All seven members of the faculty Senate at Gordon College resigned last week in an apparent show of support for a professor who claims that she was denied a promotion because she criticized the Christian school’s opposition to same-sex relationships.
The resignations represented the latest rift to emerge between the faculty and the administration at the small evangelical school in Wenham, which forbids professors, students, and staff from engaging in “homosexual practice” on or off campus.
In a complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Margaret DeWeese-Boyd, an assistant professor of sociology, asserts that the college president and provost denied her a promotion to full professor because she has openly criticized the policy since 2013.
DeWeese-Boyd says she has spoken against the ban at a faculty meeting, signed a petition opposing it, organized trainings and events related to gay rights, and directly addressed Gordon’s president, D. Michael Lindsay, about the school’s stance.
In February, Lindsay and the provost denied DeWeese-Boyd’s promotion, overriding the unanimous recommendation of the faculty Senate, according to the professor’s complaint.
On Wednesday, the members of the Senate announced at a faculty meeting that they had resigned, said Hillary Schwab, DeWeese-Boyd’s lawyer.
Without naming DeWeese-Boyd, the faculty members cited the president’s refusal to follow the Senate’s recommendations for promotions, Schwab said. In addition to DeWeese-Boyd, Schwab said, another professor who has spoken out in support of gay rights was denied a promotion in February, disregarding the Senate’s recommendation.
“For the Senate to take such strong action to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the way the president and provost are acting is very unusual,” Schwab said. “It’s my understanding the faculty responded to the resignations with sustained applause.”
Paul Miller, a 2008 alumnus who help found OneGordon, a group that promotes gay rights on campus, says the professors who resigned from the Senate may hold varying views on the school’s policy on same-sex relationships. But the action, he said, was further indication of the faculty’s frustration with what he called Lindsay’s top-down management style.
Rick Sweeney, a college spokesman, said that Gordon’s provost, Janel Curry, addressed the resignations at Wednesday’s faculty meeting.
“While this was a surprise, Dr. Curry offered a brief response at the meeting thanking them for their service [their work had concluded for the semester] and confirming that both she and the college leadership have a very different interpretation of the situation and that they should allow time to explore how to bridge the gap in perspectives,” Sweeney said in a statement.
Sweeney added that the college has “strong and pointed disagreement” with the allegations made in DeWeese-Boyd’s complaint to the state antidiscrimination agency, but will not comment further because the college does not discuss “personnel issues.”
Gordon, home to 1,600 students, has been struggling with gay rights since 2014, when Lindsay and 13 religious leaders asked President Obama for an exemption from a planned executive order banning discrimination in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation.
The group argued the ban would “come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity, and religious freedom.”
But many faculty, students, and alumni denounced the request as discriminatory, and an online petition condemning it garnered more than 3,000 signatures.
Salem officials responded by ending a contract that allowed Gordon to manage the city’s Old Town Hall, and the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee voted to move the high school’s graduation ceremony off Gordon’s campus.
Last year, Lauren Barthold, a philosophy professor at Gordon, sued the college, alleging that Lindsay and the board of trustees retaliated against her after she wrote a letter to the Salem News and was quoted in a Globe article criticizing Lindsay’s request to Obama.
Barthold alleged that, after threatening to fire her, the college denied her right to apply for a promotion and removed her as director of the gender studies minor.
Under the terms of a settlement reached last year, Barthold agreed to resign from the college, after completing a previously awarded research fellowship at the University of Connecticut.Michael Levenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.