Marquette Warrior: May 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

State Government Bullies Target Marquette Over Dean Search Fiasco

A press release from the office of Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton.
MADISON - Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton, in her capacity as chair of the Wisconsin Arts Board, sent the following letter today to Marquette University’s Haggerty Museum of Art Director Wally Mason:

At its May 14, 2010 meeting, the Wisconsin Arts Board voted unanimously to defer action on the Haggerty Museum’s application for a fiscal year 2011 Creation and Presentation grant until our meeting September 11, 2010.

The Wisconsin Arts Board members expressed unanimous concern that serious questions suggesting discriminatory hiring practices at Marquette University had been recently raised in the press and remained unresolved. Board members asked for more time to investigate and ensure that any grant approved was consistent with our mission as the state agency which “nurtures creativity, cultivates expression, promotes the arts, supports the arts in education, stimulates community and economic development and serves as a resource for people of every culture and heritage.” Our clearly stated values include “freedom of expression” and “respect and appreciation for all cultures and people.”

We welcome any materials you believe may be instructive as the Wisconsin Arts Board studies the situation and weighs their decision. I will inform you of that decision immediately following the September meeting.
Of course, private individuals have the right to support or not support a private institution, depending on their beliefs. But this is government action, discriminating against Marquette for protecting its (supposed) religious identity.

Now this raises an interesting question for those politically correct people who think it an outrage that people outside Marquette (including the local Archbishop) intervened in a hiring decision made by Marquette, insisting that a lesbian dean candidate whose writings flatly opposed Catholic teaching on sexuality was inappropriate.

Supposedly, “academic freedom” requires that Marquette not be responsive to any outside forces.

So what are these people going to say now that state government is trying to intervene in the affairs of Marquette, in effect punishing the University for a hiring decision they dislike?

We know the answer to that. Those folks will be citing this as a reason Marquette needs to get on the politically correct side of the issue and forget Church teaching.

Another irony: the Board invokes “respect and appreciation for all cultures and people,” and then shows it is willing to trample on people who adhere to a Catholic view of sexuality.

It seems that just as “diversity” only involves the espousal of ideas and values congenial to politically correct people, “respect and appreciation for all cultures and people” only includes “cultures and people” that liberals happen to agree with.

If the Board turns down the Haggerty grant, Marquette should sue for religious discrimination. It’s doubtful Marquette will do this, however. The Administration (and Fr. Wild) let a rogue search committee pick a dean candidate radically at odds with the Catholic nature of the University, and then embraced the search committee decision.

Then, when opposition in the local Catholic community emerged, it rescinded the job offer.

So even when Marquette happens to be making the correct decision, it does it for craven reasons.

So we doubt the Administration will have the guts to treat this use of government power to bully Marquette as the outrage it is.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Academic Freedom For “Anti-Gay” Views? Not With the Obama Administration

From Metro Weekly:
Jonathan I. Katz, a professor of astrophysics at Washington University in St. Louis, “will no longer be involved in the [Energy] Department’s efforts” at addressing the oil spill continuing to spread in the Gulf of Mexico, a department spokesperson relayed on Monday night, May 17.

The news came after what that department employee, Stephanie Mueller, termed “controversial writings” – which included a “defense of homophobia” – spread out over the Web on Monday, writings of which she said the department was unaware when it sought his assistance.

On May 12, Energy Secretary Steven Chu “assembled a group of top scientific experts from inside and outside of government to join in today’s discussions in Houston about possible solutions,” according to a department news release. Katz was one of five outside scientists noted in the release. Bloomberg News reported about the group of scientists on May 14, reporting Chu “signaled his lack of confidence in the industry experts trying to control BP Plc’s leaking oil well by hand-picking a team of scientists with reputations for creative problem solving.”

Once news of the team spread, some of Katz’s writings were discovered at his university website, including one titled, “In Defense of Homophobia.” In the essay, dated May 13, 1999, he wrote about the “rationalist” and the religious person’s views of homosexuality.

“The religious believer may see the hand of God, but both he and the rationalist must see a fact of Nature. The human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts. Engaging in such behavior is like riding a motorcycle on an icy road without a helmet,” Katz wrote. “It may be possible to get away with it for a while, and a few misguided souls may get a thrill out of doing so, but sooner or later (probably sooner) the consequences will be catastrophic. Lethal diseases spread rapidly among people who do such things.”

More than 10 years later, Energy Department spokesperson Stephanie Mueller was announcing on Monday night – less than a week after being described as “our best scientific minds” by Chu – that “[s]ome of Professor Katz’s controversial writings have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill.”

Writing that Chu “has spoken with dozens of scientists and engineers as part of his work to help find solutions to stop the oil spill,” she referenced the writings and stated, “Professor Katz will no longer be involved in the Department’s efforts.”

In response to an inquiry from Metro Weekly about whether Chu or the Energy Department was aware of Katz’s additional writings before he was selected to help with the oil spill, Mueller responded, “No, the Secretary was not aware and disagrees with them. The Department wasn’t aware either.”
So . . . Katz was appointed to a scientific panel, but when his “controversial writings” were discovered it was determined they “have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill.” He was then canned.

Does this remind anybody of anything that has recently happened at Marquette?

Do any of the people who have been prating about “academic freedom” and “nondiscrimination” mind this one little bit?

No, they are doubtless quite happy about it.

Of course, it’s quite reasonable to argue that presenting a public image consistent with the Catholic mission of Marquette is a “bona fide occupational qualification” for a dean here.

But the only qualification for the oil spill panel was the scientific acumen to get the spill stopped.

But then, one could argue that, under the Obama administration, placating interest groups that are part of his base is a “bona fide occupational qualification.” This is politics, after all.

But that is a bit hard to swallow for a panel that is supposed to be all about science.

Further, if Obama has a right to placate the gay lobby on a scientific panel, a Republican president has an equal right to placate conservative Christians with appointments — even appointments to scientific panels.

And Marquette certainly has a right to placate conservative Catholics that are part of its core constituency, especially given that Marquette is a private university with a right — both legal and moral — to protect its Catholic identity.

Cases like this reveal the fact that rhetoric about “academic freedom” and “diversity” and “non-discrimination” coming from liberal and leftist faculty are meaningless blather.

By “academic freedom” they mean freedom for views they agree with; by “diversity” they mean more hires of people who share their political ideology; by “non-discrimination” they mean protection of politically correct victim groups.

Discrimination against whites, males, and straights is not merely something they practice, it’s something they loudly defend.

Hat Tip: Charlie Sykes

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O’Brien Not First Gay Scholar Offered Arts & Sciences Deanship

From the Journal-Sentinel:
Jodi O’Brien isn’t the only Seattle University scholar studying gay and lesbian issues who had been offered a top-tier job at Marquette University.

Isiaah Crawford, Seattle University’s provost, was offered the job of dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2001. It’s the same position that Marquette officials offered to O’Brien but later rescinded.

“Close to a decade ago, an offer was presented to me by Marquette University to become a member of their academic leadership team,” Crawford said in a statement to the Journal Sentinel. “I declined the opportunity because of personal and professional commitments in Chicago.” At the time, Crawford was a psychology professor at Loyola University Chicago.

Crawford declined through a school spokeswoman to comment beyond the statement.

Marquette announced May 6 that it was rescinding a job offer to O’Brien, a lesbian scholar, because of concerns relating to Marquette’s “Catholic mission and identity” and their incompatibility with some of O’Brien’s scholarly writings. The university said the decision to pull the job had nothing to do with O’Brien’s sexual orientation. Some members of the search committee that recommended O’Brien said they believed her sexual orientation played a role in the reversal.

Crawford, who also is openly gay, described O’Brien as “valued member of our university community” in a statement last week.

In response to an e-mailed question, O’Brien said Crawford has been very helpful since Marquette’s decision to pull the job offer. She said the two did talk about the fact that Crawford was offered the Marquette deanship several years ago.

As with O’Brien, some of Crawford’s scholarship at Loyola concerned the Catholic Church’s teaching about homosexuality. He and a colleague co-authored a paper, published in 2001, arguing there’s “nothing inherently pathological or disordered” about gays and lesbians and that the church should base any pastoral outreach on that argument.

In 1998, he co-authored a paper examining psychosocial and legal perspectives on gay and lesbian parenting.

He won an award in 2001 from the American Psychological Association, given to scholars who have disseminated science and scholarship on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Crawford was appointed provost of Seattle University in July 2008. He was a tenured psychology professor at Loyola when he received the Marquette offer, according to an online biography. He served as Loyola’s Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences from 2003 to 2008.

Asked to comment on the job offer to Crawford, Marquette spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfeil said in a statement: “Each personnel decision is made individually, based on a candidate’s record. . . . In no case does the university discriminate on the basis of age, culture, faith, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability or social class.”

Marquette held final exams last week, but the debate continues among those who remain on campus. A group of student critics of the decision on O’Brien called Wednesday for several professional and political organizations to censure Marquette. Earlier this week, a group gathered on Marquette’s campus in support of the decision.
It’s clear from this that the level of scrutiny applied to all external dean candidates (and Provost candidates, when that issue comes up) needs to be ratcheted up. Had Crawford taken the job the reaction might or might not have been the same as with Jodi O’Brien, but Marquette clearly needs to face these controversies earlier in the process, rather than later.

