After Protests, 24-Day Sit In, Seattle University Dean Retires

(Photo: Seattle University)

(Photo: Seattle University)

A Seattle University dean at the center of a student protest and 24-day student sit-in has retired more than a month after being placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Humanities dean Jodi Kelly was placed on leave on June 1 after being criticized by students and faculty members over her leadership of Matteo Ricci College, an elite humanities college within the Catholic university.

During the announcement of her retirement, President Stephen Sundborg spoke highly about the passion Kelly exhibited toward teaching and her commitment to Jesuit education.  He added that she will be added to the emeriti faculty.

“I am grateful for the devotion and dedication she brought to Matteo Ricci College, Seattle University and our mission,” Sundborg wrote.

While protesters believed the retirement to be a success on their part, they disapproved of the praise Sundborg had for Kelly.  Some felt his statement “erases and disrespects all the trauma and pain suffered for years by students, alumni, faculty, and staff and the ongoing work currently being undertaken to address issues of culture, climate and curriculum.”

A student sit-in took place in May in the lobby of the university’s administrative building in an effort to bring change to the curriculum in use at the school, which protestors said focused too much on Western history and philosophy.  The students were also looking for the resignation of Kelly, citing incidents of racism and cultural insensitivity on her part.

Kelly was placed on leave after 22 days of protest after formal complaints of discrimination were filed by faculty members, with some faculty members calling the work environment at the school hostile, writes Evan Bush for The Seattle Times.  The sit-in officially came to an end on June 3.

“Successful operations of the college at this time require that she step away from day-to-day management and oversight,” Dullea wrote in an email.

At the same time, it was announced that Father John F. Foster had been placed on suspension after it was discovered that he had placed a recording device inside the MRC and had allegedly recorded discussions held by the student coalition.

However, a number of supporters of Kelly argued that the university was merely bending to the will of the students and ignoring Kelly.  She previously won the Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award at the institution in 2011.

Officials for the school have not answered questions pertaining to Kelly’s retirement or whether the investigations into the complaints against Kelly will continue.

While Kelly has not responded to requests for a comment on the situation, a statement was offered by the university saying she was grateful for the opportunity to serve both the students and alumni:

“I discovered the truth in the adage—Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. I leave with gratitude for the opportunity to have served the students and alumni of Matteo Ricci College for 40 years and I deeply appreciate the colleagues who supported me in that work.”