Transgender Professor Denied Tenure ‘Without Cause’

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The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is not expected to pass the current House of Representatives, but proponents hope to use the bill as an educational tool about workplace discrimination against the LGBT community. A story unraveling at Southeastern Oklahoma State University demonstrates how higher education is one of many fields vulnerable to discrimination against people who are gay and trans.

Dr. Rachel Tudor, a professor of English, Humanities, and Philosophy at SOSU has been denied tenure despite ample support from her colleagues, immediate supervisors, a Faculty Senate resolution with no opposition, and two Faculty Appeals Committee rulings in her favor. No explanation was given for the rejection, and she was blocked from reapplying (as many professors successfully do), again without explanation. At this point, Tudor has exhausted every forum to rectify her situation and her contract with the university will be terminated as of May 31 “without cause.”

All the evidence suggests that Dr. Tudor has been discriminated against for being transgender, primarily by Dr. Douglas McMillan, SOSU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs. When Tudor first transitioned, McMillan request she be terminated because her identity “offends his Baptist beliefs.” Though he could not have her fired, he was successful at requiring she only be allowed to use a single-stall restroom on a different floor from her office. In addition, the dean who oversees Tudor’s department, Dr. Lucretia Scoufos, regularly disrespected Tudor by referring to her with male pronouns. These two individuals had sole authority over the original tenure decision and McMillan was also who blocked her from reapplying.

Despite the way it seems her administrators went out of their way to block her continued employment, Tudor appreciates how others have stood up for her:

I’m completely overwhelmed and gratified so many people have takenĀ initiativeĀ and shown their support. It’s amazing to see that people have such integrity.

According to a recent study, nearly half (47 percent) of transgender people have been fired, not hired, or denied promotion for their identity. Oklahoma has no state-level discrimination protections for gender identity, and without a federal ENDA, there is nothing to protect talented, successful employees like Tudor from being terminated without cause. Still, Tudor has taken her case to the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, the US Department of Education, and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in hopes of intervention. You can support her by signing a petition for her reinstatement.

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