And if Marquette doesn’t want an Arts & Sciences Dean whose highly public positions are contrary to the Catholic mission, it should appoint a Selection Committee not inclined to flout Church teaching.

Or (probably better still) hire internally, promoting somebody who is a known quantity.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yet Another Faculty Manifesto — This One in Support of Lesbian Arts & Sciences Dean Candidate

It seems like a lot of faculty members want to express their opinions on the recent dean search fiasco in which candidate Jodi O’Brien had her job offer rescinded because a number of her published writings were flatly at odds with the Catholic mission of the university.

Whatever one thinks of Catholic identity, it’s been a huge fiasco.

Now we have (this circulated for several days without our getting our hands on it) the Chair of the Psychology Department, one of the more politically correct departments on campus, weighing in with a letter to members of the Academic Senate. We will insert out comments, but the entire unedited text of the statement is included.
From: Nielson, Kristy
Sent: Sunday, May 09, 2010 10:04 AM
To: [distribution list deleted]
Subject: A message to my Senate colleagues

Dear Senate Colleagues,

I write to you in what I consider to be the darkest hour of my time at Marquette. I came here 14 years ago starting on the same day that Father Wild began his role as President of Marquette. I respect him and I have learned from him; hopefully I have helped him learn too, at least a little about shared governance. However, today, I find that I must speak out against the actions that he has taken regarding the Arts and Sciences dean search. It is a decision that will have very lasting negative effects on the faculty, staff and students of Marquette, as well as for shared governance here. For the Senate, I see no alternative than a vote of censure of Fr. Wild to object to the actions and process that have been undertaken in this matter. I do not suggest this lightly. But in our role as leaders in the university and as representatives for our fellow faculty, we must firmly object to the failure of leadership that allowed the events to unfold in this manner. As we are reminded in all matters of shared governance, Fr. Wild has the final word and responsibility. Thus, we must hold him responsible.

Fr. Wild has been clear in multiple statements that he rescinded the offer to Dr. O’Brien because scholarly writings by her caused him to doubt whether she could effectively represent the College on matters of “Catholic identity.” The two topics repeatedly mentioned about such writings regarded challenges to ideas about marriage and family definitions, and sexuality or sexual behavior discussed in a way that “could be interpreted as autobiographical.” These are issues that are relevant to vetting a candidate in the early stages, but not to withdrawing an offer after it is made. This candidate has been under consideration for the position since the initial onset of the search for this deanship. These works have been available the entire time. The Search Committee asked all of the relevant questions about whether there would be any issues with her candidacy early in the process and noted in their summation that she would have to have the necessary support at the top to be effective if she were chosen.
In fact, we don’t know whether they gave Fr. Wild a full account of the parts of her writings that would later prove to be so controversial.
They did not dodge the sensitivity of her area of scholarship. After this final report and until the rescinding of the offer, it is clear that neither the Search Committee, the Chairs of the College, the Senate or any other faculty body was involved in any way in the process. If there were doubts or issues to resolve, none of the appropriate faculty stakeholders were involved. Obviously, other stakeholders were involved given the late reversal of the decision, but not those of us who clearly identified as having a role.
It is clear that the decision to hire O’Brien was kept secret until it leaked out to local Catholics who could be expected to oppose it. But would making it public have helped O’Brien? While her supporters could have mobilized earlier, so could her critics.

This looks for all the world like an attempt to foist a dean flatly at odds with the Catholic mission on the University, in the hopes that by the time opposition arose the issue would be moot.
This debacle will certainly cost Marquette considerably in financial terms, as well as in reputation, research, and in recruiting, retaining and placing students and faculty. Indeed, such effects can already be observed. Colleagues whose scholarship directly involves work with lesbians have experienced cancellations from participants on the grounds that they will no longer involve themselves in any work affiliated with Marquette.
In other words, they have decided to boycott Marquette. They have a right to do that, but maybe they should be more tolerant of a Catholic university that acts Catholic.
Students have been voicing their sadness that these events reinforce the non-inclusivity of our institution. Graduate students’ external placements are threatened because inclusiveness in training programs is an important factor considered in the competition for such placements.
Of course, nothing in the decision not to hire O’Brien prevents the Psychology Department from training students to counsel lesbians. If outside agencies hold the decision against Marquette, they are engaged in discrimination on the basis of religion, and should be held accountable for that.
Junior faculty have already exhibited great alarm about what they can and cannot pursue in scholarship. While Fr. Wild maintains that we have academic freedom to pursue any line of scholarship, he also maintains that our leaders are to be held to a higher standard. This means that anyone who might eventually seek a position of leadership must know early in his or her career that scholarship not fitting with Catholic ideology is quite dangerous. (You might note that Dr. O’Brien wrote most of the “concerning” pieces as an Assistant Professor). That speaks pretty loudly about the reality of academic freedom at Marquette.
This, quite simply, is complete nonsense. Faculty can do all kinds of things that make them ineligible to hold a Dean’s position. The people who make this argument would be the first to want to veto as dean a psychologist who felt that black people are innately inferior in intelligence to white people. They would quickly mobilize against a candidate who opposed feminism, and felt that patriarchy is inevitable.

The truth is that any dean candidate whose political positions create huge controversy that would overshadow his or her academic duties is ineligible. Faculty have a right to be controversial (as Marquette’s toleration of Dan Maguire shows). Deans don’t have that right.

Indeed, we have heard that certain possible dean candidates are not really well-qualified because they cannot “work a room,” meaning glad-hand potential contributors effectively.

And certainly, anybody who chooses to have a blog that airs the dirty laundry of Marquette bureaucrats can never be an administrator, since the person is not a “team player” willing to conceal information that the Administration might want concealed.

Anybody who does that can be assumed to have no aspirations whatsoever to an administrative role!
Financially, there are many donors who would be encouraged by this decision. Perhaps they are even the largest donors. But there are also many, many alumni and MU-affiliates who are equally discouraged and will decide that Marquette will never receive their donations. The great irony is that those most closely affiliated with the College of Arts and Sciences likely represent the highest proportion of those who will be discouraged, just at the time when we seek to extend better reach to our alumni as donors. In that event, the damage will be felt for a long time to come.
This is an interesting argument, since O’Brien’s supporters have suspected (out loud) that Marquette made the decision at least partly to placate big-bucks donors. This has been seen as equivalent to Marquette selling its soul for filthy lucre.

But it seems to be OK if Marquette placates liberal alumni! Indeed, one such implicit but clear offer of money if Marquette is sufficiently “gay friendly” has been made.

So it seems that Marquette selling its soul is OK, just so long as the right people are buying!
This process also makes a mockery of our diversity statement. We all look to our leaders as models of our society; whether or not they want to be, they are role models. If our leaders must pass litmus tests, so must the rest of us. We cannot achieve a culture that respects diversity of thought and being if we cannot allow it in our leaders.
See above. Politically correct people are the last people who actually respect diversity of thought.
In this centennial year of co-education at Marquette, we need to be reminded of the courage it took to reject outdated ideas and loud opposition at the time to pursue progress and openness. This is nothing different. As a scholar, Dr. O’Brien has evaluated issues from a perspective that is not traditional and can cause discomfort. But that is the path of progress. When once educating women along with men seemed outrageous, at least most of us cannot fathom that today. It is through the examination and free discussion of such issues that we progress — an approach fitting with Jesuit ideals.
The problem here is that there is nothing in Catholic teaching that says there is anything wrong with coeducation. Further, it wasn’t in fact that controversial having been the norm in public colleges and universities during the late 19th century.
Regardless of your personal opinion on the candidacy of Dr. Jodi O’Brien as the Dean of Arts and Sciences, and regardless of your opinion on her scholarly work or her ability to represent Catholic identity at Marquette, as a Senator, it’s hard for me to believe that any of you would not support a strong vote of censure on Fr. Wild for how this situation was handled. This is where we find out if we do or do not have the courage to fight for shared governance. All of these events are attributable to the manner in which this decision was made — had it been decided early that Dr. O’Brien was not the best person to lead our College for “Catholic identity” reasons, I would have been disappointed and perhaps angry, but not surprised at Marquette. But to handle it in this manner is far more injurious to all parties and is poor leadership. More, given the supposed role of the Senate to “evaluate and endorse” administrative decisions with academic impact, yet the lack of role of any of the faculty bodies in the reversal of the decision, shared governance is in doubt at Marquette. Meetings and listening sessions only after the fact are fitting examples of the perpetuation of secrecy and top-down control of all meaningful aspects of our institution. It is our responsibility to assure that shared governance is a reality, not just a convenient fiction that can be pointed to when it is convenient.


Kristy Nielson
Professor and Chair, Psychology
Former Chair, University Academic Senate
There can be no doubt that the process misfired terribly. And this has implications for the process as we move forward to find a dean.

