Marquette University defends cancellation of dean offer to lesbian professor

May 10, 2010

Milwaukee, Wis. (CNA).- Marquette University defended its decision to withdraw an offer to an openly lesbian faculty member to become a college dean after it became evident that the teacher’s published writings opposed Church teachings on human sexuality.

The Jesuit university underscored the importance of finding a dean who is not only academically competent but represents “our Catholic identity.”

On Thursday, university officials announced that they withdrew an offer to Seattle University professor Jodi O’Brien to serve as the dean of Marquette’s College of Arts and Sciences. The university said in a statement that O’Brien “was not the person who could best fill this very important position”and that the school had made “oversights” in their search process. According to the Associated Press, O’Brien’s scholastic writings include sociological studies that detail lesbian sexual activity.

The professor expressed her disappointment to the AP in a recent email.

“At this time the only comment I can offer is to confirm that I was offered the position of Dean and I accepted it, but there was an intercession by the President before my appointment was announced officially,” O’Brien wrote. “I’m very disappointed. The College of A&S at Marquette is strong and vibrant and I was looking forward to working with the students and faculty there.”

Several faculty members and students protested the decision, claiming that O’brien’s sexual orientation was the reason the university decided to rescind the offer.

Nancy E. Snow, a philosophy professor at Marquette and a practicing lesbian, argued that O’Brien’s writings are not the problem. “I think it’s all about her sexual orientation,” she told the AP.  Snow added that Marquette rescinding the offer is “a public disgrace and an embarrassment.”

Marquette responded in a statement Thursday, stressing that the position of dean at its university “requires a unique combination of scholarly accomplishment, administrative experience, and the ability to represent our Catholic identity.”

“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,” added the statement. “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.”

Although O’Brien has “an excellent background, a record of achievement and a strong academic track record,” the university said,  “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,” the university statement said.

Fr. Robert Wild, president of Marquette, commented on the situation during a faculty award dinner on Thursday, underscoring that the decision to withdraw the offer to O’Brien was not a discriminatory act.
“I want to say it strongly, clearly and directly,” the reason for rescinding the position was “not about sexual identity,” Fr. Wild said.

“We have a variety of men and women here who are homosexual who work in all sorts of venues
in this university, holding a variety of positions,” he noted. “They do great work, they make a valuable contribution to this institution.”

Marquette’s ruling on the matter “is certainly not about sending a negative message to these men and women,” Fr. Wild said.

The president also spoke to faculty members on the “work we need to do to get us to an even greater level of inclusion and support as a community so that decisions like this one as difficult as they are do not so quickly polarize us.”

“I can tell you that I will begin to make this journey of inclusion and diversity that we have already been on – a journey that this university has been on all of us together for a long time certainly during these fourteen years one of my priorities in my remaining time in office,” the university president told the faculty.

Brigid Miller, director of Marquette University communications, explained to CNA on Thursday that “Father Wild’s comments about he and the faculty making a journey of inclusion and diversity,” were “referring to the listening sessions and other opportunities over the coming days and weeks to begin the conversation that will allow the Marquette campus community to move forward together from this situation.”

“The university is currently planning discussion sessions with both students and faculty,” Miller explained, adding that the sessions will “give the Marquette community an opportunity to talk about the recent decision and to invite suggestions for the future.”


7 Responses to “Marquette University defends cancellation of dean offer to lesbian professor”

  1. Kmbold on May 11th, 2010 8:30 am

    Marquette has a desire to “maintain a Catholic identity”? Maybe they meant re-gain. Apostasy and heresy seem to be the norm there among the faculty. ( Brigid Miller needs to brush up on her pronouns.)

  2. Jim on May 11th, 2010 9:56 am

    Ms. Snow is attempting to misguide. Withdrawing the offer to a person for a person’s sexual orientation is exactly to the point. The university is and institution of morals, principles, ethics and Christian-based values.. Once the university learned of her(O’brien’s) writings that are so obviously opposite of The Church’s teachings,,the university had the responsibility to not break from what is right, to allow what is wrong.. Her mere presence on campus is would seen as an acceptance by the university of her outwardly sinful lifestyle.. THANK GOD this Catholic institution hasn’t allowed itself to be dishonored the way N.D. did when it honored a president who supports abortion.

  3. Virginia Piccininni on May 11th, 2010 10:05 am

    Thank you for standing up for Catholic principles. You cannot teach effectively what you do not believe.

  4. james ryan on May 11th, 2010 1:38 pm

    Reading this quote, ” Nancy E. Snow, a philosophy professor at Marquette and a practicing lesbian, argued that O’Brien’s writings are not the problem. “I think it’s all about her sexual orientation,” she told the AP. Snow added that Marquette rescinding the offer is “a public disgrace and an embarrassment.”

    Also knowing some students enrolled at this “Catholic College”. It looks like they need a little internal house cleaning as well.

  5. Elizabeth on May 11th, 2010 2:30 pm

    No one ever seems to mention that Seattle University, where Dr. O’Brien is a full professor and chair of the Sociology Department, is also a Catholic JESUIT institution. In addition, no one ever bothers to track down Dr. O’Brien’s writings that purportedly “oppose Church teachings on human sexuality.” My guess is that they don’t, but rather that some donor took offense at the professor’s “scholastic writings [that] include sociological studies that detail lesbian sexual activity.” Describing an activity is not advocating for it.

  6. Sandy on May 12th, 2010 10:24 am

    I applaud Fr. Robert Wild for standing up for what he believes to be in the best interest of a Catholic University and Catholic principles. I agree with Jim, that no person or university should be pressured to hire someone who is so openly opposite it’s Christian-based values. Should we continue to demonize decisions made by those we place in authority over our churches and schools, we will eventually loose all our religious freedoms in this country. Move on Marquette, the decision was made. Support your leaders, for whatever reason, they have your best interests at heart. I am sure Ms. Snow appreciates your support, but she will be fine. Move on.

  7. Kmbold on May 13th, 2010 7:00 pm

    Elizabeth, since we are all guessing, my guess is that O’Brien must have written some dreadful stuff if Marquette, that bastion of heterodoxy, couldn’t stomach her. Since you are not so sure of that why don’t you do some research and clear up our confusion?

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