Monday, May 10, 2010

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thing, but it seems to come down on the side of lesbian Dean candidate Jodi O’Brien, whose offer of the deanship was rescinded just last week.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The claim seems to be that rescinded the offer to O’Brien somehow compromised “academic freedom.”

Indeed, if the offer was withdrawn merely because she wrote about sex, this would be a reasonable concern.

In reality, it appears to have been withdrawn because she not only is an “out” lesbian, but has written extensively about her life as a lesbian and clearly supports things like gay marriage (with the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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