O’Brien’s academic record

With finals, I haven’t been able to give the O’Brien deanship controversy all the attention it deserves. One of the major pieces of information I haven’t linked to yet is O’Brien’s records of publications.  Even now, I don’t have the time to make a meaningful statement on the issue, but can only refer readers to what other people are saying about the matter.

There’s an ongoing thread at McAdam’s blog The Marquette Warrior as to whether or not her record is “mediocre.” McAdams himself claims that of her articles, “none is in a top-level or even a mid-level sociology journal.” This statement is beyond my powers to evaluate, as I know nothing about sociology–besides the fact that Durkheim is pretty important, for some reason. I’m guessing because of something he wrote. He wrote stuff, right?

Anyway, McAdams goes on:

O’Brien was in competition with two candidates who had rather impressive scholarly credentials. One wrote a book on the French Revolution that won an aware from the American Historical Association.
Another was an anthropologist who has published a long string of articles in top anthropology journals.

One of the qualifications for being Dean is that the faculty must respect you as a scholar, and it’s a real disability when most faculty are saying of the Dean “she wouldn’t get tenure in this department.”
The fact that she got an offer, and indeed the fact that the the Search Committee explicitly invited her to apply, both suggest an agenda. Some people, almost certainly including members of the Search Committee but perhaps also including Provost Pauly, thought it would be a dandy symbol of “diversity” at Marquette to have an openly lesbian Arts & Sciences Dean. And Father Wild, who has a history of being manipulable, went along. Only when he got pressure from the other direction did he change his mind. But by then, it was too late to avoid a massive embarrassment.

One Lawrence Soley, possibly one in the same with  Dr. Lawrence C. Soley, the Colnik Professor of the department of journalism at the Diederich College of Communications, says:

Although John McAdams is on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me, I have to agree with his assessment: Jodi O’Brien’s scholarly credentials are anemic. After examining her resume, I am shocked that John Pauly offered her the deanship. In my view, she barely merits appointment as an associate professor. Jimspice, you can examine my bio on MU’s wbsite or do a Google search, if you are wondering why I say this. Rather than vilifying Fr. Wild for his decision to have John Pauly rescind the offer, he should be praised for maintaining MU’s academic integrity… even if that wasn’t his motivation for making the decision.

Two anonymous comments defend O’Brien’s credentials:

I would just like to point out that, while O’Brien does not have any current books published with any of the “top” academic presses, it seems that she is contracted for two books (one edited, one authored) for Routledge for next year, which ain’t too shabby by any means. Her career is trending up, and given her constant academic and pedagogical activity and energy, I have a feeling it will continue to do so, at Marquette or elsewhere.


[McAdam’s] post demonstrates a frightening failure to understand academia. The presumption that one must publish in elite journals is at the very best an outdated one. If the last twenty years has taught us anything, it is that more established journals have a tendency to play it safe academically and politically. The editorial boards of such journals are stacked with scholars of “the old guard,” and their assessment of good or cutting edge work betrays their own political commitments. The argument that edited collections are necessarily less important than publications also suggests the author is not aware of recent trends in P&T that recognize the import of such collections. Finally, I take issue with the author’s use of the “”s around scholarship, and of the phrase “victim studies.” This, more than anything else, betrays a bias that willfully ignores good scholarship in the pursuit of ideology (and having read the posted articles, and others by the candidate, I am quite comfortable calling her work good scholarship).

The Catholicity of O’Brien’s work, and whether it should or should not be relevant to her deanship at a Catholic university, is another conversation to be had.


5 Responses

  1. I am no expert in the academic quality of Sociology journals either. I will say, however, that I have complete confidence in the Search committee’s ability to determine that issue. On the other hand, I have zero trust in the claims of one John McAdams. I cannot imagine he has ever had a non-biased thought in his life.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. I have heard of “Sexualities” and “Sociological Perspective”, and I’m pretty new to the field. I wouldn’t call them the most prestigious of journals, but if I’ve heard of ’em, then I’d say they’re at least somewhat reputable.

  3. Wasn’t there a much longer version of this post at one time?

  4. Thanks for the links.

    I don’t have time to go through those links right now, but I think I was simply confused, and had in mind a post of a similar nature.

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