Seattle Univ. Dean, Chaplain on Administrative Leave After Student Protest Over Too Many ‘Dead White Dudes’ in Curriculum

By Penny Starr | June 3, 2016 | 11:37am EDT
Students gather inside Nassau Hall during a sit-in in Princeton, New Jersey. (AP Photo)

The dean of the Matteo Ricci College at Seattle University and a chaplain who helped found the college for the study of humanities have been placed on administrative leave following a weeks-long protest by students who claim the curriculum focuses too much on western civilization and “dead white dudes,” according to the Seattle Times.

“When am I going to start reading writers from China, from Africa, from South America?” the Seattle Times quoted Zeena Rivera, a second-year student who is Filipino, as saying. “The only thing they’re teaching us is dead white dudes.”

On Wednesday, Dean Jodi Kelly and chaplain and college co-founder, John Foster, were put on administrative leave.

“I have taken this action because I believe, based on information that has come forward over the past several weeks, that successful operations of the college at this time require that she step away from day-to-day management and oversight,” interim provost at the university, Bob Dullea, wrote in the email, according to the Times.

The Times reported on the protest in early May, saying the protesters object to the curriculum at the college that focuses on western ideas and philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle.

The president of the university expressed his regret for the “pain” these student protesters have been feeling.

“I cannot pretend to know how deep their pain goes, the amount of harm it has caused or the extent of our own shortcomings as educators and administrators,” university President Stephen Sundborg wrote in an open letter.

The students posted an online petition with a long list of demands and expressed the “oppression,” “boredom,” and “traumatization” they have experienced while attending the college.

The students are demanding a “non-Eurocentric” interdisciplinary curriculum, including one that “radically reinterprets what it means to educate teachers and leaders for a just and humane world by centering dialogue about racism, gentrification, sexism, colonialism, imperialism, global white supremacy, and other ethical questions about systems of power, setting a standard for students before doing service, learning, or studying in other communities or countries.”

Meanwhile, an online petition supporting Dean Kelly was posted at, calling for the university president not to allow Kelly to be “bullied out of her job.”

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