The Advance-Titan

Former administrator alleges anti-gay discrimination

Courtesy of UW-Oshkosh

Courtesy of UW-Oshkosh

Nate Proell, News Writer

A former UW Oshkosh Vice Chancellor said he did not get a different UWO job because he is white and was subsequently discriminated against because he is gay, according to a complaint filed with the state of Wisconsin.

Brandon Miller, who served as Associate Vice Chancellor of enrollment management and the Interim Vice Chancellor of student affairs, stated Chancellor Andrew Leavitt and Vice Chancellor Cheryl Green violated the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act, a charge the University denies.

“UWO asserts that Dr. Miller was terminated because he behaved rudely toward both coworkers and superiors and because he failed to complete assignments in a timely or competent matter,” UWO stated in a response to Miller’s allegations filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. “Toward the end of his employment at UWO, Dr. Miller displayed a lack of the skills and professionalism necessary to perform his job. UWO denies discriminating against or retaliating against Miller and asserts that no employer would have put up with Miller’s performance.”

However, Miller stated he was terminated from his position on Jan. 8 based on discriminatory reasons, according to a complaint filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Miller’s lawyer, Peter Culp, said he does not believe the information in UWO’s response to the complaint is true.

“I don’t believe it is accurate and we are not concerned about the defense,” Culp said.

According to the complaint, Miller considered applying for the full-time position of Associate Vice Chancellor of student affairs. However, when Miller mentioned to Leavitt his desire to apply, Miller stated Leavitt discouraged him from applying.

Miller stated Leavitt told him, “Black women typically serve in that role,” and “I need to hire a black woman for that role,” according to the discrimination complaint.

After conducting a nationwide search, UWO hired Cheryl Green, an African-American woman, on May 5, 2017 from Tennessee State University to fill the job. Green served as assistant vice president of student affairs for five years at TSU.

With the hire of Green, Miller returned to his role at enrollment management, meaning he would now be reporting to Green. However, upon Green’s arrival, she created a very uncomfortable atmosphere for Miller, according to the complaint.

Miller’s complaint stated he experienced discrimination based on his sexuality of being gay. He stated Green made statements such as, “You should be lucky to be this high up in light of being gay,” and “I forgot you people are able to marry these days.”

It is also stated Green was unwelcoming of Miller to the point where she would not want to be near him would say in disgust, “Don’t sit by me.”

According to the complaint, Miller informed the human resources department and scheduled a meeting with Leavitt to discuss his concerns, but was fired shortly after making his concerns known.

“That action – Miller being fired – was taken because of the complaint’s sexual orientation and in retaliation for reporting discriminatory treatment,” Miller’s discrimination complaint states. “Respondent, and its agents, employees and representatives violated the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act in all the ways mentioned above and more.”

In response to Leavitt’s comments on the hiring process for the position of Vice Chancellor of student affairs, UWO stated Leavitt does not remember making those statements.

“The search firm originally produced a pool of ten racially diverse but all-male candidates. Chancellor Leavitt asked the firm to develop some female candidates,” UWO’s response stated. “At no time did Chancellor Leavitt ever say to anyone that black women normally held the position of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, nor would such a statement have been true. In the late spring when presented with four finalists (a black female, a Hispanic male, and two white males), Chancellor Leavitt may have remarked that he was pleased with the diversity of the finalist pool, but he does not recall saying that he wanted to hire a black woman.”

UWO also stated Green never made the remarks Miller alleges she did.

“At no time did Dr. Green ever display ‘blatant animus’ towards Dr. Miller regarding his sexual orientation,” UWO stated. “She never said, ‘You should be lucky to be this high up in light of being gay,’ nor ‘I forgot you people are able to marry these days’, ‘don’t sit by me’ (in disgust.) In fact, Dr. Green made no statements that are even remotely like those allegations. Dr. Miller’s statements are untruths.”

In the response to Miller’s termination, UWO stated again Miller was solely terminated for underperforming at his position.

“Miller was terminated for being a thoroughly unprofessional employee whose performance was substandard at best,” UWO stated.

However, in an annual performance evaluation conducted by UWO in September 2017, Miller’s level of performance was said to be “meets expectations.”

In Miller’s performance evaluation, Leavitt stated in the supervisor summary that he was in fact very pleased with Miller.

“Dr. Miller has served well as the interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs,” Leavitt stated in Miller’s evaluation. “He moved the division forward during a challenging budget time. A number of critical and successful hires were made under his supervision. It is my belief the division is in a much better place after a year of his leadership. I thank Dr. Miller for his excellent work.”

Miller received a 5.8 percent salary raise effective on July 1, 2017 in relation to his position as Associate Vice Chancellor of enrollment management.

Leavitt also stated in the supervisor summary that he was anticipating Miller’s return to his original position of Associate Vice Chancellor of enrollment management.

“I look forward to Dr. Miller’s return to full-time enrollment management,” Leavitt wrote. “I know the developing Strategic Enrollment Planning process, under his leadership, will set the course for years to come on how we can strategically manage the enrollment of UW Oshkosh.”

In addition to refuting the claims Miller made in his complaint, UWO has argued Miller’s complaint is invalid due to the fact that he filed it past the 300-day limit, in respect to Green’s hire.

In response to UWO’s statement on Miller being unable to file a complaint, Culp said that information is false.

“Not true, not accurate and not concerned,” Culp said in regards to Miller being unable to file a complaint siting that Green’s hire was not disclosed until July 1, 2017 which is when the 300-day limit starts. Miller’s complaint was filed on March 20, 2018.

Brandon Miller’s Discrimination Complaint

UW Oshkosh Response

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Former administrator alleges anti-gay discrimination