When worlds collide, what’s a poor liberal to do? Usually, it’s pretty easy to separate out the good guys from the bad guys in a standoff by simply identifying the combatant who is a member of a “protected class.” But what happens when both sides in a feud belong to protected classes? And what happens when one belongs to more than one protected class?
Those questions have now become the foundation of a bitter skirmish at Alabama State University (ASU), an historically black university, where a professor is suing over the claim that he and his partner were discriminated against based on their race (he is a member of the Choctaw Nation but identified as white by colleagues) and sexual orientation (he is gay).
“According to the lawsuit filed in federal court on June 11,” writes Campus Reform:
Dr. John Garland is suing the ASU and eight current and former employees for racially discriminating against applicants for university positions and subsequently targeting him when he retaliated against those practices.
“[Garland’s supervisor] expressed his opinion, stated or implied, that Dr. Garland did not belong at the University and was not ‘suited to [the University’s] type of students’ because Dr. Garland is not African-American.”
Garland was hired in August 2008 as an adjunct professor. In January 2009, he was rehired as an assistant professor for the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling Program in the Department of Rehabilitation Studies in the College of Health Sciences (COHS). His white same-sex partner, Dr. Steven Chesbro, was hired at the university around that time and is now dean of COHS, which the lawsuit alleges students and faculty commonly refer to as “the White House.” He has an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge filed against the university.
The legal complaint, which is here, maintains:
A small, powerful group at the University believes that Drs. Garland and Chesbro have no place at the University simply because of their non-African-American or non-Black identity. This group, including combinations of the individually named Defendants, have [sic] conspired to destroy the careers and employment of these two dedicated teachers.
Some administrators and faculty welcome and support Drs. Garland and Chesbro as colleagues, while others reluctantly accept their presence as a necessary evil due to legal considerations.
This story raises questions similar to those that came up in a story reported by Howard Portnoy in March, the gist of which is that a Muslim barber refused to cut the hair of a lesbian. Is this answer here to assign grievance hierarchies?