Thursday, May 06, 2010

Lesbian Dean Candidate Rejected: Marquette Administration Responds

It has created quite a brouhaha on campus: the decision by President Fr. Robert Wild to rescind an offer to a candidate for the Dean of Arts & Sciences.

We just got this via e-mail, apparently sent to all Arts & Sciences faculty.
Dear Colleagues:

It is with a true sense of disappointment that we write to inform you that the current search for the dean of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences has closed without identifying an acceptable candidate for permanent appointment. Jeanne Hossenlopp will continue to serve as interim dean until Provost Pauly names her successor, as Dr. Hossenlopp can assume her new duties as Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School.

To be appointed as the Klingler College dean requires a unique combination of scholarly accomplishment, administrative experience, and the ability to both represent our Catholic identity and articulate the central role of Arts and Science education in the Jesuit pedagogy. It is a very high bar to reach, as it should be. The Search Committee had, in fact, forwarded two names to the provost for further consideration, in each case identifying issues for further discussion, as was its charge.

Some of the concerns identified in the process should have had more careful scrutiny. After examining the cumulative published records of the candidates, particularly as they relate to Catholic mission and identity, subsequent discussion raised issues that had not been fully addressed earlier. We did make an offer to one of the two finalists; in retrospect that was done prematurely. While this person has an excellent background, a record of achievement and a strong academic track record, it was decided after further analysis that this individual was not the person who could best fill this very important position. This decision was not based on any candidate’s personal background nor does the decision in any way challenge a faculty member’s freedom to write in his or her area of scholarly expertise.
The rest, which you can read here, is meaningless blather about how good the Arts College is.

And then we have, also from the University, this e-mailed press release:
Statement regarding the College of Arts & Sciences Dean Search

Marquette University has closed its search for the dean of the Klingler College of Arts & Sciences without identifying an acceptable candidate for permanent appointment. While three candidates visited campus and an offer was made to one individual, in the final analysis it became increasingly clear that no candidate was the ideal fit to represent the college at this time.

To be appointed as the Klingler College dean requires a unique combination of scholarly accomplishment, administrative experience, and the ability to represent our Catholic identity. The Search Committee had, in fact, forwarded two names to the provost for further consideration, in each case identifying issues for further discussion, as was its charge. Some of the concerns identified in the process should have had more careful scrutiny, and publications relating to Catholic mission and identity should have been more fully explored early in the process. While we did make an offer to one of the two finalists, in retrospect that was done prematurely without as much due diligence as was warranted. While this person has an excellent background, a record of achievement and a strong academic track record, it was decided after further analysis that this individual was not the person who could best fill this very important position.

There were certain oversights in the search process, and we regret that deeply. As a result of this search, the university will revise some aspects of the search process.

In the past decade, Marquette has made significant strides in the area of diversity, making the university a more inclusive place to learn and work. This personnel decision was not about sexual orientation. Marquette takes seriously its nondiscrimination statement and our Statement on Human Dignity and Diversity. We have on our faculty and staff individuals of various faiths, ages, ethnicity and sexual orientation. These differences help us to promote a culture of learning, appreciation and understanding.

Provost John Pauly will make an announcement regarding an interim dean in the near future and will work with the faculty and staff of the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as university leadership, as we move forward. There will be opportunities for us to discuss this as a campus community in the coming weeks.
We have mixed feelings about this. In the first place, Jodi O’Brien appears to have been a lesbian affirmative action candidate. And we don’t particularly mind when stakeholders outside the circle of politically correct faculty have their say in the affairs of Marquette.

It’s also bogus to say this is a matter of academic freedom. Marquette has always maintained it has the right to “hire for mission,” which means hire people consistent with the claimed Catholic nature of the university. After a faculty member is hired, he or she has the right to take whatever positions he or she wants.

It’s also the case that administrators aren’t the same as faculty. Nobody has an “academic freedom” right to be a dean. Only a right to teach and publish.

However, there is no way around this being a major fiasco. If Jodi O’Brien is not qualified to be Dean of Arts & Sciences at Marquette, she should never have made it to the short list, much less been offered the position.

Thus, if Marquette really wants to hire only Deans who are consistent with the “mission” of the university, they should take the trouble to appoint a committee that believes in that mission.

And if they feel the need to overturn the recommendation of the committee they appoint, they should do it early on (which they have the right to do, because the committee is merely making a “recommendation”).

Instead, we have the administration (and Wild has to take the main responsibility here) accepting the committee recommendation and then weeks later backing out due to pressure from people outside the university.

It’s not just a fiasco. It’s two or three fiascos piled on top of one another.

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