OSU Prof., Trump Appointee Sues University Alleging Bias

Thursday, November 21st 2019, 8:28 am
By: Grant Hermes

An Oklahoma State University professor and former Trump Administration appointee is suing the university alleging she’s being punished for working for the President.

Dr. Whitney Bailey, a professor of adulthood and aging, alleges in the lawsuit she was passed over for a promotion after she was appointed to be a senior executive in the Department of Health and Human Services. Bailey took an unpaid leave of absence from OSU to work with the Trump Administration between Dec. 2017 and Jan. 2019.

According to the suit, while with HHS, Bailey kept in contact with OSU officials to push for a promotion in the College of Human Sciences. Despite positive feedback and accolades for her work, she says she was denied because of her position in HHS and her Republican Party membership. That denial she argues is a violation of her First Amendment rights.

Bailey also alleges OSU Provost Gary Sandefur, Dean of the College of Human Sciences Stephan Wilson, Dept. head Sissy Osteen, and the Assistant Dept. Head Jarrod Noftsger expressed a pattern of partisan bias, alleging officials were frequently and publicaly critical of the President and his supporters.

Noftsger allegedly called a Trump official a "fictional movie villain" and said politically conservative views were "why we can't have nice things."

The officials named in the suit were also in charge of Bailey’s promotion request. Bailey also pointed to the presence of counselors on hand at OSU in the days after the 2016 election for students and staff who were upset by the results. The practice was common at universities and school districts across the country.

Bailey returned to OSU in 2019 and was told the denial of her promotion was final. She also says she's been denied a return to several organizations and projects, ultimately denying her income.

A review committee at OSU said those officials "distressed, confused and humiliated" Bailey and showed a "systematic failure to follow university policy."

"OSU is obligated to assist with the legal defense of claims made against its employees acting within the course and scope of their employment," an OSU spokesperson said, adding it would be improper to comment any further.

Bailey also filed a tort claim against OSU last month. Her lawyers said if that is denied they'll likely add the university to this latest lawsuit.