Thursday, May 20, 2010

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 It’s the same position that Marquette officials offered to O’Brien but later rescinded.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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