A college professor says her boss accused her of living a lie when she came out as transgender.
Charin Davenport is suing Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan for sex discrimination after she said her supervisor laid her off from her administrative position two months after revealing she was transgender. Ann Coburn-Collins, the director of academic support programs, allegedly tore into Davenport after she asked about the termination.
“You’re a liar; you lied to me, to your family, to your friends; to this university, and to everyone you know,” Coburn-Collins allegedly told her. “Your entire life is just one big lie.
“You disgust me! I can’t even stand to look at you! This is not about your so-called ‘gender identity.’ This is about you being a liar.”
Coburn-Collins did not respond to a request for comment.
Davenport has worked at SVSU since 2007 as an adjunct English professor and was appointed as Coburn-Collins’s assistant in July 2012. The suit alleges that until she came out, Davenport got positive work reviews.
“I want to thank you for your dedication to this office and to our mission,” Coburn-Collins allegedly wrote in a May 2013 review. “You are a valuable colleague who does everything I ask you to do. You seldom say ‘no’ and that has helped ease some of the pressure as I have morphed into my new roles.”
When Davenport came out though, Coburn-Collins stopped “talking to her or even acknowledging her in public places.” Their close relationship, in which Davenport sometimes house-sat for Coburn-Collins, was ruined.
Davenport was told her administrative position was being eliminated “for budgetary reasons,” but the outburst calling her a “liar” indicated otherwise.
Davenport’s attorney, Jennifer Salvatore told The Daily Beast that Davenport initially just filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commision under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act covering employment discrimination. Three years ago, the EEOC ruled in favor of another transgender woman that discrimination against trans people falls under the broader category of sex discrimination. However, dozens of college have been granted exceptions to federal non-discrimination law for religious reasons. As a public college, SVSU wasn’t one of them.
The EEOC ruled in Davenport’s favor, but Salvatore said the university didn’t take satisfactory steps to reconcile with the professor, so Davenport is suing SVSU and Coburn-Collins for monetary damages and compensation.
“We are aware of the lawsuit and we are confident that we will prevail in court, as all the facts come out. SVSU does not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” SVSU said in a statement. “We support all our students, faculty and staff, including those who are members of the LGBT community. We have a Pride Center on campus to serve those individuals and to contribute toward an inclusive campus environment.”
Davenport still teaches at SVSU, but never got her administrative position back. Instead, she also teaches at Delta College.
A U.S. Navy veteran, Davenport was recognized as a Pioneer for Women by Delta College in 2015.
And her success as an educator was no lie, either. Students comments on RateMyProfessor.com are uniformly “Good,” going back to 2009. Unlike Davenport’s supervisor, the reviewers had no problem switching pronouns.
“Char is a very understanding professor,” one reviewer wrote of Davenport’s English 112 class. “If you are having a problem in class talk to her she willing to help you a lot.”
“Although I think many people don’t think this kind of discrimination is illegal, it is,” Salvatore, the attorney, said. “The kinds of things that Ann said to Char, a supervisor would never say to an African-American employee, or a disabled employee.”