I've been meaning to post on this issue for a few weeks, and I wish I had done so sooner. Around May 10th, I learned of a very shocking decision made at the University of St. Thomas, in which Dr. Siobhan Nash-Marshall, a very fine, solid, well-liked and highly respected professor of Philosophy, was denied tenure SOLELY (it seems) because of an unsubstiantiated decision by Fr. Dennis Dease, president of the University of St. Thomas.
I was a student of Dr. Nash-Marshall (Epistemology), and did my senior thesis in Philosophy under her watch - and I could not have asked for a better professor. Dr. Siobhan was, and is, the professor I respect the most, out of all the ones I have had, in any discipline. I was just thinking the other day of how I longed to return to our “jam sessions”, with 7 of us crammed into Dr. Siobhan’s office, with her going around the circle quick as anything, holding 7 different conversations at once! I remember at the time thinking that this must have been what it was like to be with Aquinas dictating. :)
I can’t think of a single student in the class I had with her, or any of the other students I know who had her, who wouldn’t back me up on praising her skill and dedication as a prof. She is really unparalleled in her deftness and ability to parse out difficult concepts (at a rapid-fire pace!). For those who come searching for the truth, she helps us to find it! Her commitment to the Catholic faith and to the ongoing search for Truth, Truth that can be known by us, shone forth from her office doors like a light to all of us passing down the hall. But no more, if Fr. Dease has his way.
Fr. Dease's decision to deny tenure came as a shock to everyone, perhaps most of all for the faculty in the Philosophy department, which had recommended her for tenure without reservation and had absolutely no idea that it might be denied. In response to the decision, various department and faculty heads attempted to appeal Fr. Dease's decision three times
- but all appeals on Dr. Nash-Marshall's behalf were denied categorically it seems by Fr. Dease, and her firing was finalized a couple of weeks ago. She is now taking the matter to court, and trust me, she would not do this unless it was for a good and serious cause. She is not one to do things lightly.
This is a horrible example of what can happen in our universities - the sacrosanct attitude towards those who have reached tenure, and the "whimsical" ways that tenure can be denied to those whom someone in power does not like for personal reasons (since there seem to be no logical reasons otherwise for such a decision).
I wonder just what on earth Fr. Dease was thinking. He must not really know Siobhan, not like her students know her! If he did, he would have known better than to do what he’s doing! And now, the poor man, he’s caught. I think he’s made one political move too many, and right on the cusp of a new and strongly orthodox Archbishop’s tenure (pun intended) who does NOT play games!
I will stand up anywhere, at any time, to speak for Dr. Nash-Marshall - just contact me with the when and where! I believe there is a petition that was going around UST too, not sure who's heading that up though. Personally, I'm about ready to sit down and write a couple of nice long letters...
For more information on this, check out Sheila Liaugminas' blog - InForum Blog » Catholic professor denied tenure
(NB: I was in Dr. Nash-Marshall's class with Sheila's son Andrew).
To see Dr. Nash-Marshall's CV - go to her UST faculty page
(And here I thought it was the Theology department that was the source of all controversy!)St. Thomas, pray for us!
Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for Siobhan!