SCU President Resigns After Investigation into Inappropriate Behavior and Comments

Santa Clara University President Kevin O’Brien has resigned from his role, two months after an investigation into “inappropriate behaviors” connected to alcohol use first placed him on leave.

In a letter addressed to SCU students, faculty and staff Wednesday morning, O’Brien said his decision to resign follows the March investigation by the USA West Province of the Jesuit Provincial Office. The investigation was sparked by concerns from Jesuit Provincial Scott Santarosa about behaviors observed in “certain social settings with adults that did not meet the highest standards of decorum expected of [O’Brien] as a Jesuit" over the past year.

In the end, the investigation found O’Brien "engaged in behaviors, consisting primarily of conversations, during a series of informal dinners with Jesuit graduate students that were inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries." Alcohol was involved, but "no inappropriate behavior was found in any settings outside of these dinners," according to a letter this week from John M. Sobrato, Santa Clara University’s Board of Trustees chair.

The 54-year-old career priest, theologian and renowned author’s departure comes only two years into the job, and five months after he presided over the Mass President Joe Biden attended in Washington D.C. ahead of his inauguration.

O’Brien said he entered an outpatient or nonresidential treatment program in April, which is expected to take four to six months. The program will address personal issues, including alcohol use and stress management, according to the letter.

“After much prayer and thought and out of deep love for Santa Clara, I have concluded that the best service I can offer to our beloved university is to step aside now,” O’Brien wrote. “As I engage this personal work, I cannot leave the university waiting, amid all the challenges we face in a very competitive landscape and given the opportunities we need to seize as we pivot to a post-pandemic context.”

Now the search for O’Brien’s replacement is on.

“The Board of Trustees takes this situation very seriously and fully supports those who came forward to provide their accounts,” Sobrato said in his letter. “The Board of Trustees will immediately establish a process to conduct a search for the University’s next President.”

In the meantime, former SCU Provost and now-Acting President Lisa Kloppenberg will continue to lead the school and its education, working with the university’s cabinet, deans and other leaders.

Alluding to the actions that led him to his outpatient treatment, he praised the importance of having friends that openly raise concerns. He left Santa Clara University students with a message: “Everyone needs help at times, and it is OK to ask for help when you need it, and to allow others to care for you.”

According to a press release announcing his appointment in 2019, O’Brien joined the Society of Jesus in 1996 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2006. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University and a Master of Divinity and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, now part of Boston College.

16 Comments

  1. SCU consistently uses the terms “Adult settings” and “Adult conversations”.

    It’s an effing University. Every faculty and staff member are adults. 99.9% of the student population are adults too. So, any settings or conversations Dear Leader would have ought to be just that. They keep throwing that term ‘adult’ into everything. Odd.

    He was also sequestered, until recently, in a University owned safe house in the Los Gatos Hills. That house has been used in the past to hide Jesuits who need to be hidden from the public(why would you want to hide priests?)

    It’s so nice that alcoholism is a convenient ‘disease’ that can be blamed for any number of actions perpetuated by a poor victim who suffers from this cursed affliction. It’s rather strange for someone who has a special ‘victim’ status to resign, under an enormous cloud, for such a simple thing that is not his fault.

    This is far worse than a Jesuit with a drinking problem. The university has been paying people to leave since the the Professor Morgan ‘Racism’ allegations.

    By the way, a half dozen members of the security department are still on leave pending this incident. Fr. O’Brien will now be unavailable(because of his treatment status) to answer questions about his actions during the entire incident. The most curious question is why he has not seen video footage that contradicts most of Dr. Morgan’s allegations. Another curious fact is that the complaint against the Security Department was not initiated by Dr. Morgan, but by our now(unavailable) leader. Convenient?

    There actually is, another racism incident involving the University being investigated as we speak. Yet, it has not made the news, even though it seems extremely valid from people I have talked to.

    There also is the case of The Board of Trustees claiming poverty and cutting the University’s retirement contribution in half. Well, then some insider released some financial documents that refuted this position and now employees are irate that they were lied to and stolen(?) from.

    So, Fr. O’Brien was sitting on a powder keg. What we are seeing is not the detonation. What we are seeing is the Trustees trying to stamp out the fuse.

    Thank god our fearless reporters have dug down deep to bring you what is really going on.

    Oh, wait. I think that was me?

    Throw me a bone here SJI: Maybe you could reward me with the identity of the dead guy in the Prius involved with the Redwood Estates murder of Bob Harden.

  2. I feel bad, because Alcohol is not a good excuse for this.

    The real issue is that this person may have done things like this in the past, but NEVER disclosed.

