This was the last tour that Robot House gave to Michael O'Keefe's students back in 2021. As a result of his firing, they have severed all ties with Oklahoma Christian University. courtesy @Brianwinkeler on Twitter

Tenured faculty fired over gay guest speaker

Oklahoma Christian University is not teaching students the importance of inclusivity and diversity.

Oklahoma Christian University allegedly fired a tenured professor for inviting an openly gay guest speaker to his class. This absurdity has received serious backlash for censorship of free speech and overt homophobia.

Michael O’Keefe taught graphic design for 41 years at the university until March 7. The professor brought in an Oklahoma Christian University alumni to speak about their personal challenges and developing resilience in his senior-level class, “The Business of Branding Yourself.” One of the alumni had been an adjunct professor for the private university for almost 20 years. This same alumnus is openly gay.

The university allegedly fired O’Keefe soon after for his “gross misconduct, conduct contrary to the mission and values of Oklahoma Christian University and disregard of the policies and values of the university,” according to Kevin Jacobs, O’Keefe’s lawyer, “Letting students expect a world where you may be different is the message Mr. O’Keefe wanted his students to hear. That’s the message this speaker delivered, not an advocacy of gay rights. Unfortunately, that’s not permitted at Oklahoma Christian University today. It cost Mr. O’Keefe his job.”

Come on people, it’s the 21st century. Same-sex marriage has been legal across the U.S. for seven years now and the LGBTQ community is still fighting for basic rights every day. Apparently one of them is the right to talk with college students about overcoming obstacles — something they probably know about as members of a discriminated and marginalized group.

It is ridiculous for a university to censor and restrict the conversations on their campus, where students are preparing to enter the real world. Newsflash — nothing is off-limits in the real world. College is a place where students should be able to have new experiences and participate in conversations freely, effectively getting a taste of the real world in a safe environment. The university’s homophobic alleged decision to fire O’Keefe for inviting an openly gay speaker to enlighten his students is preposterous. And honestly, it’s dangerous.

This decision impacts the students just as well as O’Keefe. It sends a message that being openly gay is not okay; that having a purely academic discussion with an openly gay person is not okay. These are not ideas that should be perpetuated, especially amongst those who have just reached adulthood and are only just beginning to figure out who they are. Universities are inclined to be diverse and inclusive. Oklahoma Christian University is obviously neither.

The fact that the university almost immediately terminated the employment of a tenured professor for this reason is, in my opinion, insane. Not only had the guest speaker attended the school, but they had worked as an adjunct for two decades. The speaker was no stranger to the private university. Could there have been more to the university’s decision than the guest speaker simply being gay? If there were, some spokesperson surely would have come out and said so by now to avoid the backlash. The only response to O’Keefe’s allegations has been a statement from Oklahoma Christian University’s Chief Legal Counsel Stephen Eck, “The decision to end employment was made after a thorough review process. The university will always put first the wellbeing of our students in every decision we make.” The university seems to have a twisted perception of what students’ wellbeing looks like.

Post Author: Shelby Hiens