The Columbus Dispatch
Petition urging Xavier to rescind Deters’ post
A state Supreme Court justice joining a university wouldn’t normally garner much attention.
That is, unless it’s Ohio’s newest Supreme Court justice, Joe Deters.
Xavier University recently named Deters, the former Hamilton County prosecutor, as a “justice in residence.” It has sparked a backlash from some campus Democrats, students, faculty and alumni who have sent letters to the administration asking them to reconsider the appointment.
“Joe Deters does not represent Jesuit Catholic values or teachings, and has no place at Xavier University,” an online petition started by 20-year-old student Ethan Nichols stated. Nichols is secretary of the Xavier University Democrats, which he said has coordinated the petition effort.
The petition urges Xavier to suspend Deters’ appointment as a justice in residence and has garnered 636 signatures as of last Monday since it went live more than two weeks ago. Gov. Mike Dewine’s appointment of Deters to the Supreme Court – despite Deters never having served as a judge before — drew some criticism, including from the Ohio Democratic chair who called it “Republican backscratching.”
On Feb. 22, Xavier University President Colleen Hanycz welcomed Deters to Xavier University in a statement saying she was “excited for the expertise that he will bring to our students.” The release described justice in residence as a voluntary position in which Deters will participate in “various” class activities “upon mutual agreement with program leaders and faculty” and attend events outside classes.
In a statement, Xavier University said the justice in residence is a new volunteer position that “came about from Justice Deters’ desire to give back to the next generation of public servants.”
“Higher education is a marketplace of ideas, and at Xavier University we are preparing future leaders” the university said in a statement. “We embrace difficult conversations and intellectual discomfort as part of our mission. It is through challenging conversations that we learn to better understand our own positions and engage with those who hold different views.”
Deters declined comment. One of seven Ohio Supreme Court justices, Deters will have to run for reelection to the Supreme Court in 2024. Republicans control the court, 4-3.
The petition and letters sent by students, alumni and faculty on Monday to Hanycz and administration officials raised concerns about prior statements Deters has made during his 20-plus years as a prosecutor.
“He has a very strained relationship with the Black community in Cincinnati, given his record as a prosecutor, especially given his statements arguing that crimes are largely due to issues like parenting,” Nichols said.
Nichols said the petition with 636 signatures and three letters signed by faculty, alumni and students demanding Deters’ removal were sent Monday morning to Xavier University administration. Nichols provided The Enquirer with copies of the letters signed by 87 alumni, 83 students and four faculty members.
The letters follow a similar format, opening with the groups saying saying they’re “concerned” or “embarrassed and frustrated” by Deters’ position at Xavier and demanding his removal.
Among the past comments from Deters raised by those who signed letters include his support of the death penalty, saying Ohio could “bring back the firing squad,” and Deters referring to defendants as “soulless.”
“With a long record of comments that are completely antithetical to our values, we can not stay silent. Joe Deters does not belong at Xavier University,” the letters signed by alumni and four faculty members stated. Two of the faculty members who signed declined comment when contacted by The Enquirer. The other two could not be reached.