The search process that led to the hiring of Michael McKinney as dean was likewise as fiasco, although not one so embarrassing as this. After three external candidates bombed, McKinney (who had served as interim dean) was chosen. A known quantity with years of service to Marquette and widely respected good judgment, he was a much better dean than Marquette had any right to have, given the incompetent selection process.

Is something like this the right course now?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Decay of Marquette’s Catholic Identity: Dean Search Brought the Reality Home

From Marquette theologian Mark Johnson, and essay that explains the debacle that was the blundered deanship search that led to Jodi O’Brien (a lesbian whose opinions are sharply at odds with Catholic teaching) being offered the job.

It wasn’t, Johnson explains, a fluke of events that descended on Marquette suddenly and without warning. Rather, it was the culmination of trends going back decades.
As Catholics became more part of mainstream America—more assimilating themselves to it, perhaps, than changing it—their practices and thinking became more like it, too. As the upper-echelons of American intellectual life—the universities—gained influence in public discourse, their application of their spoken and unspoken principles had greater effect. Catholic universities, too, increasingly staffed by faculty trained elsewhere, began to speak with the dialect of secular or non-Catholic religious universities. And Catholic theologians and philosophers were eager to abandon tired scholasticism and think in new ways, which generally required them to leave the Catholic university scene and be trained elsewhere—it didn’t help that official Catholic teaching labored to sustain unpopular, if traditional, teachings, such as the indissolubility of marriage, opposition to abortion, and the primacy of children in marriage with its attendant doctrine of the integrity of the sex act. So the result was that, with the singular and important exception of Catholic social doctrine (read in terms of the distribution of wealth, perhaps, where that teaching resonates well with those who have socialist or statist leanings), much distinctively Catholic teaching, even in Catholic colleges and universities, was either disputed outright or politely just dropped.
And futher:
. . . the notion of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation evolved to mean “not different in moral legitimacy,” with the result that the variety of sexual orientations that people have are thought to be like the unobjectionable variations of eye-color; we don’t fault or praise someone for the color of their eyes, and neither should we fault or praise someone for living in accord with their sexual orientation.

Seen against this backdrop, what is so notable about the Jodi O’Brien case is not that in originally offering to her the Deanship the University was making new and brave intellectual commitments that launched it into a leadership role for the rest of contemporary American academe. Quite the contrary. Because homosexual orientation, activity, and scholarship is now so normalized in the Academy and indeed in the culture, the pursuing, interviewing and hiring of a scholar-advocate of homosexuality for an academic position, even a visible upper-administration position, is a daily occurrence. Marquette did not lead, it followed. In this sense, the original decision was so usual as to be boring: a duly appointed committee of a Catholic, Jesuit university, searching for a Dean for its College of Arts and Sciences, submits for consideration to the Provost and President a scholar in sociology whose writings entertain as liberating a wide-range of LGBT behaviors, support homosexual marriage—if there has to be marriage at all; the candidate isn’t sure—with the Provost and then the President considering then approving that submission.
We are not so sure the original decision was “boring.”

The hiring had all the earmarks of an enterprise in which certain faculty and administrators thought themselves doing something bold for “diversity,” which has now become a word that, in true Orwellian fashion, means that everybody must think the same and no dissent is allowed.

Still, says Johnson, the corruption (he doesn’t use that precise word) has proceeded so far that “people are surprised that some people were surprised” that anybody could object to the hiring of an outspoken lesbian and advocate of what the Church views as sinful behavior as a (necessarily) high-profile representative of the institution.

Johnson promises two more essays on this issue. We will most certainly watch for them on his blog.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Dean Search Fiasco: Demonstration in Support Catholic Identity

The demonstration that we blogged about Saturday came off today, in front of Gesu Church.

It was orderly and sedate, actually. The small crowd was heavy on staff and administrators, but included one family of four (with a Marquette mom) who drove an hour to participate.

They numbered 17 people at the peak (near 12:15). Not a huge number, but probably more grown-ups than have taken part in any of the pro-Jodi O’Brien demonstrations, which have overwhelmingly consisted of students.

Students, of course, have largely left town (the semester is over) and faculty are under the gun to get grades in (tomorrow noon is the deadline).

The gathering broke up promptly at 12:15 p.m.

As we have said before this, combined with several manifestos from various faculty members, may not show a “silent majority” opposed to Jodi O’Brien being Arts & Science Dean, but it does show considerable resistance.

It’s also the case that a fair number of people who think she should not be Dean were also disturbed at the way Marquette first offered her the job and then rescended the offer. Marketing Professor Gene Lacniak is one of them.

What all sides can agree on is that the Marquette administration performed very badly.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dean Search Fiasco: More Push-Back From Faculty Supporting Catholic Mission

While the most assertive voices among Marquette faculty have been supportive of the appointment of outspoken lesbian Jodi O’Brien to be Dean of Arts & Sciences, some significant opposition has arisen.

While the Academic Senate seemed to support her when it voted to condemn the decision to rescind her offer, doubtless a substantial number of those senators would not have selected her in the first place. as Marketing Professor Gene Lacniak admitted was the case with him.

It’s also the case that the Academic Senate doesn’t necessarily represent the attitudes of all faculty.

Still, it would be premature to say that statements like those of Bob Ashmore, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy or Associate Professor Javier A. Ibáñez-Noé represent a “silent majority” of faculty.

But add in statements like the one below, coming from two Theology faculty, and it becomes obvious that there is considerable faculty resistance to O’Brien.
Our purpose is to invite discussion on the hiring decision regarding Dr. O’Brien from the perspective of Catholic mission and identity.

In recent days there has been much consternation at Marquette University over rescinding the offer of the deanship of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences to Dr. Jodi O’Brien of Seattle University. At a procedural level, there is little that is defensible in making an offer and then withdrawing it (though, of course, if pre-hiring decisions were mistaken, the university should not necessarily be prevented from rectifying those mistakes before it has made any contractual commitments). For many faculty members, it remains a mystery how things proceeded from the search committee’s forwarding of names to the provost, to what took place between him and the president of the university and others in making a final decision and extending an offer. Protests have been registered over these procedures, including the unfair treatment of Dr. O’Brien in the matter.

However, other substantial issues have also been raised. One letter circulated refers to “more fundamental concerns about our institutional commitment to diversity, inclusion, and academic freedom.” Many feel that the decision by Fr. Wild and Provost Pauly to rescind the offer violated these principles. Apart from the procedural issues involved and affirming these principles, we believe even more is at stake for Marquette University.

We defend the stated reasons in the Wild/Pauly letter that the primary concern for rescinding the offer had to do with Catholic mission and identity. Since this is not a regular faculty hire (where “hiring for mission” must also be taken into consideration) but a significant public leadership position at the university, it is important that the candidate be able to represent that identity and support it before constituencies on and off campus, as it is well spelled out in our official mission and identity statements, and more significantly, not oppose it in action or scholarship. There is little to dispute that Dr. O’Brien’s advocacy of “queer Christianity” (her nomenclature in her article “Seeking Normal? Considering Same-Sex Marriage”) and LGBT cultural strategies vis-à-vis the family, same-sex marriage and alternative partnering (not to mention her analysis and apparent promotion of cyberspace promiscuity-- see her article “Changing the Subject”) cannot be squared with Catholic teaching on this very public issue, which is so controverted in our society, and in Christian churches—witness its divisive effects in nearly every mainline Protestant denomination. As these viewpoints are integral to her scholarly vocation why should a Catholic university invite her to lead its “flagship college” which cultivates the arts and sciences, when from the perspective of Catholic vision and Christian humanism such advocacy undermines human flourishing?*

No doubt, many (faculty and students alike) will disagree with this Catholic vision or say that they take exception to this particular manifestation of it as it concerns theological and philosophical conceptions of the human person, of human sexuality, and of the moral life. Even many Catholics (some Jesuits included) do not accept this teaching. Nevertheless, it is not a foregone conclusion that in the interests of preserving Catholic identity -- an issue that we agree should remain dialogical -- the university somehow violates principles of the academy if it does not offer major governance positions to candidates who oppose aspects of that same identity. After all, Catholic universities exist “From the Heart of the Church,” the English title of Pope John Paul II’s 1990 Apostolic Constitution on Catholic universities, Ex corde ecclesiae. This applies not just to theology departments and campus ministries, but to all units of the university because they are at the service of truth and of Catholic intellectual life. Marquette University does state under the rubric of faith that:
As a Catholic university, we are committed to the unfettered pursuit of truth under the mutually illuminating powers of human intelligence and Christian faith. Our Catholic identity is expressed in our choices of curricula, our sponsorship of programs and activities devoted to the cultivation of our religious character, our ecumenical outlook, and our support of Catholic beliefs and values.
It is true that not all faculty members at Marquette University see themselves as agents of Catholic intellectual life, and the dialogical nature of a university invites critical discussion and disagreements over a vast array of issues with other Christians, adherents of other religious traditions, and all people of good will who can support the mission of Marquette University. Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine how Dr. O’Brien’s scholarly project is consistent with “Catholic beliefs and values.” Therefore, while we regret the procedural debacle and any injustice done to Dr. O’Brien, we are grateful that in the hiring process for an Arts and Sciences dean, Catholic mission and identity became a deciding factor.

