Marquette Warrior: Rejected Lesbian Dean Candidate: Examining Her “Scholarship”

Friday, May 07, 2010

Rejected Lesbian Dean Candidate: Examining Her “Scholarship”

Before we had any idea that Jodi O’Brien, the Arts & Science Dean candidate whose offer from Marquette was withdrawn, was a not merely lesbian, but rather a gay political activist, we had decided she was unqualified to be Dean.

The reason is simple: her vita (what’s what academics call their résumés) showed her to be a mediocre scholar.

Oh, she has published a lot of articles. But none is in a top-level or even a mid-level sociology journal. She has authored and coauthored a lot of books, but all but one are simply edited volumes where she and a coauthor put together essays collected from other scholars.

Every single article is in the “victim studies” mould. In principle, studying race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation is academically legitimate. In practice, all of these fields are immersed in a stifling political correctness, and the sense among “scholars” in the field of being part of a grand political project to attack racism, sexism, homophobia, patriarchy and an entire range of other social evils is disasterious for scholarly standards.

Which brings us to O’Brien’s “scholarship.”

We have downloaded and put online three articles of hers, pretty much at random. (We lack the stomach to extensively examine this kind of literature.)

They are: And here is another that a friend brought to our attention. Some of the prose in this last one might raise some eyebrows. For example:
If I, as a biological male, log onto a dateline as “Hotpants,” a “36Ð24Ð34 red-headed female looking for some stiff action” and am pursued and “bedded” by someone whose biography reads: “young black male body-builder looking for a woman who can take all of me,” does it matter that I am really a white, forty-something male middle-manager? Does our sexual ranting constitute a heterosexual or homosexual encounter? Obviously the answer depends on whether one uses the physical or the imaginative as the site of authentication.
But in fact the one on same-sex marriage might seem the best candidate to be conroversial in terms of substance, and indeed it is.

She clearly favors gay marriage, talking about “the need to support same-sex marriage legislation as it has been currently framed.”

And further “I support the fight for everyone to make choices regarding how they wish to author their own lives and the meaning they seek for themselves and those they wish to define as ‘family.’”

But then she makes it clear that she’s not too keen on marriage of any kind, claiming “I work hard to educate others about the fundamental need to forge a strong disconnect between culturally accepted definitions of ‘family’ and the political economic assessments of the distribution of benefits and assurances for U.S. citizens.” (p. 471)

The quotes around “family” tell the story.

And further, “the power to define differences and the power to define economic well-being rest too strongly in the same ‘family.’” (pp. 471-472)

In other words, she’s “sort-of” in favor of gay marriage, but really doesn’t much like the notion of “family” centering on a married couple at all!

Read the others too, if you have some time, and want a taste of what the rarified and arcane rhetoric of victim studies in academia sounds like.

O’Brien was in competition with two candidates who had rather impressive scholarly credentials. One wrote a book on the French Revolution that won an awared from the American Historical Association.

Another was an anthropologist who has published a long string of articles in top anthropology journals.

One of the qualifications for being Dean is that the faculty must respect you as a scholar, and it’s a real disability when most faculty are saying of the Dean “she wouldn’t get tenure in this department.”

The fact that she got an offer, and indeed the fact that the the Search Committee explicitly invited her to apply, both suggest an agenda. Some people, almost certainly including members of the Search Committee but perhaps also including Provost Pauly, thought it would be a dandy symbol of “diversity” at Marquette to have an openly lesbian Arts & Sciences Dean.

And Father Wild, who has a history of being manipulable, went along. Only when he got pressure from the other direction did he change his mind.

But by then, it was too late to avoid a massive embarrassment.

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