Marquette University on Thursday abruptly rescinded an offer to a sociologist to serve as dean of one of its colleges, angering some students and faculty members who said the university did so after learning she was a lesbian who wrote about sexuality.
Marquette, a Roman Catholic university run by Jesuits in Milwaukee, said the professor lacked “the ability to represent the Marquette mission and identity.”
The professor, Jodi O’Brien, who teaches sociology at Seattle University, is openly gay and writes frequently about sexuality in academic journals.
Nancy E. Snow, a professor of philosophy at Marquette who had supported Dr. O’Brien’s candidacy for dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said of the decision, “This is discrimination based on sexual orientation, and is a complete betrayal of our commitment to human dignity and diversity.”
The Rev. Robert A. Wild, the Marquette president, denied in an interview that the decision to revoke the offer was based on the candidate’s sexual orientation. Instead, Father Wild said, the decision came after he and other university leaders read academic writings by the candidate.
“We found some strongly negative statements about marriage and family,” Father Wild said.
Were they really “negative statements” about marriage and family, or positive statements about gay marriage and same-sex couple headed families?
Dr. O’Brien’s 12-page curriculum vitae includes many articles and book chapters on topics like “Queer Christian Identities,” “Queer Christian Social Movements” and same-sex marriage. In a joint letter on Wednesday to the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences, Father Wild and John J. Pauly, the provost, said, “We did make an offer to one of the two finalists; in retrospect, that was done prematurely.”
In an e-mail message, Dr. O’Brien said she was stunned by Marquette’s about-face and disappointed that she would not be able to serve at the university.