It’s Seattle U v. Marquette in an "East Coast-West Coast Style" Jesuit Shootout
What happens when a
East not-West-Coast Jesuit university turns down a professor from a West Coast Jesuit university? It’s time for chest-bumpin’! But, in a scholarly, considered way.
When Seattle University sociology professor Jodi O’Brien was offered a position at Wisconsin’s Marquette University, she probably didn’t expect the news to make the Huffington Post. In fact, it didn’t.
It wasn’t until Marquette belatedly revoked the job offer of dean of arts and sciences that HuffPo got interested in allegations that Marquette’s cold feet had to do with O’Brien’s lesbian status, and delightedly covered Marquette President Father Robert Wild’s “Why, some of our best professors are lesbians” defense.
(Now Firedoglake has an incendiary letter from Marquette’s own Dr. Daniel Maguire, displaying the benefit of tenure in calling for his president’s resignation.)
O’Brien, who got her PhD at the University of Washington and came to Seattle U in 1995, later becoming chair of her department, is both popular with students and openly gay, according to the Seattle University Spectator (a paper for which I once wrote a few pretty lousy film reviews, back in the day). A Seattle U students’ Facebook group supporting O’Brien sprang up even before her colleagues had time to issue their own statement. They are “deeply saddened and angry.” Step off, MU!
Somehow she made it to the last round of the process, as one of the top two finalists, and had the job offer extended to her via a phone call before Marquette noticed that her academic work has “strongly negative statements about marriage and family.” Talking with The Advocate, O’Brien mentioned that a search firm had tried to recruit her for the same position a year earlier, but that she had declined.
Now Marquette’s administration is blaming its search committee for not doing due diligence. The search committee has invited them to display evidence of that. [*crickets*] For bystanders of a conservative bent, the sturm und drang might seem confusing. Marquette is a Catholic university, the Church has “issues” with lesbians, why on earth would you invite her to be dean in the first place?
But Jesuit schools have long made a (some might say jesuitical) distinction between moral rigor in teaching Catholic dogma, and simply teaching. It’s not necessary to be heterosexual–or Catholic–to teach at Seattle U (or Marquette, to hear them tell it). You just need to be good at what you do. By all Seattle U accounts, O’Brien qualifies there. The only thing in dubious standing remains Marquette’s last-minute change of heart.