Ralph Del Colle
Associate Professor of Theology

Mark Johnson
Associate Professor of Theology

*The Catholic position on homosexuality was succinctly stated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in their 2006 statement Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care which (quoting a Vatican document) says the following:

“Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.”
Nobody, and certainly not Del Colle and Johnson, defends the absurd process that resulted in the offer of the job to O’Brien, and then the rescinding of the offer when word got out that O’Brien was a very controversial person indeed.

But we need to know exactly what process led to an offer to a person so controversial. It’s obvious that she was pretty much the pet of some in the Administration and then of the Selection Committee long before the offer was made.

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Dean Search Fiasco: Demonstration in Support of Fr. Wild

From Paco Nava, a Marquette student and president of the Marquette chapter of the Intercollegate Studies Institute:

Notice of a demonstration to support Fr. Wild, and uphold the Catholic mission of the University.

The demonstration, a “public silent prayer gathering,” will be at noon Monday in front of Gesu Church.

The debate over Jodi O’Brien, candidate for Arts & Sciences Dean, is not mentioned in the flyer, but that’s clearly the point.

This is not just an ISI project. We’re aware of support in other quarters of the University.

Still, we would be surprised if there is a large turnout, since students will be gone (and besides, many have been cowed by the treat of being called a “homophobe” at any sign of opposition to the gay agenda).

But a fair number of people may wish to come “out of the closet” as people who want Marquette to be Catholic, and not politically correct.

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Dean Search Fiasco: The View From the Left

We’ve blogged a lot on the recent fiasco at Marquette, in which the woman who had been selected as the new Arts & Sciences Dean had her office rescinded.

Two other online sources that have been paying a lot of attention should be mentioned.

One is MUProtestMay6, which is not a blog, but just a lot of tweets from a Twitter account. But you’ll find there a pretty complete listing of press coverage of the affair, especially coverage supportive of O’Brien.

The other is a blog from Marquette feminist students called The Word Warrior. The writing is in fact less shrill and more nuanced than one would expect from feminists, although solidly in the feminist, pro-GLBT mould.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Arts & Science Dean Search Fiasco: Another Philosopher Supports Catholic Mission

The most visible and raucous people in the debate over the lesbian Arts & Sciences Dean candidate Jodi O’Brien have been on O’Brien’s side -- most especially Philosophy Professor Nancy Snow with her bullhorn.

But now there is some serious pushback. The following is from Bob Ashmore, long-time Marquette faculty member and now Professor Emeritus.
May 13, 2010

Dear Fr. Wild,

Nancy Snow’s calling for your resignation was the last straw that has prompted me to speak out. As a ringleader who gleefully tells the public in newspapers and on TV that “we move ahead with our protests,” after rejecting the Academic Senate’s actions as inadequate, Snow should be understood regarding the real agenda.

While rallying support of gullible faculty, administrators and students under the colors of academic freedom, diversity, and gay rights, the really serious purpose is to move MU away from core values that define its Jesuit and Catholic character. Persons who are theologically atheists and philosophically moral relativists sense growing strength.

Is it too strong to suggest that MU is reaping what it has sown? There are faculty (many of them silent) who believe that encouraging the likes of Snow has made the university vulnerable to what is now occurring. I experienced great sadness at your annual dinner for faculty last Thursday, when a platform was created for Snow, from which she smeared the administration, while you embraced her and lauded her as one of Marquette’s finest. In fact, if she and those similarly minded prevailed, MU would become unrecognizable for the values that it trumpets when recruiting students for $30,000 tuition payments.

May I remind those to whom this letter is addressed what has been my commitment to Marquette? I came in 1969, became full professor, served as director of the Graduate Program in Philosophy, served as Director of the Center for Ethics Studies, received the Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, and obtained two institutional grants from NEH that funded successive summer institutes over six years. Against this background, I lament what has happened to my department and to the university.

I have witnessed under two successive deans of Arts and Science the acceptance and encouragement of a turn in the Philosophy Department that has radically fractured what once was a congenial faculty with a sense of mission that fit with MU’s core values. On the broader front, there has been lessened concern about hiring faculty and administrators who are committed to Catholic or even Christian identity at Marquette. Political correctness is seen as trumping those concerns.

Are they wrong who see you as hoisted on your own petard? I trust that it is not too late for a recovery of the sense of identity that Marquette advertises, while many of its hiring and promotion decisions have undercut this. “Diversity” and “academic freedom” (which I support) are being used as slogans that turn heads and mask agenda that should jolt lovers of Marquette into choices that are being challenged today.

Robert B. Ashmore
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Although there are some voices for Marquette’s Catholic mission in the Philosophy Department, the dominant faction seems to be secular and politically correct. If philosophy (with theology) is at the core of a Jesuit education, what is the point of having having this sort of Philosophy Department?

And why would Wild try to pander to and placate Nancy Snow?

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Politically Correct Faculty Mobilize to Support Lesbian Arts & Sciences Dean Candidate

A series of e-mails that circulated among the more liberal and politically correct members of the faculty.

First, Nancy Snow urging a variety of actions to support lesbian Arts & Science Dean candidate Jodi O’Brien, who was chosen and then told that she could not be dean.
Dear Colleagues:

I’m appalled, but not surprised, that the Archdiocese and other outside influences were involved in this decision. I will tell you that Fr. Wild told me in no uncertain terms during our conversation on Tuesday, May 4, that Marquette has autonomy from the Archdiocese and that the decision to rescind the offer was his. Yet, the Archdiocese had considerable and in my view, inappropriate, influence. Fr. Wild has not yet told the truth about this. The admission came from the Archdiocese. The academic autonomy and integrity of our University have been compromised.

Here is the link to the photos from yesterday’s “listening” session. Please share the link to see the level of activity this controversy has generated. Marquette has never seen anything like this.

Next steps:

1. Faculty and student groups will be continuing protests during senior week and at commencement. Please join these if you can. We must stand up and stand together.

2. Concerned colleagues from Seattle join our protest. Among other efforts currently underway there, they are now exerting pressure on their Jesuit president to make a statement.

3. I attach a joint statement to be signed by concerned faculty of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences at Marquette and Seattle Universities. I ask supportive department chairs of the MU College of Arts and Sciences -- James South, Kristy Nielson, Krista Ratcliffe, and Jim Marten -- to make copies of this letter available in your department offices for faculty to sign, and to publicize this letter in your departments. I ask these chairs to intervene with other Arts and Sciences chairs to request their cooperation in gathering signatures. Similar actions will be taken at Seattle University. Let us get as many signatures as possible. We will purchase full page ads to have the letter published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Seattle Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, and, if possible, Chicago Tribune and New York Times. Please sign and urge your colleagues to sign as soon as possible. Let’s aim to have all signatures in by Tuesday of next week.

4. Colleagues here are trying to schedule a date and time for an open forum on this issue. Please stay tuned as plans solidify.

We must take back our College and our University. I fully support re-extending the offer to Dr. O’Brien, with an apology.



Nancy E. Snow
Professor of Philosophy
“Be the change you seek in your world.” - Gandhi
The attached letter is as follows:
Statement from Concerned Members of Marquette University

Regarding the Rescinded Offer of Deanship to Dr. Jodi O’Brien (joined by concerned colleagues from Seattle University):

- We condemn the decision to rescind the offer made to Dr. Jodi O’Brien to serve as Dean of the Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences.

- We condemn the involvement of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and other outside influences in this decision. The academic autonomy and integrity of Marquette University was compromised in this decision-making process.

- We believe this action has caused significant harm to the reputation of Marquette University. It threatens our credibility and integrity as a university. It has caused suffering among students, alumni, staff, and faculty, and it will cost Marquette considerably in terms of community relationships, research, and recruiting and retaining students and faculty.

- We reject the public rationale offered for this action: examples of Dr. O’Brien’s scholarship disqualify her from being able to represent Marquette University in its Catholic mission and identity. We reject the idea that scholarship published in peer-reviewed journals or presented at universities or academic conferences can disqualify a faculty member from leadership at a Jesuit University.

- We strongly believe the decision puts academic freedom at risk at Marquette University. We reject an intellectual “litmus test” for our faculty, staff, and leaders in the administration. Indeed we find the very idea of such a “litmus test” to be contrary to the tradition of excellence, faith, service, and leadership advanced by American Jesuit Colleges and Universities.

- We believe that the rejection of Dr. O’Brien because of her scholarship examining the social institution of marriage and the fluidity of gender roles and sexuality exposes a culture of unease and suppression at Marquette University, a culture which frowns upon the frank intellectual discussion of human - and especially female - sexuality. This is particularly chilling and ironic as we celebrate the Centennial of Women at Marquette.

- We believe that this course of events undermines Marquette University’s faith commitment to both foster diversity and honor the human dignity of every individual regardless of culture, faith, race, gender, and sexual orientation.

- We pledge to work to restore the integrity of our university.

- We pledge to defend academic freedom for all of our faculty, and the spirit of academic freedom for all students, staff, administrators, and leadership. We will reject vigilantly the imposition of “litmus tests.”

