Marquette University, a Catholic university run by Jesuits, has come under fire after rescinding its offer to Seattle University sociologist Jodi O’Brien to serve as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. In a statement to The New York Times, Marquette’s president, Rev. Robert A. Wild, denies that the decision was based on O’Brien’s sexual orientation, instead claiming that concerns arose after the administration “found some strongly negative statements about marriage and family.” At Sexuality & Society, Shari Dworkin and Kari Lerum (who acknowledge that they are long term colleagues of Dr. O’Brien) discuss the backlash that is emerging in response to Marquette’s decision:
This abrupt turn away from O’Brien – a job candidate actively pursued by search committees at Marquette for the past TWO years — has left O’Brien’s extensive and loyal network of colleagues, friends, and students vacilliating [sic.] between complete disbelief and rage. Hundreds of her would-be Marquette colleagues and students are also shocked by this news and have organized several protests. Two Facebook support groups have emerged, one originating from Marquette, one from Seattle University. Marquette Professor of Theology Daniel C. Maguire has written a scathing open letter to Marquette President Robert Wild and Provost John Pauly, calling for Wild’s resignation and for Wild’s successor to re-offer the job to O’Brien.
The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports on the student protests that were spurred by the decision (pictured here):
About 100 students, some carrying signs, protested the decision in front of Marquette’s Alumni Memorial Union, blocking part of Wisconsin Ave. on Thursday afternoon just before an award dinner for Marquette faculty. Some faculty members wore pink and lavender clothing and flowers in protest.
Margaret Steele, a doctoral student in philosophy department, said the decision “was made behind closed doors and very quietly” and seemed to be a “violation of MU values.”
Dworkin and Lerum continue:
When Marquette rescinded their offer, Marquette spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfeil told the Journal Sentinel that this was not specifically due to her sexual orientation but because of some of her scholarship “relating to Catholic mission and identity.”
Marquette’s excuse for reversing their offer is not sitting well with many, including those deeply committed to the Catholic and Jesuit mission. In his letter to Marquette University President Father Wild, Professor Maquire is incredulous that although Father Wild and Provost Pauly based their “decision on an interpretation of what was or what was not compatible with Catholic teaching,” they did not consult Catholic theologians in their decision. Maguire scolds:
(Y)ou did not consult the faculty experts on Catholic moral teaching on this campus. The Theology Department is one of the major theologates in North America, just a few yards away from your offices.
As well, Maguire reminds Father Wild and Provost Pauly that they also ”ignored teachers of ethics in the Philosophy department and professors in Sociology, Dr. O’Brien’s field.”