Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Offer, Rescinded

So, yesterday I had the surprising experience of reading something intriguing and unexpected in Marquette's alumni magazine -- alumni magazines usually being as mild and uncontroversial a format as may be imagined. This time, the outgoing president's lead editorial included two strangely allusive paragraphs referring to recent events I'd heard nothing about till then:

"At the end of this academic year I made one of the most difficult decisions of my 14 years as president in rescinding a job offer made to a candidate for dean of the . . . College of Arts and Sciences. I came to this decision only after considerable reflection on a range of factors but most particularly on aspects of the candidate's writings as they pertained to Marquette's mission and identity. You may have heard various leaders talk about how lonely it can be at the moment of a particularly critical and tough decision. For me it was actually in being alone and in drawing upon my faith and training as a Jesuit and a theologian that I was able to strip away outside voices and interests and discern my own obligations as president of this institution and the community that I love and to act accordingly -- and, I continue to believe, correctly.

"However, the decision provoked great concern among some members of the university community -- some of which stunned me, particularly accusations of bias because of sexual orientation, and all of which saddened me, because it revealed shortcomings in our own internal processes and created divisiveness on campus. But from this incident, I also learned a great deal, including our need to deepen our own understanding of how our university is both Catholic and catholic, both of the Church and inclusive, open to ideas and opinions and welcoming to all people, regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or social class. During my tenure . . . we have established a well-documented record of working for diversity and inclusivity among our students and staff and have fiercely defended academic freedom against those outside of the university who question it . . . "

--Fr. Rbt A. Wild, S.J.;
MARQUETTE Magazine (Summer 2010 issue), pages 3-4
(emphasis mine)

Curious what all this was about, since Fr. Wild tried hard to avoid actually saying anything about what he was talking about, I did a quick online search and learned that what seems to have happened back in May is roughly along these lines. The Search Committee for the new dean had picked a woman for the job who happens to be lesbian. The university first offered her the job and then suddenly withdrew the offer, apparently after the local Archbishop got involved (though his weighing in against her is hard to document). The stated reason was not her sexual orientation, they said (that sort of discrimination wd open them to all kind of lawsuits), but that fact that she had written in favor of gay marriage.

So, it's sad to see Marquette's attempt to enter the twenty-first century result in them sliding all the way back into the nineteenth instead, but not that surprising. I thought the most telling part was not that Marquette wd, in a sudden spasm, revert to arch-orthodoxy (that was the pattern at least once a year all the time I was there). Nor that Fr. Wild wd be shocked that some might accuse him of bias, simply because he'd just committed a discriminatory act. No, it was his conclusion that all this teaches him there's something wrong with their search committee. If only they'd made sure nobody who wasn't the proper sort of person holding the proper sort of opinions got the nod, he'd have been spared firing someone for holding an unOrthodox opinion before she even started to work for him.

All in all, I think the erstwhile-dean is lucky to have been fired before she even started, rather than the first time she said or wrote anything that didn't agree in full with the current administration in Rome.

current audiobook: GENESIS (Jacob & Joseph)
current reading: YSABEL by G. G. Kay

No comments: