Word from the Seattle University campus is that faculty is “outraged” by Marquette University’s decision to rescind its job offer to one of SU’s own. Marquette last week announced it was withdrawing its offer to Jodi O’Brien, chair of SU’s anthropology department, to helm the college of arts and sciences at the private Jesuit university located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. O’Brien is a lesbian. Marquette officials say the decision “wasn’t about O’Brien’s sexual orientation or the quality of her work.” Seattle U’s faculty says otherwise. Here is an e-mail we received that is currently being circulated around department inboxes:
It is an understatement, that I find the incident regarding Jodi O’Brien at Marquette, our sister Jesuit university, very disturbing. I’ve been a staunch advocate for Seattle University dealing with sexuality issues; including devoting our first 2003 Academic Salons to “Sexual Justice.” Ironically, our very first salon, (of over 170 salons in a 3 year period) was with SU faculty, who spoke about their sons and daughters who were gay. It was a powerful salon for students and faculty alike; the room was packed.
If you recall Jodi O’Brien was our first convocation speaker for Academic Salons. Jodi representing Seattle University at this convocation took a great deal of courage. Prior to her talk, administrators were concerned that students might be “traumatized” by the topic of sexuality (and an out lesbian), and that we “might need to have counselors waiting after her talk to help students.” Needless to say, after these insults, the other renowned speaker cancelled his presentation. I told Jodi, I understood if she did not want to speak. But she did not hesitate, and she offered her title, “Silence is Costly: Education as a Tool for Sexual Awareness, Responsibility and Personhood.” I remain very inspired by that act.
“Silence is Costly:
Education as a Tool for Sexual Awareness,
Responsibility and Personhood”
As Jodi’s colleagues, how are we going to react to Marquette University’s action? How do faculty model social justice? At minimum, I think we need to offer a letter of solidarity and support to Jodi. We might consider forwarding this letter to the President of Marquette University. Perhaps we might consider asking our own SU Jesuits, SU President and SU Provost to send protest letters or join us.
Perhaps some of you have other ideas? I am overwhelmed with getting next weeks workshop finished—but I remain deeply committed to offering Jodi a sign of solidarity from her colleagues; and a major protest by our SU faculty to Marquette University. Your help in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
With deep sadness and sincerity,
Mara Adelman, Ph.D.. Associate Professor
UPDATE 4:35 PM:
Here is one response — a letter being circulated in SU’s college of arts and sciences:
Dear Faculty Members of the College of Arts and Sciences,
Below is a statement concerning Jodi’s treatment by Marquette University. There will be a copy of this letter, along with a page for signatures, at the Anthropology-sociology-Social Work office (Casey 300). Please come by and sign it if you wish.
We, faculty members at Seattle University, feel deeply saddened and angered by the treatment that one of our colleagues, Dr. Jodi O’Brien, has received at Marquette University.
All of us who work with her know how Dr. O’Brien exemplifies the Jesuit mission. She has been an instrumental member of the Jesuit Identity efforts, and has placed Catholic/Jesuit issues as central to her teaching, scholarship, and in her mentorship of young faculty. She is a tremendous credit to our university. She would be a fine dean at any university.
We find it difficult to believe that Dr. O’Brien was not fully vetted for as important a position as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and that her writings came as a surprise. This is an attack on academic freedom and civil rights.
Dr. O’Brien is a scholar with few equals in her field. This action was simply wrong.