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Our former colleague Chris Wolfe has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the (now rescinded) job offer to Jodi O’Brien, “out” lesbian and choice of the Search Committee to be Dean of Arts and Sciences.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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