Post navigation

Prev: (06/02/16) | Next: (06/03/16)

Seattle U protest continues as dean placed on ‘administrative leave’

Though the dean of Seattle University’s Matteo Ricci College has been placed on administrative leave, the sit-in to protest what students say is a hostile climate at the school continues.

“This has never just been about Dean Kelly,” a student leader of the MRC Student Coalition said at a press conference the group held on Thursday.

“We haven’t been engaging in this sit-in for 23 days to be placated,” added another.

The MRC Student Coalition have been occupying Casey Hall for more than 20 days to protest what they see as a hostile and unsafe learning environment for minorities at Matteo Ricci College. The coalition claims that Jodi Kelly, dean of Matteo Ricci College, represents and has upheld that unsafe environment.

Interim provost Bob Dullea announced that Kelly was placed on paid administrative leave “pending the outcome of formal complaints that have been made.”

In a statement announcing the leave, university president Stephen Sundborg said the administration shared the coalition’s goals and had specific plans to address concerns about culture and environment upon completion of the sit-in.

We have outlined specific proposals to address the curriculum and culture concerns and that build upon work previously begun but in its early stages. The Provost’s Office has continued discussions with involved faculty on how best to faithfully implement the proposals to achieve meaningful results and reliable outcomes. Specific elements of the final proposals will be shared more broadly later this week by the Provost’s Office. This work is ready to begin immediately and without delay upon conclusion of the sit-in.

Earlier today, Interim Provost Bob Dullea also informed Matteo Ricci College faculty and staff of his decision to place Dean Jodi Kelly on administrative leave pending the outcome of formal complaints that have been filed and a broader review of her leadership and management of the college. Interim Provost Dullea indicated he took this step based on information that came forward over the past several weeks and his belief that successful operations of the college at this time require Dean Kelly step away from day-to-day management and oversight. It is a step that I support and believe is necessary. An acting dean for Matteo Ricci College will be named soon.

IMG_20160602_113328708Thursday, members of the coalition addressed what they see as the progress that has been made so far and their goals going forward.

One of the coalition’s core demands when the sit-in began was the removal of Kelly from the college. The students allege that Kelly is the “gatekeeper” of the hostile environment at Matteo Ricci, and has minimized people of color, hindered academic freedom and intimidated faculty into not making changes to their curriculum. Though the group says they have documentation of these claims that they have submitted to the administration, those documents have not been made public.

Students were also concerned that they were not consulted about who should serve as interim dean in Kelly’s absence. Group leaders say they have a short list of candidates and want to see a woman of color in the interim dean position.

Appointing a woman of color as interim dean may address the desire for more administrative diversity that coalition leaders have been calling for since the sit-in began. Coalition members said they were prepared to continue the fight for as long as necessary. Students displayed several letters of support from the campus community, including one from the Faculty, Staff, and Student Leadership Council of Interdisciplinary Studies and one from the College of Arts & Sciences Faculty Staff Senate.

Seattle University administrators have not yet responded to inquiries about the leave announcement.

UPDATE 6/6/2016 10:05 AM: The MRC Coalition has ended its sit-in. The coalition issued a letter on June 3 calling Kelly’s administrative leave a “monumental success” and saying that because of the progress that has been made on putting together a curriculum review committee they had decided to end the sit-in. However, the letter was clear that they did not consider the sit-in to be the end of the movement, and would continue to push for change in the college.


Dear Community,
On June 3rd 2016, members of the MRC Student Coalition met with Interim Provost Bob Dullea and Acting Dean Paulette Kidder to finalize details relating to the curriculum review committee. This committee will be responsible for critically analyzing and reimagining Matteo Ricci College’s curriculum.
The Coalition considers Jodi Kelly’s administrative leave and ongoing investigations a monumental success. We celebrate this achievement and credit all of our community supporters for making this possible.
Although much of our sit­in has focused on the removal and investigation of Jodi Kelly, our larger concern has always been that of curricula and climate, both of which are intimately linked. In the aftermath of Jodi Kelly’s administrative leave, members of the Coalition recognized that there was still work to be done concerning the curriculum and climate.We know that the result of this curriculum review has the potential to change Matteo Ricci College for years into the future.
Because Provost Dullea and Acting Dean Kidder agreed to all of the Coalition’s demands relating to curricula review and proposals, the MRC Student Coalition has decided to end our sit­in at the Matteo Ricci Offices and Casey Atrium.
This is not the end of our movement. The Coalition, whether the administration agrees or not, will be heavily present and involved in ongoing negotiations concerning the future of Matteo Ricci College.
The sit­in has been a visible, significant, and beautiful movement on Seattle University’s campus. Although the issues challenged by our sit in are hyper­concentrated in Matteo Ricci College, these same problems exist throughout all departments and colleges. The struggle to bring awareness to long term abuses of power, hostile work and learning environments, and blatant discrimination and manipulation indicates an inept and complicit administration that has long prioritized its image and stability over the wellbeing of students and faculty.
We know that the longevity of this sit­in will be seen through broad and deep changes across our entire university in the years to come. This campus has been foundationally challenged and changed by our collective efforts ­­ efforts that center the many legacies of trauma and resistance in and beyond this institution. This is a continuation of the work of our many ancestors and loved ones who have and continue to struggle for our collective liberation. This is our work, and our work is not over.
This sit­in, and the deeper impact of our work, would not have been possible without support from the many communities who have generously showed up and loved us. Thank you all so much for your letters, emails, Facebook comments, food donations, blankets, and everything in between. We are here because of you, and we will be forever grateful.
In eternal resistance and solidarity,

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Greg M
Greg M
4 years ago

This follow-up post should have a small section covering what these students are asking for.

The original post about the beginning of this sit in showed the student (hand-written) demands in a photo, including a “de-europeanized” education.

I note that they voluntarily chose to attend a Jesuit institution. If only they understood the definition of irony.

4 years ago
Reply to  Greg M

Diversity and justice are listed in the University’s mission, vision and values. A Euro-centric curriculum is contrary to this.

4 years ago

It’s a private college. If you don’t like the way things are run, go somewhere else.