A former professor of Oklahoma Christian University (OC) claims he was fired for bringing a gay guest speaker to his class.
Michael O’Keefe spent 41 years as a graphic design professor at the school before he was terminated. His attorney said OC cited “gross misconduct, conduct contrary to the mission and values of Oklahoma Christian University and disregard of the policies and values of the university.”
“[He was fired] because he brought in a guest speaker, who was a former alum, to visit with the students about how he overcame a personal challenge,” O’Keefe’s wife, Lori Osley, wrote on Facebook. “However, he was gay. Again, he only spoke about his personal journey, not to promote any type of lifestyle.”
Stephen Eck, chief legal counsel for the university, said the firing occurred after “a thorough review process” focused on “the well-being of our students.”
“Letting students expect a world where you may be different is the message Mr. O’Keefe wanted his students to hear,” said O’Keefe’s attorney, Kevin Jacobs. “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.”
At least one student allegedly complained to the university about the speaker, according to Julia Layne, who tweeted that she is a former student of O’Keefe and spoke to him about the incident.
“Unbeknownst to O’Keefe, the student (or possibly students) complained to the OC administration about the guest speaker. The exact nature of the complaint, apart from the student feeling uncomfortable, is unknown,” Layne wrote.
“The OC administration then proceeded to investigate the incident. After an investigation, they determined that the guest speaker’s presentation was inappropriate and therefore Michael O’Keefe should be terminated.”
Layne added that she knows there were two explicit words used in the presentation, but that the speaker gave a trigger warning in advance. She also called O’Keefe “an amazing man and professor who has given years of his life to OC and to his students.”
“O’Keefe is the kind of professor who sets his students up for success in every way. I know for certain that I would not be where I am today without Michael O’Keefe.”
Unbeknownst to O’Keefe, the student (or possibly students) complained to the OC administration about the guest speaker. The exact nature of the complaint, apart from the student feeling uncomfortable, is unknown.
— Julia (@julialayne_) March 13, 2022
His wife added, “I have personally seen how Michael has given his heart in soul to these kids at the school. We have had kids show up on our doorsteps crying and anxious and he has taken the time for them.”
Another person tweeted that O’Keefe “is the only reason I graduated college. he is the only one who listened to me, and genuinely was just there for me. i would not be who i am today without this man in my life.”
michael o’keefe is the only reason i graduated college. he is the only one who listened to me, and genuinely was just there for me. i would not be who i am today without this man in my life. https://t.co/cpxhuhUtrz
— baja blast 🇺🇦 (@mak_o_lantern) March 14, 2022
At the moment, O’Keefe is not taking legal action against the school. Jacobs said he is still considering his options.