- We pledge to confront directly the chilly climate on campus for scholarship and discussion concerning issues of gender and sexuality. We demand that these issues be allowed the broadest horizons for inquiry and debate. We cannot allow the intellectual discussion and academic investigation of human sexuality to be constrained by overly narrow understandings of Jesuit mission and Catholic identity.

- We pledge to honor Marquette University’s Statement on Human Dignity and Diversity. We must not only talk the talk of nondiscrimination and inclusiveness; our rhetoric must be matched by courageous action.

- We pledge to help our students make sense of what has transpired here. We desire for them to inherit a tradition of Excellence, Faith, Leadership, and Service that is inclusive, fosters moral courage, and supports the free and open inquiry necessary to attain the highest standards of scholarship.

- We hope to engage in conversations with all levels of university administration to ensure more transparent process for hiring in the future and to develop a more open environment generally.

- We note with chagrin that while the administration encouraged the university community to discuss the name change of our basketball team or a full year, less than two weeks after this egregious action, which strikes at the heart of our functioning as a university, we were told it is time for “healing” and “moving on.” We will not be silent until the integrity of our university is restored.

- We believe that the appropriate response to the current situation is for the offer of the Deanship of the College of Arts and Sciences to be extended again immediately to Dr. O’Brien with an apology. If this is not possible under Father Wild’s administration, Father Wild should immediately resign and his successor should offer Dr. O’Brien the Deanship.
This provoked a response from Psychology professor Ed St. Aubin.

St. Aubin: Do Something at Graduation

From: de St. Aubin, Ed
Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 9:19 AM


It may seem to some that offering Dr. O’Brien the position now is like inviting her to step in a hornet’s nest. I am convinced of quite the opposite. Imagine the welcome she would receive. Dean of A&S is a difficult job. I believe that if Dr. O’Brien were to come, there would be strong support on campus and it would create an alumni coalition of support that has gone relatively untapped to date. I am not sure that the current mode in the very large Advancement office is ideal for reaching out to these individuals/groups, but that is a different topic.

Further, the act of re-offering the position to Dr. O’Brien provides a tangible rallying point. It becomes our charge as we try to maintain energy around this issue even as campus begins to drain for the summer. Also, we have one more major public event that allows for a strong statement – graduation. This is attended by faculty, students, parents, and many alumni. We need a strategy there.

Also, what about key administrators? My take is that these folks have been very quiet.

Am I correct? I’m talking about Deans, interim Deans, Chris Miller, etc… The May 10 letter from Jeanne Hossenlopp and Stephanie Russell was all about healing the hurt and moving forward. I have tremendous respect for both those women but it read as patronizing to me. And is stripped us of any power to DO something real.

So, my questions are how do we get support from people in positions of power on campus? What would we need to do to have Fr. Wild re-offer Jodi O’Brien the position? and, How do we most effectively use graduation as a time/place for our position to be heard?

Finally, I have no clue who this email is heading towards. I simply hit “reply all” to the most recent message. How do we make sure that all stakeholders are part of this conversation?

All for now,

Ed de St. Aubin
Psychology Department

Snow Backs Off a Bit

Snow got some flack for the demand that Fr. Wild resign. So the following e-mail went out.
Dear Colleagues,

After circulating this, a broad consensus has emerged that we should leave off the ending - the conditional call for Wild’s resignation. Attached is the amended statement. If you chose to add your name to this list, it will ONLY BE for this version.

Please read the attached “Statement from Concerned Faculty Members of Marquette University” (joined by concerned colleagues from Seattle University).

If you wish to be a signatory to the statement, please send an email to

Please state clearly how you would like to be identified on the statement (i.e., “Dr. Nancy Snow, Professor, Department of Philosophy”).

Please forward this email to supportive colleagues and other members of your department so that they have the opportunity to sign the statement, should they wish to do so.

Thank you for standing up for the integrity of our university!

Very best,
Nancy Snow
Attached to this latter e-mail was a draft of a revised letter of protest.

It omitted the final sentence (“If this is not possible under Father Wild’s administration, Father Wild should immediately resign and his successor should offer Dr. O’Brien the Deanship”).

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Sweden: Socialist Utopia?

Lesbian Dean Candidate: Archbishop, Search Committee Members Talk

From WISN-TV, a story on the role of of Archbishop Jerome Listecki in Marquette’s decision to rescind a offer of the Arts & Sciences Deanship to Jodi O’Brien.

What is significant here? The fact that the Search Committee knew there would be “pushback” if an activist lesbian were chosen for the job.

Search Committee members Rosemary Stuart and Scott Reid confirm that.

But did the committee fully inform Wild about all the elements of O’Brien’s writing that might be viewed as objectionable? We don’t really know, but we know that both the Search Committee (which somehow viewed O’Brien’s scholarly record as sufficient, and somehow viewed it as consistent with the Catholic mission of Marquette) and Wild (who seems to have been blindsided by the controversy that developed) bear considerable responsibility.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Marquette Heavily Recruited Lesbian Dean Candidate Jodi O’Brien

From Milwaukee News Buzz, the following in a story about the role of Archbishop Listecki in the rejection of Jodi O’Brien, lesbian candidate for Dean of Arts and Sciences at Marquette.
[Professor Nancy] Snow says the selection committee vetted O’Brien’s work and found nothing to object to before recommending her and another candidate for the job. She insists that university leadership has long been familiar with the professor since it sent a representative to Seattle to encourage her to apply for the dean position. Two years prior, she had applied for the same position, which has been occupied by an interim dean, but withdrew from consideration for family reasons. [emphasis added]
This appears to confirm our inference that O’Brien was the designated lesbian affirmative action candidate for the deanship, moved forward by liberal faculty and administrators who viewed her appointment as a move toward “diversity” at Marquette.

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Philosophy Professor on Dean Search Fiasco: Consider Catholic Nature of the University

In spite of the fact that the most visible and outspoken Marquette faculty have been supportive of now rejected lesbian Arts & Sciences Dean candidate Jodi O’Brien, not all faculty see it that way. The fact that Academic Senate failed to pass a censure motion directed at Father Wild suggests a lack of complete unanimity (although a fair number of faculty members who refused to censure Wild may have, in fact, wanted O’Brien hired).

Now, Javier A. Ibáñez-Noé, of Marquette’s Philosophy Department, speaks out about the lack of committment to the Catholic mission of the university among politically correct Marquette professors.
Dear colleagues,

I find myself obligated to express my disappointment, though not my surprise, at seeing that the resolution passed today by the University Academic Senate fails to mention, let alone to declare support for, the Catholic character and mission of Marquette University. Just as unsurprising is the fact that, in some of the exchanges relating to this resolution, the expression “Catholic Identity” appears in quotation marks and is not too subtly referred to as an outmoded thing.

I and my colleagues in the Department of Philosophy could have predicted this development. We have seen in the course of the past decade a sharp turn away from our traditional commitment to respect Catholic teaching. (I beg my readers to notice that I said “respect,” not “enforce” Catholic teaching). Indeed we at the Philosophy Department can also see, given recent domestic developments, how ironic it is that the University Academic Senate should appeal to the principle of shared governance. It is not quite two weeks ago that our departmental leadership, with the support of the Dean, effectively nullified a close departmental vote which, according to established procedure, indicated a clear preference for a candidate for the Donald J. Schuenke Chair who was both well-qualified and had a deep regard for the Catholic intellectual tradition.

I would hope that the University Academic Senate will find it in itself to show its commitment to inclusiveness by also defending the rights of the diminishing minority of faculty who, without necessarily being themselves Catholic, have an allegiance to the Catholic tradition of our university. I respectfully suggest that this could be done in at least two ways: (a) by refraining from defining “inclusiveness” in such an ideologically biased way that the definition ends up excluding central features of Catholic teaching, e.g., those relating to the nature of the family; and (b) by being prepared to apply the principle of shared governance not only when it is in the interest of the present dominating forces but also when it happens to favor the surviving Catholic-friendly minority.

Javier A. Ibáñez-Noé
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
Marquette University
Ibáñez-Noé sent this letter to Christine Krueger, president-elect of the Academic Senate, with a request that it be forwarded to everybody who received the original statement passed by that body -- which would be the whole faculty. Apparently, Krueger has failed to do this.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Christopher Wolfe on the Lesbian Dean Candidate Fiasco

Our former colleague Chris Wolfe has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the (now rescinded) job offer to Jodi O’Brien, “out” lesbian and choice of the Search Committee to be Dean of Arts and Sciences. Here are some excerpts from his article in the Journal-Sentinel.
Marquette University has moved quietly but consistently away from its distinctively Catholic roots during the past 30 years, so the events of last week are not surprising: They are simply a working out of long-term trends. But the problem is even deeper than it appears.

Marquette offered the position of dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to a lesbian sociologist from Seattle and then withdrew the offer. Besides articles explicitly advocating gay marriage, her writings included an article (“Changing the Subject”) on whether there are closets in cyberspace, which alternated turgid post-modernist prose with imaginative lesbian sex vignettes and dialogue, including gender-bending and domination.

