GSPM director allegedly discriminated against gay ex-staffer

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Graduate School of Political Management Director Mark Kennedy is under fire from an ex-employee for alleged discrimination based on sexual orientation.

An ex-staffer in the Graduate School of Political Management is claiming that the college’s top leader discriminated against him for being gay, according to an email obtained by The Hatchet.

David Marshall, who worked as GSPM’s executive coordinator before he was fired last month, alleges that GSPM Director Mark Kennedy, a former Republican congressman, created a “hostile work environment” and discriminated against him based on his sexual orientation, an email from Marshall’s lawyer to GW’s Office of General Counsel says.

University spokeswoman Candace Smith said the grievance is under review by GW’s personnel office, but declined to comment further.

“Mr. Marshall filed a grievance in response to a personnel action taken against him, as is his right,” she said in an email. “It is university policy not to comment on specific personnel actions.”

Marshall did not return multiple requests for comment. He was put on paid administrative leave in April and fired in May after a University investigation against him, according to the email.

The email from Marshall’s lawyer to the general counsel’s office, sent June 3, requests documents from GW employees “who say or report that they witnessed or were subject to unlawful or inappropriate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation committed by or from Mark Kennedy.”

The accusation comes at a University known for its large gay population and workplace acceptance, regularly receiving high rankings from the nonprofit organization Campus Pride. The University opened an LGBT Resource Center five years ago and sponsored staffers who marched in the Capital Pride Parade June 8.

Kennedy said in an email June 8 that Marshall did not report to him, and that “the decision to end his employment at the university was reviewed and approved by Human Resources and was entirely proper.”

“There are processes in place within the university for employees to grieve termination decisions and out of respect for that process, I will not say more,” he added.

Kennedy was hired in January 2012, coming aboard to lead the small graduate school after faculty discontent led to a volatile director search. He has looked to grow slumping enrollment and expand the school internationally, landing a $2.4 million investment from the University to help achieve these goals.

Two years ago, GSPM’s adjunct faculty and alumni lobbied the administration to be included in the 2011 search for a new director, which meant starting a second search to find the leader. The move caused some strife between the school’s faculty and administration, but faculty were largely pleased with Kennedy’s selection at the time.

Kennedy was in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007, voting with his party 91 percent of the time, according to a Washington Post database. He voted to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in two failed attempts in 2004 and 2006.

Marshall’s lawyer, Paul K. Mancini, said in a phone interview that the hearings with GW’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity & HR Policy Compliance had not yet been scheduled, which was “a little surprising because we submitted the request on [May] 17th, so they’re a little behind.”

He declined to comment on the case further before speaking with Marshall.

Once a formal complaint is submitted, the office has 10 days to form a three-person committee to review it. The committee then has 15 days to accept or reject the request for a hearing, according to the University’s website.

GSPM houses nearly 450 graduate students in its three programs: legislative affairs, strategic public relations and political management. It is one of the few political management schools in the country, and has looked to show off its political bent to attract budding campaigners and strategists.

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