Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Yip, Yip, hooray!

TV designer Vern Yip has a new house plan: Being dad to 2 kids

STICKY FINGERS | Having children has helped Yip embrace the value of chaos — something he never did on ‘Trading Spaces.’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

It’s a rainy late spring day, and Vern Yip is late for his personal appearance in North Dallas. It’s the kind of thing that — as anyone who has watched Yip over the years on home-improvement shows like Trading Spaces, Deserving Design and Design Star can attest — probably drives the persnickety, precise man insane.

Of course, that attention to detail is also what has made him one of the most popular and respected people in a reality TV industry that often values flash over substance.

Still, with the new season of Design Star about to begin airing, Yip is as enthusiastic as his collected demeanor will allow.

“We’re back in New York again,” Yip says of the upcoming season. “It’s a really, really good season. We walked into my favorite room ever in the history of the series. It’s a very tight competition.”

High praise coming from Yip, a direct and constructively critical judge who does not suffer fools gladly and which can sometime come off as curt. Well, only if you aren’t any good.

“I think I’m very fair,” he says with a touch of defiance.  (At least one contestant from this season — Dallas’ Leslie Ezelle — agrees; see story on Page 34.) “For me, the person who wins this gets their own TV show! That is a huge deal.” And he wants to make sure the prize is deserved.

“We release you into people’s homes. When you design someone’s house, you’re dealing with the biggest investment they will make in their lifetime. I want to make sure you are fully capable of executing your concept.”

So what about clients who have horrible ideas and want you to make them happen? In true Type A personality mode, he says judgment must trump emotion.

“The homeowners are not designers. It up to you as the designer to get to the core, the essence of what they want,” he advises. (Interior designers, he explains, have to pass rigorous testing; those without such certification can only call themselves “decorators.”)

He is not afraid to hold others to his high standards.

“Back on Trading Spaces, if you were on my team, I was a task-master,” admits the compact, handsome and surprisingly energetic designer — though that last title hardly gives him adequate credit. Yip is a licensed interior designer and a practicing architect in addition to his hosting/judging duties on several HGTV series and his extensive charitable work and designing a line of products for I.O. Metro, a retail store with a branch on Alpha Road in North Dallas. And then there’s his latest job description: Dad.

Yip and his partner Craig Koch have two children through surrogacy — the most recent born just a few months before our interview.

“I’ve never been away from my daughter before,” Yip says upon his trip to Dallas. “I’ve always wanted children, to be a dad. It’s an integral part of the human experience. But it’s a balance of the personal and professional lives.”

And the new family is putting all his skills to the test: He’s in the process of putting a 2,400-square-foot addition to his own house.

Wait a sec: How does the notoriously fussy perfectionist with the exacting, geometric style adjust to the chaos that is a house filled with sticky-fingered babies?

“It has already made me a better designer,” Yip says. “Being a dad has made me more aware and loosened me up a little, which I like. I am very O.C.D. Kids make that impossible. You manage the chaos. It’s not like I like having toys everywhere, but it has allowed me to appreciate imperfection.”

…………………………….

YIP’S TIPS: 10 SIMPLE  DECORATING IDEAS

Not everyone can afford a designer — or get on an HGTV show. For the rest of us, Vern Yip offers these suggestions for making your space work for you.

Make your space a reflection of you and your personality; go eclectic! Design no longer has to be relegated to one style for an entire house or even an entire room. Your home should be a reflection of you and a manifestation of your unique personality. Since people are multi-dimensional, your home should be too.

Invest in quality items that will endure. Your home is not a set for a photo shoot or a place that should be off limits; it should be a special atmosphere designed to support the most important moments in your life shared with your family and friends. Invest in quality that will endure. Quality does not equate with price: Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean that it is of high quality. Likewise, just because something is inexpensive doesn’t mean that it is of poor quality. Great quality items at accessible price points can be found in the right places.

Pepper your space with unique pieces! Although the majority of your home will have high quality furniture that will likely be found in other homes across America, or even your neighborhood, look for a handful of furniture pieces that have a unique, hand-crafted quality that really sing to you. Items that have character and show the heart and soul someone put into making them often are wonderful conversation starters.

Don’t be afraid of big and bold. Scale is important in the overall scheme of a room design, so embrace a few bigger items that really can make a statement. Appropriately used, scale makes a room feel balanced and complete. If you fill a room with pieces that are all of the same scale, nothing will pop and the result will be bland and boring. Take a cue from Mother Nature who juxtaposes large trees next to small bushes. It will help make your room feel comfortable to be in.

Use color to stimulate and excite! Color is a powerful design tool and mixing in doses of color into a room can be an easy and fun way to update a space and make it feel like a real reflection of you. Paint is a wonderful way to inject color into your home, but don’t forget throw pillows, throws, rugs and curtains — all phenomenal, easy and often inexpensive ways to liven a room.

Mixing wood tones enriches a space. Many people feel that all of the wood tones in a room have to match; it simply isn’t true. Mixing woods in a singular space can make it feel rich, sophisticated and unique. It is true that sticking to general wood color areas helps pull a room together, so be cautious about mixing woods with tonally unrelated backgrounds (for example, cherry-red undertone doesn’t necessarily look great with maple-yellow). If you look at wood carefully, you will see all kinds of colors in the graining and background.

Invest in open and closed storage. You can never have enough storage! Storage keeps your home looking pulled together and functioning while life happens. Open storage pieces, like bookshelves and consoles, are wonderful for displaying objects and as designated surfaces for decorative pieces that make a home feel warm. A room full of open storage, however, doesn’t function very well because there is no place for the visual pollution to go. That’s where closed storage pieces come in: buffets, end tables with doors and trunks offer easy places to tuck away messier items that don’t necessarily deserve displaying.

Rugs and curtains finish a room! Rugs act as warm, grounding forces in a room while curtains finish off the vertical space flanking windows, adding needed visual comfort. Select your rug and your curtains before selecting your paint to ensure that your room comes together perfectly. The chances of finding a rug and curtains to work perfectly with a predetermined paint color are much worse than starting with a rug and curtains and selecting from the endless array of paint colors that are available. You can customize paint to curtains or a rug but not the other way around.

Every room should have touches of white and black. White is the reflection of all color and black is the absorption of all color, making these two colors the ultimate in neutrals. White and black will literally go with anything. Touches of white in a space will catch the eye and act as a highlight while bits of black will recede and add depth. Adding a little of each to every room through furniture, accessories, textile items and artwork.

Include all kinds of lighting. Recessed cans are great for providing overall illumination in a room, but they won’t complete a room on their own. Table and floor lamps are an important source of warmth and function that inject light at levels that recessed lights can not. Additionally, pendant lights are not only critical sources of light but also offer a chance to hang a floating piece of art.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 1, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Vampire Weekend last night at the Palladium Ballroom

After my conversation with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, I looked forward to reviewing the concert since they get consistent high praise for an outstanding live show. Review tix never happened which kinda stung, but whatevs. I hear it was great.

I did find this video of the song “M79″ which, for what was likely an iPhone or Flip, was pretty great. Props to YouTube poster Mccaslint for keeping a steady hand and great quality. Only made me wish I was there. But I’ve moved on.

Take a look.

—  Rich Lopez