Spring Arbor and Transgender Dean Settle

Christian university resolves discrimination complaint by former associate dean who says gender identity led to firing.
March 14, 2007

A discrimination complaint filed by a transgender faculty member and former dean against a Christian university in Michigan has been settled “to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.” Neither side provided details. But Julie (formerly John) Nemecek said that though she is looking for work, “there’s not an immediate urgency for it.”

Nemecek filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Spring Arbor University, an institution affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, after receiving a termination notice this winter. The notice came more than a year after she first alerted her supervisor to her diagnosis of gender identity disorder. Nemecek, an ordained Baptist minister, was subsequently demoted from her position as associate dean of the School of Adult Studies, restricted to online instruction, and presented with strict contract stipulations (including that she “refrain from discussing his transgender situation with Spring Arbor University personnel or students”).

Spring Arbor officials declined to elaborate on the terms of the settlement Tuesday, but in a statement  indicated that “[w]e are pleased to announce that the charge of discrimination against Spring Arbor University has been withdrawn, and we have resolved this issue to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.” The statement continued to express appreciation for the prayers and support directed the university’s way, and said college officials “are eager to get back to our focus on providing a world-class Christian liberal arts education.”

Nemecek, who will remain on Spring Arbor’s payroll through the end of May, expressed satisfaction with the outcome: “Our hope was probably two-fold. One was to get the word out and help people begin to understand transgender issues. A lot of people are thinking about it and talking about it that weren’t before.... Our other goal was to be treated with justice and fairness and I think that has ultimately happened, too.”

Nemecek has applied for jobs with some colleges and is looking into the possibility of consulting work and advocacy for transgender rights. On Monday night, she initiated a possible side career as a speaker, standing side by side with her wife, Joanne, as they told their story to about 100 students at Eastern Michigan University. 


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