Fair Wisconsin on the O’Brien case

Via Fair Wisconsin’s blog:

Last week, Marquette University announced their decision to rescind an official offer to Dr. Jodi O’Brien to become the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  An out lesbian, Dr. O’Brien has spent a significant portion of her career publishing works that delve into the sociological aspects of being a lesbian, which has led Marquette University to their unfortunate decision.

Today, Fair Wisconsin Education Fund Board President Robert J. Starshak, M.D. and Marquette University alum sent a letter to Reverend Wild to express his and the Board of Directors “profound disappointment with the recent turn of events” because it “sends the wrong message about Marquette University to communities of faith, members of the LGBT community and all Wisconsin citizens.”

Here is the full text of the letter:

May 10, 2010

Reverend Robert A. Wild, S.J.

Office of the President

Marquette University

Zilber Hall 441

PO Box 1881

Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881       

Dear Reverend Wild,
    I am writing to you on behalf of the Board of Directors of Fair Wisconsin Education Fund, the statewide organization dedicated to advancing, achieving and protecting the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Wisconsinites.  We achieve this mission by educating about the harms of all forms of discrimination and by building inclusive communities and workplaces.
    We at Fair Wisconsin wish to express our profound disappointment with the recent turn of events surrounding the rescinded offer to Dr. Jodi O’Brien to serve as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.   Regardless of whether the decision was based on Dr. O’Brien’s sexual orientation or the subject matter of her previously published works, this action sends the wrong message about Marquette University to communities of faith, members of the LGBT community and all Wisconsin citizens. As leaders in the fight for equality, we work with businesses, government and individuals across the state who wish to build inclusive workplaces and attract and retain a diverse workforce.   We would welcome the opportunity to work with Marquette University to enhance its diversity.
    Marquette University has demonstrated its willingness to expand its diversity. For example, there is an annual lecture that is hosted by the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at Marquette University that is named in my parents’ honor. The very existence of this lecture series (and the GSA) emphasizes the critical impact your institution and your leadership have on the lives of your students, faculty and surrounding community, many of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. I have been proud to support this inclusive event that demonstrates the need for expanded diversity among Marquette’s student body and faculty.
    I hope that you will reconsider this ill-advised decision about Dr. O’Brien. It sends a message that does not accurately reflect the inclusivity that is encapsulated in Marquette University’s Statement on Human Dignity and Diversity. Further, it can add to the perception of a lack of diversity at Marquette University that has been identified by accrediting organizations.
    I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this matter. There are ways that Marquette University and Fair Wisconsin Education Fund may work together to address these concerns and build greater understanding between our organizations, communities of faith and the LGBT community. A meeting can be arranged by contacting Fair Wisconsin Executive Director, Katie Belanger, at 608.441.0143 x308.

Robert  J. Starshak, M.D. 

President, Fair Wisconsin Education Fund

B.S. Biology Marquette University 1964

M.D. Marquette School of Medicine, Inc. 1968

CC:    Dr. John Pauly, Office of the Provost
          Dr. William Wellburn, Associate Provost for Diversity
          Ms. Stephanie Russell, Executive Director of Mission and Ministry
          Mr. Darren R. Jackson, Chair of the Marquette Board of Trustees


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