The withdrawal of the job offer led to outrage among some of the university faculty. A call to arms went out, demanding that the faculty make it clear that they will not stand for this.

The question that should be asked is not why Marquette President Father Robert A. Wild backed off the hiring but how in heaven did the hiring ever occur in the first place? If trendy post-modernism is a qualification for being a dean, that would explain it, but why should it be? The premise of her writing on sexuality is that sex is “socially constructed” and cybersex is especially fluid, since people can try on many different sexual personae.

The problem with theories of social construction - which assume that there are no fixed “natures” of things that determine what they are - is that they are self-contradictory. If everything is socially constructed, then the theory of social construction is socially constructed - we have no reason to think it says anything about reality itself.

That is not a problem for social constructionists, who always put “reality” in quotation marks because they deny that there is such a thing. But for others, it is a serious problem. Why should we bother attending to social constructions at all? Their answer is simply that we can or cannot, depending on whether we feel like it. But there is no reason to do so or not do so.
Wolfe doesn’t use the term “intellectual corruption,” but he clearly feels that this is the reality here.

Wolfe goes on to argue that recent statements from the current and immediately preceding Popes have not been merely calls for decadent Europe to embrace religion, but calls to embrace reason.

And then he turns back to Marquette:
Marquette’s action in withdrawing the offer comes far too late. Whether it hires as dean a person whose scholarship is informed by a morally disordered sexual inclination is minor, compared to the fact that the university has over the years built up a faculty that takes her fashionable scholarship seriously, that its search committee recommended her and that the president initially signed off on her appointment.

It’s not just the Jesuits who built up Marquette over decades, to foster the pursuit of truth in light of the Catholic faith, who are turning in their graves. Anyone who cares about the serious pursuit of truth at all should be shaking their heads.
Our critique of O’Brien’s “scholarship” is not so much that it traffics in post-modernism as that it is vacuous.

We have read “Changing the Subject”, which Wolfe references (above).

It really doesn’t get beyond country singer Brad Paisley’s song “I’m So Much Cooler Online.” O’Brien adds that you can be gayer online, or if you are gay, you can be straighter.

OK, so she should strip out the turgid prose and make a fun song out of it.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Marketing Professor Gene Lacniak: Letter in Support of Jodi O’Brien

From Facebook:

The events of the past week are a grave and serious matter to all of us because they reflect on Marquette University’s national reputation as an academic institution--specifically, whether we are open to the diversity of leadership, opinions and ideas that the “sifting and winnowing for the truth” in all serious universities demands. The fallout from the withdrawal of a formal offer of the A&S deanship to Dr. O’Brien (notably, a full professor and department chair at a companion Jesuit, Catholic university!) will greatly influence Marquette’s ability to recruit and retain faculty (especially women), will diminish our intellectual standing in the eyes of other institutions of higher education and, depending on how Dr. O’Brien decides to proceed, possibly result in censure (again) for Marquette from the AAUP.
Interesting that he says “especially women.” What is the assumption behind this assertion?
For starters, let me say the following, for purposes of complete disclosure. If I had been Provost, and two “acceptable” dean candidate names had been forwarded to me (as reported in this instance), after reviewing the record, I might not have selected Dr. O’Brien. It would not have been because her research is somehow contrary to Catholic Church teachings or unsuitable methodologically, but rather, given all the daunting fiscal challenges that Marquette already faces, her writings could prove to be an avoidable distraction to completing other important tasks as dean.
An interesting admission, which is similar to what Father Wild has claimed. The problem of course is that Wild used it long after an offer had been sent to (and apparently accepted by) O’Brien.
That said, after a full review cycle by Marquette University, including (presumptively) the required dossier analysis about what candidate O’Brien contributes to the Catholic, Jesuit nature of our university, an offer of employment as A&S dean was made to her--supported by the search committee and Provost. According to Dr Snow, O’Brien in fact accepted that offer.
We frankly don’t know to what extent a “required dossier analysis” was done. Did the committee, which certainly informed Wild about O’Brien’s lesbianism, fail to inform him about certain things in her writing? Or did Wild just change in mind under pressure? It was at least partially the latter, and perhaps entirely the latter.
Now, some specifics, all of which imply deeply troubling questions for our university. To these, senior faculty should press for answers. Meaningful involvement in university governance, a faculty responsibility, requires no less at this defining moment.

The “objectionable” excerpts of Dr. O’Brien’s scholarship, drawn from on-line postings by gay females and conducted by her as a sociologist involved in scholarly gender studies, include explicit vignettes of lesbian sex, that no doubt some readers would find offensive or off-putting. At one point in those writings, Dr. O’Brien implies empathy with such practices, but that clearly ought not be a problem, given that our Marquette University diversity statement explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The more potent objection may lie in Ms. O’Brien exploring areas of sexuality that do not reflect well on our “Catholic identity,” a term used in the University press release on this matter and, perhaps, also utilized as a synonym for Christian “family values.” This is not the place for a detailed tangent directed to those gentle (Alumni?) souls offended by Dr. O’Brien’s quotations, but it is worth noting that that the God of the Old Testament, at one time, calls on his followers to murder of all the people of Jabesh-gilead, except for the virgin girls who are to be taken and forcibly raped; at other times that same God seems to allow for slavery, including selling your own daughter as a sex slave, child abuse and bashing babies against rocks.
This, unfortunately, is a cheap shot, typical of people hostile to Christianity. The clear implication is that since some things in the Old Testament are quite distastful to us today, all of Biblical teaching and indeed all of Church teaching (which is based on the Natural Law as well as Revelation) can be thrown out.

Of course, if Laczniak simply means that prose that is distasteful does not necessarily evince poor scholarship, he is right.

But why does he put quotes around “family values?”
The point is, exactly what are the “family values” of Judeo-Christian religiosity that cannot be intellectually discussed and debated within the confines of a university?
Anythng can be discussed, although University bureaucrats don’t want to discuss and debate homosexuality, but rather to indoctrinate students into views contrary to church teaching. Real “discussion and debate” would be a huge improvement.
In a letter to A&S faculty, Prof. Nancy Snow of the Philosophy Department states that Provost John Pauly favors this appointment. Does he now not support it? Was the Provost told to change his mind or resign or did he quietly acquiesce? Did he protest on behalf of faculty prerogatives at all? It seems to me that Dr. Pauly also owes the university faculty a clear explanation concerning precisely where the objections to this appointment originated since I would assume that his name, and perhaps Rev. Wild’s as well, were on the appointment offer.
These are good questions, needing an answer.
In the University news release on this matter, the administration also states that the work of the search committee unfolded “without as much due diligence as was warranted.” Yet members of the A&S dean search committee have consistently and forcefully maintained that the nature of Dr. O’Brien’s scholarship was precisely laid out for all to discern. This “blame the search committee” strategy, disturbing in itself as an independent event, seems now to have been abandoned.

Is the post facto “veto” to Dr. O’Brien originating from “big” donors or influential trustees? Dr. Snow has implied this could be the source of the reversal. If so, who exactly are these individuals and what is the nature of their objection? If it is to Dr. O’Brien’s sexual orientation, they seem to advocate Marquette violating Wisconsin law as well as its own HR policy. If the university takes such advice fearing a reduction in donations, that speaks devastatingly to the motivations and moral courage of our upper administration.

Or, are these events based on an intervention from Bishop Listecki? Fr. Wild reportedly hinted at this in a recent meeting with A&S department chairs. A strict reading of Ex Corde Ecclesiae (The Vatican document on the Catholicity of universities) would put decisions that affect the Catholic nature of the university under the jurisdiction of the local Bishop. But universities with firm moral grounding have regularly resisted such interference, with Notre Dame, refusing to rescind their campus speaking invitation to President Obama (despite his pro-choice policy), being a recent example.
This, unfortunately, is merely a way of saying that “everybody does it,” the excuse of teenagers who follow the crowd. Since other “Catholic universities” blow off Church teaching, we should too.
Indeed, in the past 60 days, Marquette itself has reiterated the academic freedom of theologian Dan McGuire, who calls for the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI for his alleged role in the decades long cover-up of pedophilic priests. Should the O’Brien reversal flow from the local prelate, does the Archbishop Listecki now have veto power over future academic appointments at Marquette University OR is this just another blame deflecting ploy by administration? Faculty should press the question.

And finally, how did all this come about at the eleventh hour? Who exactly convinced Rev. Wild to become suddenly engaged and, what precisely was the nature of those overt persuaders’ objections and/or veiled contingencies? The Journal-Sentinel reports that Marquette University canceled a scheduled interview on this matter because this situation had now become a legal issue. One hopes Marquette’s strategy of last resort is not to pay off Dr. O’Brien for her future silence on this matter, while hoping another round of campus “listening sessions” will mollify the faculty before they disperse for the summer. While I do not begrudge Prof. O’Brien some compensation from this shameful matter, Marquette faculty members need only surf on-line comments and Twitter postings about these events to ascertain how much perceptual damage to our university reputation has been done by this magnificent ineptitude.
Unfortunately, this is just an argumentum ad populum. Go to left-leaning discussion boards (say, the Huffington Post) and commentary will be heavily pro-O’Brien. But go to (say) Charlie Sykes blog, and you get a different picture.
It is often said, but with varying levels of belief depending who says it, that “the university is its faculty.” Any current internet search (see recent articles in the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education) will reveal that our university standing has been palpably damaged around the country by this clumsy and unfortunate set of events. The faculty of Marquette deserves a detailed response concerning how our leadership intends to go about rectifying the damage to our most precious possession--our university integrity.