    The irony that he is a “man of god” just gets me too.

    GOD is nothing but a delusion, and it does not enforce its commandments.

    TIME TO CLEAN UP RELIGION. And stop giving it any special position in any community.

  3. Mr. Ashbless, we meet again! Your questions are completely with merit and will be ignored by the administration trying desperately to cover up for the mess that Kevin has created. Kevin has single handily ruined numerous peoples lives, including several people of color that he professes to support so diligently. His henchmen are now trying to throw money and “investigators” at the situation that would uncover the uncomfortable truth that his campus safety staff were always polite and courteous, they were on campus throughout the conversation and they were following appropriate protocols when the faculty decided they did not like the staff following those protocols. A 9 month, multi million dollar “investigation”, led by heavyweight ex-DOJ prosecutors leveled at the very kind night shift folks (3 people of color to be exact), who are trying to make a few bucks an hour, serve the SCU community and feed their families and were caught in a national narrative they had no part in creating.

    After August 22nd, Kevin scheduled the bus that tarnished these staff members reputations, pushed them under the bus and drove the bus over them a few times to ensure good coverage of tires over the reputations of those kind staff members using the University communication department as an accomplice. If there is something wrong with the protocols that were followed by low level campus safety staff, why has no one changed the protocols? If there is not something wrong with the protocols, why are the low level staff still going through a kangaroo court and possibly going to lose their jobs because of the lies that Kevin allowed to be told from the University website and by his faculty? Did administration know what protocols were being followed? How can a University built on “anti-racism” have a white faculty member call two campus safety staff members of color, racist and still be part of the woke narrative? Just because those staff happen to work for Campus Safety makes it ok? Why was a high level staff allowed to throw F-bombs at a low level Asian staff member who was doing his job as he was trained? Because the high level staff was in a more privileged position and part of the communications team? Why are faculty allowed to tarnish anyone they chose on their faculty reply all targeting e-mail machine with impunity? Why was Kevin’s suspension handled with dignity and compassion and the campus safety staff suspension was treated with such derision and collective guilt by an entire campus? I wonder why the assumed guilt narrative was shed when it came to the President?

    I wish nothing but success to all the faculty members and ex-Presidents that are out selling their books on the SCU website, building a national following, or headed for a much needed break. Freedom of speech, making money, gaining followers and the holy rehab are all noble pursuits, just not when you are doing it on the backs of those at the bottom rung of the University ladder.

  4. Joe Smith,

    The Bible is just a story book, like the Harry Potter Series.

    Jesus Christ is just a character, he never existed and thus is irrelevant.

    Given that most religious groups only have “mercy” for he ones they choose to give it, like the Spanish Inquisition, I just don’t see the point in any books or ideas regarding religion really make any difference.

    Time to stop believing in fairy tales and start working on making Planet Earth the best place we can, it is the only place we have anyway.

  5. Mr. Ashbless – the dead man found in the Prius after the murder of Bob Harden was a man named Wilson Seet. I don’t think that’s ever been a “secret.” Why do you mention this?

  6. Meanwhile the self-impeached Democrats who ran 2 illicit impeachments of a lawfully-elected President, walk unpunished.
    /And so it goes with Democrats…

  7. As I said, Religion and Money is leading to the self-destruction of Mankind on Planet Earth.

    THe Carbonic Acid in the water is destroying plant life and coral in the sea. Which changes CO2 to H2O and O2. We have 420 PPM CO2 in the air, and by the year 2100 it will be 5000 PPM, too toxic to breath, thus either domed cities or we are not long for the planet.

    And we are not in any place to reverse the course already.

  8. I graduated SCU in the 80s and I remember Jesuits who ranged from perfectly normal to loony bin crazy. One night a priest came to a big party at my house and the dude was drinkin, smokin and snortin with the best of them. I _think_ he made out with an undergrad girl but that was never proved – they were just alone in a bedroom for a while. Would be interesting to know exactly what conversation topics resulted in O’Brien getting cancelled – I’m betting it was pretty tame stuff but in 2021 there’s absolutely zero tolerance. One unapproved comment and you’re finished for good.

  9. As an SCU professor, I can tell you that the resignation of Father O’Brien is but a small part of our problems.

    The main problem with SCU is that in the last 15 years, the school has adopted a corporatist model and all but abandoned any true sense of Catholic social justice in the way it treats its employees.

    The Trustees are extremely disconnected from the faculty and, with the Administration’s approval, consistently make decisions outside any model of shared governance. This was epitomized in the secret hiring of Littler Mendelson, a notorious union-busting law firm, to make sure that the lecturers on campus do not unionize. This act is completely opposed by over a century of Catholic social teaching on unionization and worker dignity.

