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Academic Senate condemns Arts & Sciences dean decision

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Nancy Snow, associate professor of philosophy, shakes hands with student protesters before Monday's Academic Senate meeting. Photo Credit: Kaitlin Kovach

The University Academic Senate passed a resolution Monday condemning the process of the failed College of Arts & Sciences dean search, as well as the university’s decision to rescind its offer to an open lesbian.

The Senate, however, did not vote in support of censuring or calling for the resignation of University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild amid the controversy that arose from the decision to withdraw the offer to Jodi O’Brien, a professor of sociology at Seattle University.

Faculty members on the Senate left open the possibility that a vote of no confidence in Wild could be taken in the fall had the university not attained “demonstrable progress” on issues of academic freedom by then, according to the Senate resolution.

Around 150 students held a demonstration before the meeting. Most sat peacefully with rainbow badges, while some held signs reading “Hold Fr. Wild Accountable” and “We support you” in reference to O’Brien.

“This is a demonstration of support,” said Billy Malloy, a senior in the College of Nursing. “It’s to show our solidarity with the faculty and Senate. We know the Senate has the ability to rectify the situation, and we want to show our strong support for them.”

A substitute agenda was voted in favor of allowing the Senate to take care of annual committee reports swiftly in order to leave time for an open session and a Senate discussion.

Several faculty members at the session voiced concerns over how the rescinded offer damaged Marquette’s reputation. Connie Bauer, an associate professor of marketing, said she has tracked the issue online, and the response has been unlike anything she has seen before.

“Marquette has been in the national news like never before, but it is not good,” Bauer said. “All across the country, the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative.”

Students staged a silent protest Monday outside the Alumni Memorial Union ballrooms prior to the Academic Senate meeting. Photo credit: Kaitlin Kovach

Others voiced concern that their own positions at Marquette could be endangered.

Stephen Engel, an associate professor of political science, has published articles on gay and lesbian studies. He hinted his work might now pose a threat to his long-term future with the university.

“When I came to the university, I asked specifically if my existing publications would be an issue,” Engel said. “I was told explicitly no. Now, it is clear Fr. Wild has articulated a rationale that has put my future at Marquette in jeopardy.”

Other faculty and students called for the Senate to take action in the form of censuring Wild or requesting a statement from the board of trustees.

“If we take action at the highest level, then we have a chance to salvage our reputation,” said Paula Papanek, an associate professor in the College of Health Sciences. “The administration let us down sorely, and this tragedy will be long-lasting.”

After some two hours of deliberations held behind closed doors, the Senate came to the resolution that rebuked the university’s decision and lack of transparency, but affirmed the Senate’s support for the search committee.

Christine Kreuger, an associate professor of English who today was named new Senate chair, said the Senate has taken immediate action to address the controversy.

“We were able to listen intently to the concerns in the open session and came to a conclusion that the Senate is very happy with,” Kreuger said.

An open forum for students about the Jodi O’Brien decision will be held Tuesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in AMU Ballroom E. Panelists will include Wild, the Rev. James Flaherty, a member of the board of trustees and rector of the Jesuit community, Chris Miller, vice president for student affairs, and Stephanie Quade, dean of students.

Check back with the Tribune for updates throughout the week.

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