Trans professor denied tenure

DENIED | Rachel Tudor, an assistant professor of English at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, believes she was denied tenure because of school administrators’ bigotry against her identity as a transgender woman.

Despite Rachel Tudor’s research credentials being questioned by the administration, the school will honor her with an award for outstanding scholarship

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Rachel Tudor, an assistant professor of English at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, was denied tenure because she is transgender, according to Tudor and her supporters.

The school is located in Durant, Okla., about 20 miles north of Denison. Tudor’s employment there terminates at the end of the spring semester.

Douglas N. McMillan, interim vice president for academic affairs reportedly said that Tudor’s “lifestyle” offends his Baptist beliefs.

Last year, Tudor’s colleagues recommended her for tenure. But, she said, the administration’s response was to contact legal council to find out if they were required to honor the recommendation of the faculty committee.

“The dean refused to discuss it with me and the vice president refused to meet with me,” Tudor said.

But the president was required to reveal his reasons. School policy states that the president must honor faculty recommendations unless there is a “compelling reason” or “exceptional circumstances.”

“One reason [he gave was that] he was unable to verify I was editor of two journals,” she said. “I co-edited it with a senior colleague.”

Tudor said her co-editor told her no one ever contacted him.

“The journals are in our library,” she said. “My name is on the cover.”

Tudor said the school’s president was also dismissive of her service for the Native American symposium held on campus.

“That’s our main academic conference,” she said. “I served on the committee several years. I gave presentations at the conference. He said my service was neither noteworthy nor exceptional.”

She called his statement insulting to the conference.

Tudor said that another reason the school’s president gave for denying her tenure was that the tenure and promotion committee didn’t justify their reasons for the recommendation. However, she said committee members told her that they were required to make an up-or-down vote only and were not allowed to back up their recommendation.

After being denied tenure during their sixth year at the school, faculty members are allowed to reapply during the seventh and final year of their initial contracts.

Tudor said she knows of three faculty members in her building who were granted tenure after initially being denied. She was set to resubmit her portfolio when McMillan issued a memo that he would not allow her to apply this year.

“He said it would be a waste of the faculty’s time — although they were on board,” she said. “And it would enflame tensions between faculty and administration.”

She filed a grievance and the faculty committee voted unanimously to recommend her for tenure.

“Someone who works in the business office who was designated by the president to take the recommendation to the president,” she said decided he was opposed to her tenure and decided not to take the recommendation to the president.

Tudor wondered if that was legal.

The president said she could not reapply because of policy and precedent, but Tudor said she knows of three who successfully reapplied.

The administration began claiming that her scholarship was flawed.

“In the past two years, I’ve have 10 peer-reviewed publications,” she said. “This is a teaching university. The department chair doesn’t have 10.”

The faculty senate passed a resolution supporting her.

“It was an act of courage for them to vote for me,” she said.

When Tudor transitioned four years ago, McMillan questioned whether she could just be summarily dismissed. He was told that would be gender discrimination. She said that gender is included under the Department of Education’s Title IX.

In addition, the faculty senate voted to add gender identity to the school’s nondiscrimination policy, although she is not sure if the administration has recognized that vote.

Oddly, on April 26, the school issued a press release announcing that Tudor would receive an award for outstanding scholarship.

Alan Burton, director of university communications for SOSU, said, “Southeastern Oklahoma State University does not discriminate in its employment practices. The university will not discuss or comment on specific personnel issues.”

Once the semester is over, Tudor said, she plans to fight.

“I’m focused on correcting this injustice,” she said. “If that means staying here in Durant, that’s what I’ll do. I’m committed to seeing justice done here.”

She’s been in touch with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission.

An online petition has been started and she is appealing to the executive director of the Regional University System of Oklahoma that oversees Southeastern State.

—  John Wright