    A union has become an issue because the lecturers often lack any real job security and are not paid a living wage. Lecturers teach more than half of all campus classes and 60% of the core classes. Yet most of them are paid less than high school teachers.

    In 2020, the school decided to cut retirement benefits in half and freeze any expected raises for one year to save 15-20 million dollars—even though the cost of living in the Bay Area is among the highest in the United States. At that time, the school had just under $1 billion in its endowment (a near doubling in the last ten years) and billions of dollars in assets.

    Faculty morale has never been lower, with Faculty Senate Council resolutions being routinely ignored.

  10. As an SCU professor, I can tell you that the resignation of Father O’Brien is but a small part of our problems.

    The main problem with SCU is that in the last 15 years, the school has adopted a corporatist model and all but abandoned any true sense of Catholic social justice in the way it treats its employees.

    The Trustees are extremely disconnected from the faculty and, with the Administration’s approval, consistently make decisions outside any model of shared governance. This was epitomized in the secret hiring of Littler Mendelson, a notorious union-busting law firm, to make sure that the lecturers on campus do not unionize. This act is completely opposed by over a century of Catholic social teaching on unionization and worker dignity.

    A union has become an issue because the lecturers often lack any real job security and are not paid a living wage. Lecturers teach more than half of all campus classes and 60% of the core classes. Yet most of them are paid less than high school teachers.

    In 2020, the school decided to cut retirement benefits in half and freeze any expected raises for one year to save 15-20 million dollars—even though the cost of living in the Bay Area is among the highest in the United States. At that time, the school had just under $1 billion in its endowment (a near doubling in the last ten years) and billions of dollars in assets.

    Faculty morale has never been lower, with Faculty Senate Council resolutions being routinely ignored.

  11. O’Brien is the CEO of a University that once sat amongst UOP (Stockton) which is now Bellarmine. Notre Dame (Belmont) was down there where you see San Pedro Slavery towers. This place would have been like Boston if the Mason’s hadn’t been here.
    When will you start actually doing some research, and writing on what is going on here in this Valley.
    O’Brien can’t go to work every day with the Devil’s dust floating around here. A Previous “President” of SC has explained this to me. Saying they basically have to suck the nuts of the Devil’s here who are paying for the school to stay open. O’Brien is owned by the donors…. he is supposed to be a man of god. There are only 6 Jesuit Universities, they are supposed to have a social advocacy and take up a cause. Like Wheeling Jesuit, in West Virginia, there cause is Mountain top Removal. O’Brien, his predecessor and followers own the cause of keeping this madness around here going. Virtual reality, aRtifical intel… he knows it’s all spiritual theft. As the homeless numbers mount, he knows he can house humans in the spare barracks, rather than pedophile priests relocated from Los Gatos. As Brian Buckley said, you can’t “corporatize religion or academics” ….do we have any names other than the “PRIEST” who is involved in this corporatism. As we know, it goes from capitalism, to corporatism, than facism….corporatism is only a transition spot, on the way to facism. If you know anything about the police department in Santa Clara, the last elected Chief in the ENTIRE state, you KNOW. If you don’t please do some research.

  12. WAIT O’Brien was in charge of a University of Pheonix?

    Wasn’t that the private for profit college caught overselling its training and was forced to do the following:

    “The university has paid several government fines and settled whistle-blower lawsuits concerning its admissions practices and education programs.[108] In 2000, the federal government fined the university $6 million for including study-group meetings as instructional hours. In 2002, the Department of Education relaxed requirements on instructional hours.[59][109]

    A 2003 lawsuit filed by two former university recruiters alleged that the school improperly obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid by paying its admission counselors based on the number of students they enrolled, a violation of the Higher Education Act.[59] The university’s parent company settled by paying the government $67.5 million, plus $11 million in legal fees, without admitting any wrongdoing.[110][111]

    In 2004, the Department of Education alleged that UOPX again violated Higher Education Act provisions that prohibiting financial incentives to admission representatives and pressured its recruiters to enroll students.[112] UOPX disputed the findings but paid a $9.8 million fine as part of a settlement where it admitted no wrongdoing and was not required to return any financial aid funds.[63][113][114] The university also paid $3.5 million to the Department of Labor to settle a violation of overtime compensation regarding hours worked by UOPX’s recruiters.[115][116] The University of Phoenix settled a false-claims suit for $78.5 million in 2009 over its recruiter-pay practices.[117]

