Students voice concerns at listening session

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University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild took questions and comments from students and faculty at Tuesday night's listening session.

Tuesday night’s Marquette Student Government-sponsored listening session regarding the rescinding of a prestigious job offer had the potential to provide answers from top university officials. Instead, many students and faculty members left scratching their heads.

University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild called the forum on the College of Arts & Sciences dean search, “the start of what needs to be a much larger effort to bring us all together.”

About 300 students — some calling for Wild’s resignation, others offering support — crowded the Alumni Memorial Union ballrooms to express their opinions regarding the university’s decision to withdraw its job offer to Jodi O’Brien.

Questions asked to expand further on the O’Brien decision were largely met with Wild saying this was a “personnel matter,” on which he could not further elaborate.

Chris Miller, vice president of student affairs, and the Rev. James Flaherty, S.J., the university’s Jesuit community rector, joined Wild to field student comments and questions. Stephanie Quade, dean of students, moderated.

In his opening remarks, Wild admitted he was a bit anxious coming into the event, but realized this was an important opportunity for students to speak freely and address a community issue.

“This is a blessing for me to be with you because students are at the heart of this university,” he said.

Before questions began, Wild reiterated previous statements, saying the university’s decision was not an issue of academic freedom, sexual orientation or outside donor influence.

Billy Malloy, a senior in the College of Nursing, opened remarks with a prepared statement, rather than a question.

A portion of the statement read, “The time for listening has passed. The time for forgiveness and reconciliation has not yet come. There can be no forgiveness where there is no remorse, and there can be no reconciliation where there is no respect.”

It went on to demand the immediate resignation of Wild, a series of public apologies from him and a re-extension of the dean position to O’Brien.

Throughout the night, the statement was read nine times.

Participation in reading the statement was entirely voluntary, said Margaret Steele, a philosophy graduate student in the College of Arts & Sciences. There was no “word on high” that compelled individuals to join, she said.

Marecca Vertin, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said nothing short of Wild’s resignation will sufficiently make amends for the university’s actions.

“He said it’s not about sexual orientation, but it’s so obvious,” she said. “To tell us this isn’t the issue — I’m offended.”

Hillary Braseth, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, was among many who joined Vertin in expressing anger, frustration and confusion over the handling of the dean search.

“Marquette has been my rock, I am Marquette, and Marquette has become a part of me,” she said. “This is not Marquette.”

Others defended Wild’s decision. Tom Klind, a senior in the College of Communication, said the prepared statement was not an accurate depiction of Wild’s tenure at Marquette.

“I think it’s foolhardy to call for (Wild’s) resignation, and foolish to declare this an issue of sexual orientation,” Klind said.

Meghan Ladwig, MUSG president, said the event was largely what they expected, with this now being handled internally. She said this was still a good opportunity for students to hear the sentiments and concrete issues.

There was an underlying need to clarify mixed information for students and faculty, said former MUSG president Henry Thomas.

“We came here for answers, me and my constituency of fellow students — we are left with nothing,” he said.

Tony DiZinno contributed to this report.