In an open letter to Father Wild and Provost Pauly today, Marquette Theology Professor Dr. Dan Maguire called on Marquette’s president to “…shoulder all the blame and make your already given notice of resignation effective immediately.” Maguire said Wild’s successor should then re-invite Dr. Jodi O’Brien to be Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Maguire said if O’Brien were to re-accept, she would “be the most warmly received dean in the history of this great university.”
In the letter, Maguire said the university’s decision to take back the offer to O’Brien was “the worst decision made at Marquette in decades” and warned that the controversy could jeopardize future College Arts and Sciences dean searches.
“…Future candidates could feel compromised for stepping in when a previous candidate was discriminated against and embarrassed,” Maguire said. “It would seem as if they saw the treatment of Dr. O’Brien as a matter of no moment.”
Maguire’s letter comes after a student protest on Thursday drew national media attention to the decision to rescind O’Brien’s offer. The university said in a statement Thursday that the decision to take back the offer was not about O’Brien’s sexuality, which Wild affirmed during his comments at the Pere Marquette faculty dinner that night.
“I want to say it strongly, clearly and directly, what this decision is not about: it is not about sexual identity, that is important to say,” Wild said. “If we were approaching matters this way it’s not only illegal, it’s against our Catholic faith.”
According to the letter, Maguire said Wild based his decision “on an interpretation of what was or what was not compatible with Catholic teaching,” and charged Wild with failing to consult faculty experts on Catholic moral teaching.
“The Theology Department is one of the major theologates in North America, just a few yards away from your offices,” Maguire said. “You ignored them as you also ignored teachers of ethics in the Philosophy department and professors in Sociology, Dr. O’Brien’s field.”
Maguire said rescinding O’Brien’s offer will have long-term implications for Marquette, and in the letter that “much of the damage” Wild has caused, “is beyond repair.” However, he said, “…confession of sins and reparation are central to Catholic spirituality.”
The debate over the decision has raised questions of the level of academic freedom on camps, and Maguire said Saturday that limiting academic freedom would have a “chilling effect on the whole university.”
“If only conservative views—or only liberal views—on debatable matters are deemed legitimate, we cease being a university where, as Cardinal Newman said, many minds may compete freely together.”
The entire letter can be read below:
May 8, 2010
To: Robert Wild, S.J., President, Marquette University
John Pauly, Provost, Marquette University
When I came to Marquette 40 years ago I was told Marquette supported academic freedom. I believe that and acted on that assurance and was tenured and promoted to the highest rank. That is the Marquette I know. That is the Marquette I respect, and that is the Marquette I have just seen demeaned and betrayed.
The decision by a handful of administrators to break the oral contract with Dr. O’Brien a decision that broke all the canons of collegiality, was the worst decision made at Marquette in decades. In one act you managed to insult Dr. O’Brien, the Marquette faculty and student body, and the Jesuit Seattle University. You based your decision on an interpretation of what was or what was not compatible with Catholic teaching. However, you did not consult the faculty experts on Catholic moral teaching on this campus. The Theology Department is one of the major theologates in North America, just a few yards away from your offices. You ignored them as you also ignored teachers of ethics in the Philosophy department and professors in Sociology, Dr. O’Brien’s field..
Much of the damage you caused is beyond repair and will hover over this university for years….. but not all of it. Confession of sins and reparation are central to Catholic spirituality.
A Lesson from History
A similar breach of contract occurred in 1999 when Fr. Charles Curran was invited to give the annual Pere Marquette Lecture. When the then chair of the Theology Department learned that the invitation had been made and accepted, he contacted Dr. Curran and withdrew the invitation because of Fr. Curran’s liberal views. The Theology Department, led by Michael Fahey, S.J., protested vigorously and Fr. Curran was re-invited. He was gracious enough to accept.
As to the disastrous disinvitation of Dr. O’Brien: all blame may not reside with the president of Marquette, but the “buck stops” on your desk, Fr. Wild.. You should shoulder all the blame and make your already given notice of resignation effective immediately. Your pro tem successor should then re-invite Dr. Jodi O’Brien to be Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
If she accepts, and it would be a supreme act of generosity for her to do so, I can guarantee this: Dr. Jodi O’Brien will be the most warmly received dean in the history of this great university.
Professor Daniel C. Maguire