    In 2009, the Department of Education produced a report claiming the untimely return of unearned Title IV funds for more than 10 percent of sampled students. The report also expressed concern that some students register and begin attending classes before completely understanding the implications of enrollment, including their eligibility for student financial aid. In January 2010, the parent company Apollo Group was required to post a letter of credit for $125 million by January 30 of the same year.[118] In 2010, UOPX came under government scrutiny after its Phoenix and Philadelphia campuses were found to have been engaging in deceptive enrollment practices and fraudulent solicitation of FAFSA funds.[119]

    In 2014 the US Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General demanded records from the school and Apollo Group going back to 2007 “related to marketing, recruitment, enrollment, financial aid, fraud prevention, [and] student retention”.[120] Also in 2014, Arthur Green, a former UoPX enrollment advisor sued the school, claiming that it was violating the US False Claims Act. According to Green, he was fired for blowing the whistle on billions of dollars in fraud.[121][122] Five years later, the case was dismissed in 2019 after the US Department of Justice under William Barr decided not to take the case and the records were sealed.[123]

    In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense suspended the school’s ability to recruit on U.S. military bases and receive federal funding for educating members of the U.S. military. In describing the suspension, The Washington Post noted that “the decision arrives amid allegations that the university sponsored recruiting events in violation of an executive order preventing for-profit colleges from gaining preferential access to the military.”[124] Some federal legislators, including U.S. Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Lamar Alexander protested[125] the suspension, which was lifted in January 2016.[126]

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began investigating the university in 2015 in regard to an advertising campaign it ran in 2012 through 2014, a campaign referred to as “Let’s Get to Work”.[127] On December 10, 2019, the University of Phoenix agreed to pay a settlement of $191 million related to charges that it recruited students using misleading advertisements.[127] NPR reported this amount includes $50 million in cash as well as a $141 million cancellation in student debt, though the cancellations “won’t affect student borrowers’ obligations for federal or private loans.”[128] The institution admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which was at the time the largest FTC settlement against a for-profit school.[127]

    In 2016, Apollo Education Group shareholders filed a class-action lawsuit against the corporation, arguing that it withheld information leading to large losses in stock prices. Several of the allegations related to University of Phoenix’s recruiting of military personnel and veterans.[129][130] In 2016, the US Department of Education lost a case by former University of Phoenix student Phyllis Price which alleged that UoPX admitted her and others without proof of requisite credentials, such as a high school degree.[131]

    In December 2019, the university reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.[95] The University of Phoenix said in a statement that much of the 2019 FTC settlement focused on a single ad campaign that ran from 2012 to 2014, under prior ownership. It said it agreed to the settlement deal to avoid any further distraction from serving students, and admitted no wrongdoing through the duration of the settlement.[8] According to FTC commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, the settlement showed “a complete abdication by the Department of Education, which has oversight of for-profit institutions and controls their access to federal financial aid.” [132]”

    What in the WORL:D was Santa Clara University THINKING?

  13. Richard Cody-
    Thank you for that valuable information.
    Do you have a source?
    I googled Wilson Seet.

    There is no mention of him being involved with reporting by either the San Jose Mercury or ABC 7 news.
    There is one of those people finder sites that says he was deceased in 2016. So, that’s accurate(?). Seet was also a litigant against Staples and another business about 15 years ago and applied for some kind of patent pertaining to sunglasses. Other than that-nothing.
    Further, when I googled ‘Wilson Seet Homicide’ it referred me to both Mercury News and ABC 7 reports that specifically mentioned Andre Redmon, but that the deceased in the Prius was unidentified. It’s strange that my search takes me to sources that list him as unidentified.
    I cannot find anything that specifically puts him as Redmon’s accomplice.

    Further, the Santa Clara County Coroners map of 2016 lists Robert Harden but not Wilson Seet and not even a listing for a “John Doe” on the day of the incident.

    It seems to me that there is an effort to keep him from the public.

  14. William Ashbless:

    Basically, Andre Redmon and Wilson Seet drove to Robert Garden’s house, tied up his son and another young man, waited until Robert Harden came inside from doing yard work, then confronted him and engaged in a violent struggle including severely beating Robert Harden’s head with a mallet before shooting him several times in the head. During that struggle, it would appear Robert Harden got his knife out and stabbed Wilson Seet in his arm, carving out a chunk. Seet bled out in the escape attempt in the Prius.

    I think in Redmon’s jury trial there was some talk that Seet and Harden knew each other because they both had worked or done some work with Robert Harden’s father’s business. . .

    Never figured out who Wilson Seet really was or why he and Andre Redmon were at Robert Harden’s place with a gun and a mallet. . .

    All of the above is a rough summation of jury trial testimony.

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