Catholic College Faces Legal Battle Over Discrimination Against Nonbinary Staff Member

New England is often regarded as one of the top regions in the US when it comes to education. With its plethora of historic colleges and universities, the area has, unsurprisingly, practices that are more liberal than the rest of the country.

Not So Safe Space

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And while New England is often heralded as a liberal safe haven for young people seeking higher education, recent news may suggest otherwise. News that may cause apprehension in queer students hoping to study in New England.

Distinguished in the Wrong Way

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The distinguished Providence College has been hit with a discrimination charge coming from the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights. The charge cites the college’s practice of mistreatment against students based on their sexuality and gender identity.

A Director Dismissed 

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Who is the individual behind the recently filed charge? Their name is E. Corry Kole, and they are not a student. In fact, they are the former director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Providence College.

Resigned to a New Fate

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Kole resigned from their previous position on March 8th of this year, specifying in their resignation letter that their frustration came from ongoing harassment.

More Harm Than Help

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The former head of diversity, equity, and inclusion identifies as nonbinary, using they/them pronouns. Kole felt that not only was the mistreatment enough to impede their work, but that the requests for help to administration fell on deaf ears.

No Shortage of Allegations

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The charge was filed this past Monday, coming at a time when Providence College is already under strain from allegations of LGBTQ+ students and faculty members. This results from the college being a private and Catholic, informing how some of their policies are developed.

Rebranding Unsuccessful

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In lieu of the public backlash, PC attempted to resolve their image before hiring Kole almost four years ago. Kole, however, is quoted to have been one of the main drivers to creating inclusive spaces for queer students on campus.

A Dot in the Line

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According to Kole’s lawyer, Joseph Daigle, Kole had faced “direct, repeated, patterned, and systemic discrimination”. One of the occurrences quoted in the case center around a senior administrator discouraging Kole from making their pronouns known to the public.

Potential Motive?

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Motivation for the discouragement supposedly stemmed from predicted contempt either from colleagues or notable donors to the college. The school has labeled this allegation as “unsubstantiated”.

More Than Personal

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The efforts being put forth by this charge are not just a means of personal catharsis. Kole is acting on behalf of all queer students and faculty at the school, hoping to catalyze change on an institutional level.

Mental Minefield

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Many members of the LGBTQ+ community undergo significant mental health problems. This often is a result of systemic oppression, making life a much more challenging endeavor. Kole noted that they were no exception.

Taking a Leave

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The mental strain on Kole in their position lead to significant increase in anxiety and post-traumatic stress. It ultimately became so severe that they ended up taking medical leave in order to sort out health.

Support From All Sides

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The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights is currently carrying out a robust investigation, which has roused several powerful reactions from those involved at the school. Current students as well as alumni have made their support for Kole well-known.

Open Letter, Closed Discussion

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Support is not solely generated by the student body. An open letter speaking out against the discrimination of queer community members surfaced shortly after Kole’s resignation. The letter was signed by numerous students and staff members, as well as entire departments.

Cowl or Scowl

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The letter was published in The Cowl, the student-run newspaper. It highlighted the ““collective anger at the hypocrisy toward and systemic oppression of LGBTQ+ people at PC.”

Evidence Accruing

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The letter also contains its own examples of homophobia from administrators, including “flagrant failure to protect and support its LGBTQ+ members—down to prohibiting pride flags and indeed, even the use of the word ‘pride’ or its variants in connection with gender and sexuality,”.

No Debate Needed

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The letter concludes with a list of demands, ranging from acceptance of pride paraphernalia to more open-minded institutional policies. These demands are outlined to ensure the safety and well-being for all individuals that belong to the PC family, regardless of sexuality or gender.

Outcome Unclear

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While it is unsure what the result of the case will be, circumstances like this reveal larger problems within Catholic doctrine. The university’s religious affiliation may not be enough to protect itself, given the overwhelming support for Kole.

The post Catholic College Faces Legal Battle Over Discrimination Against Nonbinary Staff Member first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

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