Prof who served in Trump administration sues Oklahoma State for political discrimination

by WorldTribune Staff, November 27, 2019

A professor at Oklahoma State University says that, despite positive reviews, many recommendations, and several awards for her teaching, she was denied a promotion to full professor.

Whitney Bailey says the primary reason she was denied the promotion was her taking 17 months of unpaid leave to work in the Trump administration in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bailey is now suing five Oklahoma State administrators and faculty members for political discrimination, Valerie Richardson reported for The Washington Times on Nov. 26.

“Mrs. Bailey suffered discrimination at a public University that has been intolerant of her political beliefs and affiliations, but more specifically, her public service for the Trump administration,” said Geoffrey Tabor, an attorney with Ward & Glass in Norman, Oklahoma.

For 13 years, Bailey was an associate professor in OSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Science. In December of 2017 she began a year of unpaid leave to serve in the Trump administration. Her leave was “consistent with the university’s policies on faculty leaves of absences,” Richardson wrote.

Months before taking her leave of absence, Bailey began the process of applying for a full professorship at OSU. She was rejected in a decision “that came the same day as her departure for the federal post,” Richardson noted.

“The final decision in this promotion process was rendered to me 47 minutes prior to my leaving to serve in the Trump administration,” Bailey told the Washington Times.

Bailey said her promotion was rejected even though the faculty committee, on which none of the defendants served, voted 6-2 to recommend her request. Another committee found that the faculty in charge of the process “distressed, confused and humiliated a valuable and productive faculty member.”

After returning to OSU in January, Bailey said the university denied her summer teaching jobs that she had performed since 2010, as well as other assignments, resulting in a loss of compensation.

She was assigned to teach two classes she had never taught before, even though other faculty had taken leaves and returned to their previous assignments without incident. “None of these other similarly-situated faculty members were appointed to the Trump administration, however,” said the lawsuit.

Bailey added that she and her attorneys had spent “many months attempting to work with the university on these matters. Regrettably, those good faith efforts have failed.”

According to Bailey’s lawsuit, she is a Republican, while the provost, dean and three professors in charge of deciding on her promotion are Democrats who made no secret of their dim view of President Donald Trump.

One professor compared a Trump official to a “fictional movie villain,” while Stephan Wilson, dean of the College of Human Sciences, “has a myriad of Facebook posts that readily demonstrate his disdain for President Trump, Republicans, and anyone that aligns with President Trump and his administration,” the complaint said.

Gary Sandefur, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, “has been highly critical of the Trump administration in general, those who voted for President Trump in 2016, and those who appear inclined to vote for President Trump again in 2020,” said the lawsuit.

After Trump was elected in November 2016, OSU offered counseling to employees “who were having difficulty dealing with Trump’s election as President of the United States.”

OSU denied that political considerations were a factor.

“There is no merit to this lawsuit,” the university said in a statement to the Washington Times. “Partisan politics did not play any role in any decision relative to Dr. Bailey’s teaching position and class schedule.”

The lawsuit filed Nov. 18 in Payne County District Court seeks at least $75,000 for economic loss and non-economic damages, including “humiliation, embarrassment, [and] injury to reputation.”

“Plaintiff’s political beliefs, status as a registered Republican, and/or acceptance of an appointment to the Trump administration were substantial or motivating factor in Defendants’ actions,” the lawsuit said.

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