EV Statement On VCU Coach Firing
Take Action NowTell VCU President Michael Rao to reinstate VCU Coach James Finley and tell Virginia's legislators that you support protecting LGBT state employees at http://supportsb701.org.
Update Dec. 20, 2012: VCU released the results of their investigation through the statement below:
The VCU Office of Institutional Equity has completed an Equal Employment Opportunity investigation of the non-renewal of James Finley’s contract. The report, submitted to VCU President Michael Rao, determined that Finley’s discrimination complaint was unfounded and that the employment action was taken in compliance with VCU employment practices and policies. “The Office of Institutional Equity’s exhaustive investigation confirmed that the employment decision was made in accordance with VCU policies and not as the result of any discriminatory action by our athletic director,” said Rao. “I continue to have confidence in the process that produced the report and in Ed McLaughlin as VCU’s athletic director. “We work vigorously across the university to ensure that VCU is an inclusive and fair community, embracing all people of all backgrounds,” Rao said. “I have a personal, passionate commitment to advancing diversity in all of its forms and expect the same of my senior leadership team.” The investigation included fact-finding interviews with 16 individuals and a review of applicable personnel records. The investigation concluded that allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientation were unsubstantiated. The details of the report cannot be released publicly by VCU without the consent of the complainant because they include confidential personnel information. “This case has served as an opportunity to open new discussion and explore exemplary practices in how we demonstrate our commitment to diversity at VCU,” said Wanda Mitchell, vice president of diversity and equity. “We will be engaging the university community to consider new ways of moving forward to ensure that VCU continues to be a national leader in promoting access, equity, diversity and excellence as a public urban research university.” Mitchell said that in the near future her office will announce several initiatives to further strengthen diversity efforts at VCU. These initiatives will include opportunities for professional development among senior leadership and others that ensures advocacy for diverse and inclusive environments and promotes a culture of civility and respect for all individuals.
Update Dec. 6, 2012: Finley appeared on ESPN via phone to answer questions about the allegations providing insight into the investigation. Read the full article here.
Update Nov. 30, 2012: This e-mail sent to the VCU community was shared with Equality Virginia:
To the VCU and VCU Health System Communities: In the past several days, I have heard from many members of the VCU community who support our commitment to diversity in its many dimensions. Now, as always, we assert and will firmly and clearly reassert that our commitment is central, enduring and unequivocal. My leadership team and I are profoundly committed to diversity and work to cultivate an academic and work environment that is safe and supportive. We will accept nothing less. VCU will always proudly champion diversity as a core value. We are a community that seeks to embrace and learn from one another, not simply tolerate one another. We will also remember that an essential part of this shared commitment and understanding is treating all people fairly and respectfully -- without presumptions of their intent, beliefs or actions. This can be especially difficult—but most important to do—when an issue confronts us. In this particular instance, the facts related to the non-renewal of Coach Finley’s contract are under investigation by the Office of Institutional Equity to determine if there was bias or improper motive in the employment decision. It is incumbent upon all of us to not rush to judgment and allow the investigation to proceed in a way that is fair to all. When we face a challenge within our community, we have the opportunity for dialogue and reflection and a chance to further advance our core values. We will always be a welcoming university that celebrates and understands its diversity as a rich asset, and we will never tolerate any act of prejudice or discrimination in any corner of VCU. We will continue to work and engage with you to support our shared commitments to equity, fairness and diversity. Sincerely, Michael Rao President, VCU and the VCU Health System
Update Nov. 29, 2012: Equality Virginia joined Equality VCU and other community members today for a meeting with university leadership. The discussion confirmed the only other personnel change in the athletic department under new Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin involved an out lesbian -- because of this revelation, EV firmly believes attention must be paid to Mr. Finley's claims that his coaching contract was not renewed because he is an out gay man. VCU stated that the investigation is moving forward and will be completed within 45 days. If the investigation proves Finley did lose his job for being an out gay man, EV expects VCU to reinstate him as women's volleyball coach.
EV has been in touch with the Finley-Sternlicht family and will be following the case closely. EV is glad that VCU has decided to investigate this situation further and finds the accusations very troubling if true. In Virginia, you can be fired or not hired based on your sexual orientation or gender identity. While the university has an inclusive diversity policy, it does not hold legal ground because of lack of state protections. Yesterday, James Finley, alleged that he lost his job as VCU volleyball coach because he is gay. NBC12 report follows:NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News, Weather, Traffic This situation emphasizes the need for protections at the state level for LGBT Virginians and EV continues its work on legislation in the upcoming General Assembly. SB701 will protect LGBT state employees from discrimination in the workplace and supporters are encouraged to visit SupportSB701.org for more information.