Just three days before Thanksgiving, one of the most loved and most successful coaches at Virginia Commonwealth University was fired -- my friend Coach James Finley. After delivering a 25-6 winning season and graduating every one of his seniors, Coach Finley was unceremoniously shown the door -- for no reason other than being unashamedly who he is...a gay man.
When letting the team know about the news, the Athletic Director who fired Coach Finley said that he wanted to find someone who "better represented VCU." I have trouble believing that VCU could find a better representative than Coach Finley -- a kind and generous man, and an excellent volleyball coach who turned a shambles of a team into the most successful volleyball program in 20 years at VCU.
Virginia, like 28 other states, has no non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) workers. That means that it's completely legal in most places in this country to fire -- or to not hire -- LGBT folks. These kinds of homophobic decisions are made all over the country every day -- but this time, we're fighting back.
My students are angry and scared by this decision, and I feel certain that VCU will lose students, staff, and faculty if this decision is not overturned. Furthermore, as the daughter of an openly gay Division I volleyball coach and as an openly gay Division I field hockey player myself, I'm shocked that Coach Finley has lost his job for the egregious offense of simply being himself.
As a school built upon the values of inclusion and diversity, VCU has an opportunity to lead a national conversation to ensure that one's work is judged solely by their success, not by their sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge you to overturn this decision and to welcome Coach Finley back on campus in time to usher our volleyball team into another winning season next year. Our university is better than this, our state is better than this, and our country is better than this. Reinstate Coach Finley now!
- Camilla Lee Hill, Graduate Assistant for LGBT & Women's Services at VCU
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