A&S deanship still in flux after O’Brien episode

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Philosophy professor Nancy Snow protests the rescinding of an offer to Jodi O'Brien for the A&S deanship last semester. Tribune file photo.

Over the summer, Marquette and Jodi O’Brien reached a “mutually acceptable resolution,” and a team of three new deans took charge of the College of Arts & Sciences on a temporary basis. But following the controversial events of last semester, some faculty members feel the college is headed in the wrong direction.

“The students may think that the faculty has a big say in how Marquette is run, but that isn’t true,” said Stephen Franzoi, a psychology professor. “Really, we are largely ignored.”

Franzoi served on the search committee that nominated O’Brien and said he and many of his fellow committee members were left perturbed after their eight months of work yielded no results.

Instead, Marquette endured an embarrassing episode as documented on the pages of The New York Times, The Huffington Post and a variety of LGBT publications.

Heading into the new school year, the college is once again without a permanent dean. Michael McKinney retired from the position in 2007 and Jeanne Hossenlopp served as interim dean from 2008 to 2010.

Nancy Snow, a philosophy professor, said interim leadership is insufficient, especially for the university’s largest college.

“The college has been drifting since 2007,” she said. “Interim deans hesitate to make big decisions.”

Furthermore, both Franzoi and Snow believe Marquette’s treatment of O’Brien will negatively impact its ability to recruit quality professors and deans to the college. Finding a new permanent dean will now be rather difficult, especially if Marquette looks to external candidates.

“They can’t do an external search because who’s going to apply here? Really?” Franzoi said.

Provost John Pauly has been trying to answer that question since the university rescinded O’Brien’s contract.

On May 27, he sent an e-mail to College of Arts & Sciences faculty describing the administration’s plan for moving forward and selecting an interim dean. The e-mail read in part that the interim dean of the college would be willing to serve up to two years in the position.

The search for a permanent dean would likely begin a year from now after a successor for the retiring University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild is in place. Pauly indicated the next president could be named this fall.

“Although any search would of course be open to all candidates, we would hope that the efforts of the coming year would produce some strong internal candidates for the deanship,” Pauly said in the e-mail. “An internal candidate, if chosen permanent dean, might be able to begin as soon as January 2010.”

Pauly acknowledged in an e-mail to the Tribune that despite the past, the college itself is still on a good course.

“I have emphasized to the college’s faculty and others that A&S is not broken,” Pauly said. “A&S is a wonderful college, with remarkably accomplished faculty and students.

“We simply need to find a way to make the dean’s position attractive to more candidates, whether internal and external, and that is the preparatory work I want to help the college do over the next year.”

On July 1, the Rev. Philip Rossi began his role as the new interim dean. In his 35-year academic career, Rossi has served as a theology department chair and associate dean of graduate affairs from 2005 to 2008.

Interim Dean Rev. Philip J. Rossi, S.J.

The two new associate deans, Belén Castañeda, an associate professor of Spanish, and William Donaldson, a professor of chemistry, started their terms Aug. 1.

“One outcome of the events of last spring is that the university and college have pledged to address the key issues raised around the events of last spring: LGBT, Catholic identity, academic freedom and shared governance,” Donaldson said. “I feel that our shared discussions, both within the college and throughout the university, will lead us to areas of common ground.”

Pauly recognized the challenges ahead but feels confident in the assembled team.

“They have already brought great enthusiasm and focus to their work, and I am very grateful for their willingness to take leadership roles in the college,” he said.

Timeline of events:

Fall 2008 — Jodi O’Brien is first contacted about College of Arts & Sciences dean position at Marquette.

Spring 2009 – Marquette decides to end search without naming a dean. O’Brien had withdrawn earlier for personal reasons (death in family).

Feb. 11, 2010 — O’Brien named one of three finalists for the dean position of the College of Arts & Sciences in second nationwide search.

Feb. 18-19 — O’Brien visits campus, participates in open forum and interviews with university administration and key stakeholders.

March 24 — Provost John Pauly calls O’Brien, offers her dean position.

April 20 — O’Brien accepts job offer, mails signed contract to Marquette.

May 2 — University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild and Pauly call O’Brien, rescind offer.

May 6 — Marquette makes the news public via a special edition of University News Briefs.

May 10 — The University Academic Senate condemns the decision to rescind the offer to O’Brien.

May 11 — Marquette Student Government sponsors student forum with Wild and other administrators.

May 12 — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Archbishop Jerome Listecki and judicial vicar Paul Hartmann raised flags over O’Brien appointment.

June 9 — O’Brien, Marquette reach “mutually acceptable resolution.” Terms of the agreement are confidential.

June 28 — Marquette names the Rev. Philip Rossi as interim dean, Belen Castaneda and William Donaldson as his associate deans.

July 1 — Rossi begins term as interim dean.

Aug. 1 — Castaneda, Donaldson take reigns as associate deans.

Fall 2010 – O’Brien returns to Seattle University.

Sources: University News Briefs, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Spectator at Seattle University

Provost Pauly letter