Marquette University has withdrawn an offer to hire sociologist Jodi O’Brien as Dean of Arts & Sciences. This is clearly an act of discrimination, though it is unclear whether it is discrimination against her as a lesbian, or as a scholar of sexualities, or as a proponent of marriage equality. The United States may have no discrimination laws to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but Wisconsin does indeed have such a law. In addition, Marquette’s own non-discrimination policy indicates that the institution will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. And basic principles of academic freedom should cover the other two. In fact, the university already employ at least one lesbian who studies sexuality and supports marriage equality. As is often the case, this institution clearly has some internal disagreements about what makes for an appropriate representative, and Jodi’s application captured the attention of interested parties.
For her part, the NY Times article says “Dr. O’Brien said she was stunned by Marquette’s about-face and disappointed that she would not be able to serve at the university.”
I know Jodi to be one of the calmest, most thoughtful and fair-minded people I have ever met, and the reason I know her at all is because she was kind enough to strike up a conversation with me on the shuttle bus from one ASA hotel to the other. I was a grad student on the market for the first time, and she gave me some sage advice about giving people the benefit of the doubt. As seems to be the case over and over again, this act of unfairness has fallen upon the kindest person, making the injustice all the more difficult to take.