Gene Laczniak

(Professor Lacniak is a Professor of Marketing and former Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs at Marquette.)
There is no doubt that Marquette’s standing has been damaged, but on what basis? No university that really wants to be Catholic can afford to care too much about the views of secular liberals, who are simply hostile to the entire enterprise.

But a university that really wants to be Catholic (and it’s not clear this is Marquette) should care about what people who value its mission and eschew political correctness think.

Such people, right now, are not happy either.

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Campus Supporters of Lesbian Dean Candidate Fail to Censure Wild in Academic Senate

A tweet from MUProtestMay6.
No censure. No vote of no confidence. They reaffirmed the non discrimination policy. Considering a vote of no confidence in the fall.


Feminist blog The Word Warrior live blogged the event. Key quote from them:
Dr. Nancy Snow, probably O’Brien’s fiercest advocate on campus, described the decision as “weak” and encouraged students to “keep the pressure on.”

[Further Update]

This is the text of the resolution.

We, the University Academic Senate

Reaffirm our strong support for the official non-discrimination statement of Marquette University;

Express our approval of and support for the work of the A&S Dean Search Committee;

Condemn both the process and decision to rescind an extended offer, and we express our regret for the immense harm that this has caused to Dr. O’Brien, our fellow faculty, staff, students and alumni;

Request that Father Wild & Darren Jackson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, meet with the UAS at some time prior to the September 2010 Board of Trustees Meeting to discuss Marquette’s commitment to both academic freedom and shared governance;

Demand adoption of a revised search protocol that clearly affirms academic freedom and no disqualification from leadership positions for candidates pursuing legitimate lines of academic inquiry professionally recognized in their discipline;

Condemn the lack of transparency in sharing the reasons for the decision; and

Recommend that the UAS evaluate whether there has been demonstrable progress in achieving these objectives when considering whether to entertain a vote of no confidence in the President in fall 2010.

Approved May 10, 2010

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Arts & Sciences Dean on Her Would-Be Successor

A letter from Jeanne M. Hossenlopp, current (interim) Dean of Arts & Sciences, and Stephanie Russell, Vice President for Mission and Ministry.

We won’t quote the entire thing, but it seems to come down on the side of lesbian Dean candidate Jodi O’Brien, whose offer of the deanship was rescinded just last week.

It mentions “questions [that] range from issues with process to more fundamental concerns about our institutional commitment to diversity, inclusion, and academic freedom.”

Notice, there is no mention of the Catholic identity of Marquette. And this on a statement that Stephanie Russell, Vice President for Mission and Ministry signed off on.

Then there is the rhetoric about “inclusion.” Of course, the same faculty and administrators who talk about “inclusion” when the issue is homosexuality aren’t nearly so “inclusive” if the person in question advocates something they dislike. A dean candidate who was an outspoken opponent of affirmative action, for example, or one who was on record supporting the Catholic position on the sinfulness of homosexual acts would be axed early on in the selection process.

“Inclusion” is only for politically correct victim groups.

Then there is this:
We affirm that true academic freedom is essential to our work. Faculty and students must be free to engage in respectful, informed academic discussion on difficult topics in and out of the classroom. Scholarship must be evaluated on its intellectual merits and contribution to the field. Our mission of the search for truth and the discovery and sharing of knowledge demands no less. [emphasis in original]
The claim seems to be that rescinded the offer to O’Brien somehow compromised “academic freedom.”

Indeed, if the offer was withdrawn merely because she wrote about sex, this would be a reasonable concern.

In reality, it appears to have been withdrawn because she not only is an “out” lesbian, but has written extensively about her life as a lesbian and clearly supports things like gay marriage (with the caveat that she’s not keen on marriage at all).

It’s also the case that “academic freedom” is for faculty, and not deans. Faculty have a right to reach whatever conclusions they want in their research, to publish those conclusions and to teach what they think are the sound conclusions to their students. There is no “academic freedom” right to be a dean.

Stephanie Russell is quite liberal, and Jeanne Hossenlopp -- widely respected among faculty for her good judgment on academic matters -- has not been known for taking any sort of political positions.

What we seem to have here is a split among Marquette administrators with Hossenlopp, Russell and Provost John Pauly (who has kept his head down but is known to be a strong supporter of O’Brien) on one side and on the other side Father Wild and Vice President for Student Affairs Chris Miller. Miller not only defended Wild’s decision before the Student Senate, but described O’Brien’s work as “sub-par” to a student.

That assessment underlies the truth behind this whole fiasco. Many months before she was actually given an offer, O’Brien was slated by liberal administrators and faculty to be the affirmative action lesbian dean at Marquette.

Dominating the Search Committee, and having the support of Provost Pauly, they almost made it happen.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Rescinded Offer to Lesbian Dean Candidate: More Sturm und Drang

One of the interesting things about the brouhaha over the withdrawal of an offer to Jodi O’Brien, candidate for the Dean of Arts and Sciences is the issue of whether the Selection Committee is at fault for not having properly warned Father Wild about the controversial nature of O’Brien’s writings.

Father Wild has been blaming the Committee, but at least one outspoken member of the Committee (Stephen Franzoi) has been blaming Father Wild. We just got this e-mail sent by lesbian faculty activist Nancy Snow dealing with the issue.
From: Snow, Nancy

Sent: Saturday, May 08, 2010 2:32 PM

To: Krueger, Christine; Ratcliffe, Krista; Zurcher, Amelia; South, James; Foster, Susanne; Bauer, Connie; Papanek, Paula; Grow, Jean; Gibson, Kevin W.; Tobin, Theresa; Crockett, Timothy; Trivigno, Franco; Melamed, Jodi; Marten, James; Monahan, Michael J.; Mulla, Sameena; Politano, Michael; Pasero, Anne; Gendron, Sarah; Garner, Ana; Turner, Lynn; Cordova, Sarah; Hay, Carla; Hathaway, Heather; Holstein, James; Franzoi, Stephen; de St. Aubin, Ed; Hlavka, Heather; Peressini, Anthony
Note that we have left the distribution list on the e-mail since it is pretty much a Who’s Who of politically correct liberals and leftists on the faculty.
Subject: Jodi O’Brien Next Steps

Dear Colleagues:

The past week has been very difficult for me, as I’m sure it has been for you. I send this e-mail regarding Fr. Wild’s decision to rescind the offer of the job as Arts and Sciences Dean to Dr. Jodi O’Brien. I include below, with his permission, excerpts of e-mails I received from Dr. Stephen Franzoi, a member of the Dean Search Committee. The Search Committee has now been discharged, and are free to speak as individuals. I do this to alert you to how corrupted this decision-making process has been. Dr. Franzoi will be sending an e-mail to members of the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate, and I have urged other Search Committee members to follow suit.

According to Dr. Franzoi, two candidates were forwarded by the Search Committee with their high recommendation to the Provost. Strengths as well as weaknesses were listed for each. The Search Committee included, not as a weakness in Dr. O'Brien, but as a recognition of the history and climate of Marquette, that an offer should not be made to her unless the Provost and President were willing to stand by her and her scholarship. As you know, Fr. Wild publicly berated the Search Committee for a failure of “due diligence.” I have been told by a reliable source that a public apology was requested from Fr. Wild; a private apology is all that has been received to date.

My involvement in the matter is this. On April 11, I was told by Dr. Pauly, in confidence, that an offer had been extended to Dr. O’Brien. Dr. Pauly gave me her cell phone number and asked me to contact her. I did so. Dr. O’Brien and her partner visited Milwaukee on April 15-18. I interacted with them on April 15, saw them on April 16, and spoke with Dr. O’Brien by cell phone on April 16. On April 16, she told me that she had accepted the offer to become Dean. She asked me to keep the matter confidential, and told me it would be announced in about a week. No announcement was forthcoming. I e-mailed her Dr. O’Brien on May 1 to inquire. She responded that there had been unexpected delays, but said she hoped for more positive news soon. Late on Monday, May 3, I received a request for a meeting with the Provost on Tuesday, May 4 at 9 AM. When I met with the Provost, he told me that Fr. Wild had decided to withdraw the offer. Dr. Pauly tried to explain that the reasons were to do with articles published by Dr. O’Brien. Fr. Wild apparently thought these articles showed that Dr. O’Brien would not be able to represent the Catholic identity of the University.

About half an hour later, Fr. Wild joined us and tried to explain his position. I was not then, and am not now, clear on what exactly the objectionable passages are. Same sex marriage was mentioned, as was a description of lesbian sex involving a sex toy. I consulted Dr. O’Brien’s work, which is not advocacy of a lifestyle or same sex marriage, and failed to find any connection with Catholicism.

