesday, alleging she was denied promotion to Full Professor on the basis of her criticism of the college’s policies regarding homosexual practice and sexual orientation.

The complaint, and a similar complaint she filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination previously, were filed against Gordon College, as well as President D. Michael Lindsay and Provost Janel Curry. Professor DeWeese-Boyd maintains that she was denied a promotion to Full Professor “after she had vocally and publicly opposed Gordon College’s discriminatory policies relating to LGBTQ+ individuals,” and despite the unanimous recommendation of the Faculty Senate. The complaint also asserts that the denial of Professor DeWeese-Boyd’s promotion was retaliation against her advocacy on LGBTQ+ issues and discriminatory on the basis of her gender, arguing that male professors who spoke out against Gordon’s sexuality policies were not similarly penalized.

The Chairman of the College’s Board of Trustees, Judge Herman Smith, wrote in an email to students today (Thursday): “while litigation is not the course that Gordon would have chosen for the resolution, it is important to understand that the College will defend its actions and unequivocally rejects Professor DeWeese-Boyd’s allegations.”

The filing states that President Lindsay’s and Provost Curry’s “denial of Professor DeWeese-Boyd’s promotion and other actions against her constitute unlawful retaliation against Professor DeWeese-Boyd.” The complaint continues to state that President Lindsay’s and Provost Curry’s “actions also constitute unlawful discrimination against [Professor DeWeese-Boyd] on the basis of her sex and the basis of her association with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender individuals.”

Courtesy of gordon.edu.[/caption]Following Professor DeWeese-Boyd’s initial filing with MCAD, “all seven members of the Faculty Senate resigned from the Faculty Senate in protest over President Lindsay’s and Provost Curry’s decisions to reject the Faculty Senate’s recommendation that Professor DeWeese-Boyd and one other female professor be promoted to full professor,” the complaint states.ays.

DeWeese-Boyd’s filing of the suit Wednesday ends the MCAD proceedings.

Professor DeWeese-Boyd is seeking personal damages as well as promotion to the position of Full Professor and an injunction ordering Gordon College to cease unlawful discrimination and retaliation.

Professor DeWeese-Boyd’s complaint also argues the role of faculty members at Gordon is no different than the role of faculty members at secular colleges. “Professor DeWeese-Boyd’s role and responsibilities at Gordon College do not differ from those of a professor in a similar field at a non-Christian college,” the complaint states.

“Professor DeWeese-Boyd’s responsibilities as a professor are secular,” the complaint continues, “she does not teach on religious topics. She has never served as a minister for Gordon College and is not ordained as a minister.”

Philosophy professor Lauren Barthold sued the college on similar grounds in April of 2016, alleging that the College retaliated unlawfully in response to Barthold’s letter to the editor published in The Salem News that criticized the college’s hiring practices. Much of Professor Barthold’s case was based on her contention that she did not serve as a minister for the college, nor did her position as professor “require her to espouse or promote any particular religious doctrine to students or other members of the Gordon community,” her complaint stated. Professor Barthold and the College reached a settlement in September of 2016. Barthold agreed to step down from her tenured faculty position. The settlement’s terms were not made public.

Professor DeWeese-Boyd’s lawyer, Hillary Schwab of Fair Works P.C., told the Tartan that she anticipates the College will file its answer to the complaints in court “sometime in October.”

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