About 40 people gathered outside Seattle University on Thursday afternoon in support of Jodi Kelly, dean of Matteo Ricci College.
Kelly was sent on leave after weeks of sit-ins and other student protests. Students were complaining that the college's classical humanities program is too focused on "dead white guys" and not inclusive of other cultures and perspectives. Seattle University is a Roman Catholic private university and its Matteo Ricci College was founded in Jesuit traditions.
As the protests continued, Kelly was accused of racism.
Seattle engineer Christina Avolio, a 2001 graduate of Matteo Ricci College, attended the rally. She said criticisms of Kelly ran counter to her experience.
"I feel the need to come out and say I think there's something deeper,” Avolio said. “There's a deeper story to be told, and I don't know if the image that's been portrayed in the media in the last couple of weeks is entirely accurate."
People at the rally held signs suggesting Kelly was being bullied. Beth Derrig, a former civil rights lawyer, said she wants the university to support Kelly.
"She has been the most inclusive, open-minded person,” Derrig said. “The last person in the world that I would label what these people have called her."
Seattle University says Kelly is on leave until the formal complaints against her are settled, and until a review of her leadership is complete.
Initially Seattle University's administration appeared to support Kelly, saying she would not be asked to resign. But a week ago it placed her on administrative leave. Kelly is traveling and has not made a public comment.
The sit-in lasted for at least three weeks. Students here said the curriculum here needs an overhaul and more focus on current authors of color and diverse backgrounds.
First-year Jasmine Waland told KUOW earlier this month: “I personally am a future teacher so in that position I’d like to be knowledgeable on these topics.”