On May 5, I spoke with Dr. Pauly and Fr. Wild by telephone. I implored Fr. Wild to meet with the Dean's Advisory Council and the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences before rescinding the offer. He met with the Search Committee. According to Dr. Franzoi, he berated them for a failure of “due diligence,” and they strongly objected to that characterization. Dr. Franzoi states that it was not clear to the Committee members whether the offer had, at the time of that meeting, been rescinded. At least two Committee members passionately appealed to Fr. Wild not to rescind the offer, due to the harmful consequences of doing so. Fr. Wild did not meet with the DAC until after the decision was made. Now “listening sessions” are to be scheduled. I find this contemptuous of the College, and offensive.

I include this, as well as the e-mail below, in an effort to throw some light on what has been a closed and corrupted decision-making process that has had a very harmful result. Already, junior faculty are frightened. Already, their students ask them if they will be fired. Already, lesbians involved in a sexuality study being conducted here have withdrawn, thereby harming our colleagues’ research.

I urge you to lobby your Academic Senate representatives for a vote of no confidence/censure on Fr. Wild at the Academic Senate meeting on Monday. A list of Academic Senate members is available at: I ask this not to harm Fr. Wild, though I believe he has egregiously failed us in his duties as President. I ask this so that we, as a University, can send a clear message to his successor that the way in which this decision is made will not be tolerated. The time has come to demand that faculty voices be engaged in decision-making processes. What happened in the Jodi O'Brien case is not shared governance.

Please forward this e-mail to all colleagues whom you believe will support this

Thank you,

Nancy Snow

From Dr. Stephen Franzoi, included with his permission:

Excerpted from E-mail 1:

To All Regular Faculty Within the Psychology Department,

There is a struggle going on campus among various groups to define the social reality surrounding the events of the past few days regarding the rescinding of the offer to Jodi O’Brien. I am sending to you, unfiltered, various communications from Provost John Pauly, Search Committee Chair Rich Friman, and President Father Wild regarding perceptions of the actions of the search committee. My opinion is that Father Wild has now abandoned his initial response of accusing the committee of not properly vetting Jodi O'Brien and now the definition of the social reality blame game shifts squarely on the shoulders of either Provost Pauly and/or President Wild. As a social psychologist, these unfolding events are fascinating. As a Marquette faculty member, however, I am far beyond being despondent.


Excerpted from E-mail 2:

President Wild told us in a meeting on Wednesday that there was an article in which “sex positions” and “sex toys” are mentioned, and that it could be interpreted that this passage was autobiographical in nature. That is what he told us. From that, I found this article and found those italicized passages about two lesbians visiting a sex shop. In reading this article, I saw nothing that suggested that these passages were anything but illustrations of the article’s subject matter, namely, gender definitions. My interpretation was that this was a scholarly article discussing gender issues.

N.B. The reason for excerpts is that some people have not given permission, or have not been asked for their permission, to forward their remarks. I respect their right not to have remarks forwarded without their express permission.


Nancy E. Snow
Professor of Philosophy
Marquette University

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Hope and Change?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Rejected Lesbian Dean Candidate: Examining Her “Scholarship”

Before we had any idea that Jodi O’Brien, the Arts & Science Dean candidate whose offer from Marquette was withdrawn, was a not merely lesbian, but rather a gay political activist, we had decided she was unqualified to be Dean.

The reason is simple: her vita (what’s what academics call their résumés) showed her to be a mediocre scholar.

Oh, she has published a lot of articles. But none is in a top-level or even a mid-level sociology journal. She has authored and coauthored a lot of books, but all but one are simply edited volumes where she and a coauthor put together essays collected from other scholars.

Every single article is in the “victim studies” mould. In principle, studying race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation is academically legitimate. In practice, all of these fields are immersed in a stifling political correctness, and the sense among “scholars” in the field of being part of a grand political project to attack racism, sexism, homophobia, patriarchy and an entire range of other social evils is disasterious for scholarly standards.

Which brings us to O’Brien’s “scholarship.”

We have downloaded and put online three articles of hers, pretty much at random. (We lack the stomach to extensively examine this kind of literature.)

They are: And here is another that a friend brought to our attention. Some of the prose in this last one might raise some eyebrows. For example:
If I, as a biological male, log onto a dateline as “Hotpants,” a “36Ð24Ð34 red-headed female looking for some stiff action” and am pursued and “bedded” by someone whose biography reads: “young black male body-builder looking for a woman who can take all of me,” does it matter that I am really a white, forty-something male middle-manager? Does our sexual ranting constitute a heterosexual or homosexual encounter? Obviously the answer depends on whether one uses the physical or the imaginative as the site of authentication.
But in fact the one on same-sex marriage might seem the best candidate to be conroversial in terms of substance, and indeed it is.

She clearly favors gay marriage, talking about “the need to support same-sex marriage legislation as it has been currently framed.”

And further “I support the fight for everyone to make choices regarding how they wish to author their own lives and the meaning they seek for themselves and those they wish to define as ‘family.’”

But then she makes it clear that she’s not too keen on marriage of any kind, claiming “I work hard to educate others about the fundamental need to forge a strong disconnect between culturally accepted definitions of ‘family’ and the political economic assessments of the distribution of benefits and assurances for U.S. citizens.” (p. 471)

The quotes around “family” tell the story.

And further, “the power to define differences and the power to define economic well-being rest too strongly in the same ‘family.’” (pp. 471-472)

In other words, she’s “sort-of” in favor of gay marriage, but really doesn’t much like the notion of “family” centering on a married couple at all!

Read the others too, if you have some time, and want a taste of what the rarified and arcane rhetoric of victim studies in academia sounds like.

O’Brien was in competition with two candidates who had rather impressive scholarly credentials. One wrote a book on the French Revolution that won an awared from the American Historical Association.

Another was an anthropologist who has published a long string of articles in top anthropology journals.

One of the qualifications for being Dean is that the faculty must respect you as a scholar, and it’s a real disability when most faculty are saying of the Dean “she wouldn’t get tenure in this department.”

The fact that she got an offer, and indeed the fact that the the Search Committee explicitly invited her to apply, both suggest an agenda. Some people, almost certainly including members of the Search Committee but perhaps also including Provost Pauly, thought it would be a dandy symbol of “diversity” at Marquette to have an openly lesbian Arts & Sciences Dean.

And Father Wild, who has a history of being manipulable, went along. Only when he got pressure from the other direction did he change his mind.

But by then, it was too late to avoid a massive embarrassment.

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Rejected Lesbian Dean Candidate: Marquette Asleep at the Switch for Over a Year

From the gay journal The Advocate, which managed to get some good inside information from Jodi O’Brien, who was offered the job of Arts & Science Dean but had it withdrawn.
O’Brien said Thursday that she had been previously recruited by a third-party firm for the same position in fall 2008. Despite being chosen for the short list of candidates, O’Brien declined the job for personal reasons in 2009, and the search was called off. Recruitment was then opened back up, and this time Marquette’s newly staffed selection committee approached O’Brien directly, asking her to reconsider, which she did. She said an offer was made to her in March, and by mid April she had accepted the position. But then she learned this week that the offer would be rescinded.
So O’Brien wasn’t merely somebody who snuck through. She was highly rated in 2008, and was “approached directly” (and not just through the university “headhunter”) in the current round of hiring.

But they only discovered in the last week that some of her writings make her unacceptable.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Student Government Senate Supports Rejected Lesbian Arts and Science Dean Candidate

Not really a surprise from a body that has pretty much bought into the entire gay agenda, but the Marquette Student Senate tonight voted to support Jodi O’Brien by a vote of 16 in favor, and 6 opposed and 2 abstaining.

The resolution read:
Therefore: Let it be recommended that, in the future, Marquette University be more honest and transparent in its hiring rationale.

Furthermore: Let it be resolved that Marquette University Student Government abhors the University’s decision to rescind Dr. O’Brien’s offered contract.
Of particular interest in the press release from Student Government describing last night’s meeting is this:
Dr. L. Christopher Miller, vice president for student affairs, discussed issues regarding the release of Dr. Jodi O’Brien, former candidate for dean of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, with the MUSG senate on Thursday night. Dr. Miller encouraged senate members and all university students to attend a discussion forum to be held on Tuesday, May 11 at 5:30 p.m. in the AMU ballrooms.

“Pieces of scholarship were not reviewed when offered the position, then once reviewed were found to be in disagreement with Marquette values,” said Dr. Miller.

Dr. Miller also stressed that the release of Dr. O’Brien as a candidate was not due to discrimination: “It is not a part of who we are,” said Dr. Miller. “That is not the case.”
This statement from Miller is plausible, but consider how damning it is.

O’Brien was, according to the gay journal The Advocate, in the Dean search that took place in 2009. And then she made the short list for the 2010 search, interviewed and was extended an offer.

And all the while nobody bothered to read her scholar work.

(Or perhaps did read it and had no objection, and failed to honestly report what she had written.)

No matter how you cut it or slice it, it’s a fiasco.

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