Marquette University Hires Lesbian Dean, Then Rescinds Offer

Snow called the university's reversal, "a public disgrace and an embarrassment." She said Marquette officials were "absolutely" aware that O'Brien was gay.

"[O'Brien] was very distinguished, a full professor with an 11-page CV and 17 edited books," said Snow. "She is an amazing scholar and highly qualified."

Anti-Gay Remarks at Marquette

"I think the [atmosphere] here is still kind of uncomfortable," said Snow, though she said attitudes toward gays had improved in her 20 years at the university.

"There is a gay-straight alliance, but there are still problems with students being disrespectful and making offensive comments like, 'That's so gay,' which is so hurtful," she said. "There are some right-wing Catholics here who think being gay or a lesbian is sinful and satanic.

"The university is not vocally supportive of them," she said. "The students are really the leaders here with the moral conscience."

Rachel Stoll, a 22-year-old gender studies and anthropology double major who was proud of her eight years of Jesuit education in high school and in college, said many students have bonded over the O'Brien incident.

"The reason a lot of us took offense in terms of our Jesuit identity," said Stoll, who graduated this week. "We were raised to believe in social justice and working toward equality for all people and for human dignity. We saw this as an affront to our core Jesuit values."

Stoll, though she is not gay, said she has faced "gender-based" bias as a woman on campus.

"Every year, we try to do the 'Vagina Monologues' to raise money for charity, but they never let us do it on campus," she said. The administration often gives "vague answers or don't answer the question asked," she said.

But Paul Milakovich, Marquette's associate vice president for university advancement and an openly gay man, said the university has been a "very comfortable place to work."

"I am completely out and they knew when they hired me," he said. "My partner attends basketball games with me and everyone is very accepting."

Milakovich sees no contradiction between Catholic teachings and his own sexuality.

"I would be offended by the idea of discriminating against [O'Brien]," he said.

As for the differences between Jesuit universities like Seattle and Marquette, he said, "Schools take on their own culture and how the teachings of the Catholic Church are understood."

Seattle University, on the other hand, has rehired O'Brien after she resigned in anticipation of the dean's post at Marquette.

"We welcomed her back, of course," said Seattle spokeswoman Laura Paskin.

There, the university has recently embraced Eve Ensler's "Vagina Monologues," an annual feminist tradition at many American colleges.

"I certainly don't know about Marquette, I have never worked there, but the environment at Seattle has always been very open and accepting for everyone, whether it's race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation," said O'Brien's colleague La Voy.

"I've taught human sexuality in psychology department panels, about gay pride and the transgendered, on and on, and it always been open and accepting," she said. "Our gay-straight alliance is a strong group and not some people hiding in a corner somewhere in the university.

"Jesuits have always been very open," La Voy said. "Really, social justice is the bottom line around here and they live it."

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