At many colleges, human resources officials are leaders in promoting equity and diversity among those who study and work together. And while colleges periodically debate views of various officials that are seen as biased against various groups, it is highly unusual for the head HR official at a university to be the source of such a controversy.
But at the University of Toledo, a column in a local paper by Crystal Dixon, the associate vice president of human resources, has set off such a debate and resulted in her being placed on a paid leave, pending possible further action.
In the column in The Toledo Free Press, Dixon asserted that gay people can change their sexual orientation and questioned how gay people could ever be considered "civil rights victims."
Wrote Dixon: "As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo's Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are 'civil rights victims.' Here's why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle...."
Dixon also cited as evidence for her position "irrefutable" data showing higher than average salaries of gay people, and she cited religious teachings. "There is a divine order. God created human kind male and female (Genesis 1:27). God created humans with an inalienable right to choose. There are consequences for each of our choices, including those who violate God's divine order. It is base human nature to revolt and become indignant when the world or even God Himself, disagrees with our choice that violates His divine order," she wrote. "Jesus Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin (John 8:1-11.) Daily, Jesus Christ is radically transforming the lives of both straight and gay folks and bringing them into a life of wholeness: spiritually, psychologically, physically and even economically. That is the ultimate right."
While Dixon did not identify herself as the university's chief HR official, she referenced university policies and her job is well known among those who work at the university.
The university's anti-bias policies explicitly state that discrimination protections cover sexual orientation, and university officials have condemned anti-gay discrimination. In addition, while university officials have said that they are working to obtain partner benefits for gay employees, some have criticized the university for not doing enough in that regard.
Dixon did not respond to messages and her automatic reply e-mail states that she is "out of the office the next few weeks."
A spokesman for the university confirmed that she was on paid leave because of the column. There may be further action, the spokesman said, following a meeting between Dixon and Lloyd Jacobs, president of the university.
On Friday, Jacobs published his own column in The Toledo Free Press, in which he said that he felt the need to publicly "repudiate" Dixon's statements.
"Although I recognize it is common knowledge that Crystal Dixon is associate vice president for Human Resources at the University of Toledo, her comments do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo. It is necessary, therefore, for me to repudiate much of her writing," he wrote. Jacobs noted that he has "supported the revival of a Safe Places" program at Toledo, to assure gay students and employees that there are welcoming offices and people at the university and that he has placed a Safe Places sticker on his office door.
He said that there was currently an "asymmetry" in benefits packages for employees, and said he was working to correct that.
Equality Toledo, a gay rights organization, has called on the university to dismiss Dixon. Robert Salem, a board member of the group at a clinical professor of law at the university, said he was hopeful that the leave was a first step toward "doing the right thing" and firing Dixon.
Salem said he and other gay professors were "disappointed and stunned" that a senior university official could espouse "such ignorant views." That such an official had a role in assuring equity on campus makes the conclusions clear, he said: "She cannot do her job effectively."