Professor of 41 Years Fired After Hosting Gay Speaker

Michael O'Keefe taught at Oklahoma Christian University for 41 years
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2022 12:55 PM CDT
Professor Says He Was Fired for Hosting Gay Guest Speaker
Stock image of a college classroom.   (Getty Images)

A tenured professor who taught at Oklahoma Christian University for 41 years claims he was fired March 7 for having an openly gay guest speaker address his class. A lawyer for Michael O'Keefe said in a statement to KFOR that the graphic design professor was terminated 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." However, O'Keefe believes he was terminated due to the speaker—an Oklahoma Christian alumnus—he brought to a senior-level class called "The Business of Branding Yourself."

Lawyer Kevin Jacobs continued, "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." Nondoc fills in some of the blanks by way of a Twitter thread posted by Julia Layne, an OC graphic design graduate who talked to O'Keefe on March 8. She says O'Keefe told her that the guest speaker warned the class he would be using two explicit words that were "important to the context of the story" of his "personal journey as a Christian," and that students could leave if that made them uncomfortable.

Layne wrote that, "unbeknownst to O’Keefe," one or more students subsequently complained to administrators about the guest speaker, which prompted the investigation. "The exact nature of the complaint, apart from the student feeling uncomfortable, is unknown," she writes. When asked to respond to O'Keefe's claims, the school had this to say: "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." O'Keefe and his lawyer are considering next steps. (Read more Oklahoma stories.)

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