A late document from the O’Brien case

Published May 18 but only now entering my radar:

Mary E. Hunt,  theologian, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), and out lesbian, writing in Religious Dispatches, analyzes the stated rationale for dismissing Jodi O’Brien:

The university issued an inexplicable statement claiming that although Professor O’Brien brings:

an excellent background, a record of achievement and a strong academic track record… it was decided after further analysis that this individual was not the person who could best fill this very important position.

It continues:

There were certain oversights in the search process, and we regret that deeply. As a result of this search, the university will revise some aspects of the search process.

Note the increasingly abstract rhetoric. It starts with Dr. O’Brien, then she becomes an “individual,” later a “person” as the agent fades into oblivion. Note the complete lack of anyone taking responsibility. Just how did those “oversights” jump into the search process all by themselves? This sort of shifty, murky statement usually hides a multitude of sins, as it does here.

I await further clarification, but at this writing it seems that the only plausible explanation for rescinding an offer made to so obviously qualified a candidate is discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or prejudice related to the nature of her scholarship vis-à-vis queer families. A runner-up explanation is that Marquette administrators are totally incompetent. Pick your poison.

She talks about the two positions as if they’re mutually exclusive. They’re not.

Encroachment on academic freedom in Catholic institutions is not new, but it has been confined in the main to theology. Apparently now even sociology at Catholic institutions must be done within the narrow parameters of Roman Catholic hierarchical views. Likewise, the promised revision of the hiring process can only mean that candidates whose views do not square with institutional Roman Catholic theology will be discriminated against before the offer is made. Private universities like Bob Jones, Oral Roberts, and now Marquette do that. It goes on all the time of course, but the university acts as if the major issue at stake here were sloppy work rather than egregious action against a person they pursued in the first place.

Marquette may be in the vanguard of Catholic institutions that are growing increasingly parochial, shaping the social sciences and perhaps eventually the physical sciences to Roman kyriarchal ideology rather than to the gold standard in the field. It is a sad loss of what might have become a world-class university.

President Wild stated several times for the camera, and obviously on the advice of counsel, that this retraction of a perfectly legal contract is “not about sexual orientation.” It will be interesting to see what the lawsuit looks like, or whether Marquette will settle for a large sum out of court. He waxed poetic about the many gay and lesbian people at Marquette: “We have a variety of men and women here who are homosexual who work in all sorts of venues in this university, holding a variety of positions. They do great work, they make a valuable contribution to this institution.”

I know some of the best and brightest at Marquette and they were not persuaded by his line. I asked Robert Wild about these queer people at Marquette in my letter: “Is it because they are worthy to do the dishes or clean the floors but not to be a dean? Is it because they are in high teaching and/or administrative positions but remain closeted so no one has to deal with the truth of their Catholic lives, the fact that many great leaders in Catholic higher education are gay or lesbian? Is it because they are athletes and bring fame and fortune to the university that they are ‘allowed’ to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, still part of that winning Catholic team as long as they remain silent on their sexuality? What about the many valiant heterosexual allies who bring their professional expertise to bear when they support same-sex love despite the institutional Catholic Church’s antiquated teachings?” No response.


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