Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reporting From the Belly of the Beast: Marquette Warrior at a Meeting of the Campus Gay Lobby

It was supposed to be hush-hush.

Chris Miller, Vice President for Student Affairs, invited lesbian activist and director of the UCLA Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Campus Resource Center Ronni Sanlo to Marquette as a “consultant.”

Marquette’s website contains nothing at all about the visit. E-mailed invitations were sent to people who are apparently gay, lesbian or “allies” on campus. The thing ceased to be hush-hush when we obtained an e-mail chain and “outed” [to coin a phrase] the whole affair.

Miller seemed a bit perturbed that we had obtained the e-mails, and asked us how we got them. Of course we, following standard journalistic practice, declined to give him any information.

Why was Sanlo brought to campus? In an e-mail to us, Miller claimed to “have some data which reflect climate concerns.” Such data is not public, however.

Sanlo’s time on campus included a meeting with graduate students, a “Town Hall” meeting on Thursday night (one that was, like all her events, publicized to only a narrow circle of people), a luncheon with the Executive Board of Marquette University Student Government at noon yesterday (Friday), and two meetings with faculty – one at 1:00 p.m. yesterday, and another at 3:00 p.m.

We were in the 1:00 p.m. meeting, feeling at bit like a lion in a den of Daniels. There were 21 individuals present (plus us and Sanlo).

Her Mission

Sanlo explained that she was invited to campus by Miller, and her job was to “see what the issues might be and find some solutions.” She will produce a report for Miller, with whom she worked at “another institution.” She was vague on who else might see the report, and especially whether anybody higher in the Administration would see it or was in any way invested in the project. “I can’t say how high it will go,” she said, adding that she would like it to be made public.

(If somebody will leak a copy to a certain blogger, it will indeed be public.)

Her visit was set up in early September, “probably” (she said) in response to the brouhaha over Jodi O’Brien.

Although Student Affairs invited her, she alluded to “issues around faculty and staff,” that are “beyond the student area.”

Sanlo referred to what she was told was a “repressive climate on campus,” and further that “Student Affairs has been an agent in stopping” discussions of sexuality.

Her Life Story

Sanlo started by telling her life story, including the fact that as a barely pubescent girl she had the hots for Annette Funicello (one of the few things she has in common with us), and how after leaving college she married her college “default date” when her grandfather asked her “what are you, funny or something?”

She “came out” in 1979, and after some tough times (she was homeless for a spell), got things together and “became a raging activist.”

Faculty Comment & Question

Most of the time consisted of faculty comments and questions. The first comment, from Stephen Franzoi (a member of the Search Committee that selected Jodi O’Brien) questioned whether the people in the room would have any effect. He suggested that they are viewed as “non-credible” by the Administration. Another faculty member claimed that “we are viewed as comical problems.”

On a similar note, one faculty member said she had been told that “most students are over this.” (In reality, most students had nothing to “get over” since they didn’t care one way or the other. The students who talk to the most politically correct faculty are a rather self-selected group.)

Secular vs. Nominally Catholic

Some faculty members wanted Marquette’s response to be nominally Catholic, one saying that Sanlo’s report “has to have a congruence with the language of [Catholic] mission.”

But other faculty made no bones about not caring about the “mission” business. One expressed a desire that Marquette be “like other schools around the country,” and Franzoi pointed out that “many faculty are secular.” He explained that when he came to Marquette he had three job offers (ironically, all from Catholic schools) and he came to do research.

Why Not Set Up a Center?

Anytime academics want recognition for their pet project, the first thing that comes to mind is “let’s set up a center.” And indeed Sanlo talked at length about the issue, pointing out that there are about 200 lesbian and gay centers in universities around the country.

(One of the odd characteristics of people who want Marquette to be much more secular is their using the standard plaint of teenagers, “everybody is doing it.” Having degrees, they ought to know this is the argumentum ad populum fallacy.)

Most of these centers are run by Student Affairs, and Sanlo said they are “all very similar.” She gave a description of the center at UCLA, saying it tries to draw in all kinds of students, with one key inducement being free printing!

A considerable discussion ensued regarding whether any such center at Marquette should be run by Student Affairs or on the academic side of the University. Opinions leaned toward an academic center, one person saying that faculty won’t go to events hosted by Student Affairs. In particular, the Center at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee has a director who does not have a Ph.D. – something that compromises its academic credibility.

A related issue was whether any such Center would deal with broader “gender” issues, like sexual violence. Here opinions were split. Often, across the nation, centers have to deal with multiple issues due to budget constraints.

Domestic Partner Benefits

A final discussion dealt “domestic partner benefits:” the notion that gay or lesbian “partners” of faculty should get the same benefits as spouses. Sanlo, of course, was all for it. She claimed that while at Marquette she had “talked to a number of people about that.”

She further said that she “would not apply to any institution that did not have domestic partner benefits.” This in spite of the fact that she has not had a “partner’ in 10 years. Other faculty chimed in, saying that hiring at Marquette is harmed by the lack of such benefits.

Nobody, of course, suggested that it’s a good thing if people so opposed to Marquette’s Catholic mission and identity self-select out of the pool of job applicants. The demand for “domestic partner benefits” is, after all, a demand that Marquette recognize as legitimate and subsidize illicit sexual behavior.

Sanlo added an inspirational note, telling those assembled “you’ve been called here to create change in the institution.” She was right about that. But the “change” the people at the meeting wanted was for Marquette to become like every conformist politically correct secular institution.

In other words, they want to remake Marquette in their own image. To a substantial degree, they already have.

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Anonymous thekahoona said...

Nominally Catholic?

That's just silly. The trustees have nothing to defend about their decision to rescind an offer to Jodi O’Brien once her "scholarly works" became clear. The offer was clearly in conflict with MU's mission.

"Nominally Catholic" is the kind of nonsensical word parsing that flows when Catholic institutions try to be what they are not.

As one who wandered in the wilderness of Agnosticism for 15 years, I'll tell you something... What brought me back was the fact that Catholic teaching is firmly rooted in a deep understanding of human nature. I have come to love the logic of it.

(personally, I would like to see Apologetics as a required course)

- thekahoona

6:39 PM  

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