Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Embracing Contradictions: Why Gay Catholics and Religious Academics need leaders like O’Brien now more than ever – by Kari Lerum – June 11, 2010 - Sexuality & Society

It has been a Wild-kind of month for faculty, staff, and students at Marquette University and Seattle University. After President Wild of Marquette University tore up a signed job contract with a woman who would be their first “out” Lesbian administrator (Jodi O’Brien, of Seattle University) many faculty, staff, and students on both MU and SU campuses have been left in turmoil.

Although Marquette has managed to “resolve” this conflict with a negotiated settlement, President Wild’s actions call into question a number of basic academic assumptions including: 1) the honesty of Marquette University’s statements on commitments to diversity and anti-discrimination, 2) the assumption that GLBTQ people are welcome community members within Jesuit institutions (unlike conservative Catholic and Evangelical Protestant institutions, Jesuits are known for their tolerance, encouragement of fearless intellectual curiosity, and commitment to social justice), and 3) the assumption that University faculty have the rights and responsibilities of sharing the governance of their institution.

The recommendation to hire Dr. O’Brien as Dean of Arts & Sciences at Marquette came after two years of committee searches, interviews, and deliberations. The President and Provost of Marquette also met with committee members and all job candidates, and signed on with the decision to offer the job to O’Brien. This extensive vetting process was obliterated after two local conservative Catholic leaders (neither of them faculty or staff members at Marquette) caught wind of O’Brien’s hire. Somehow, unbelievably, these two men (Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki and Father Paul Hartmann, the archdiocese’s judicial vicar) were able to trump the entire academic administrative vetting process at MU. The search committee and was abruptly informed that their input — as well as O’Brien’s administrative leadership skills — was neither needed nor welcome.
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About Sexuality & Society
About Sexuality & Society: Sexuality & Society explores the intersections between culture, sexuality, social inequality, health, and policy, bringing sociological and interdisciplinary analysis to contemporary sexuality trends.

Why: In the U.S. and other western societies, sexuality is understood primarily in individual (moral, medical, or psychological) terms. Examples of this individualizing tendency abound in mainstream media discourses, including those concerning sexual addiction, sexual orientation, STIs, and sexual assault. In all of these discourses a contextual, social-structural analysis is generally absent. Questions concerning “under what conditions does a phenomenon become a problem, and for whom?” are relatively infrequent.

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