Category Archives: Leadership and Governance

Our Lady of the Lake University’s Embattled President Stepping Down

My San Antonio is reporting that Our Lady of the Lake University President Tessa Martinez Pollack is leaving her post March 1. The university made the announcement on Thursday.

The decision follows a tumultuous tenure during which Pollack eliminated a dozen degree majors, including religious studies and Mexican American studies, which faculty and students considered at the core of the Catholic university’s mission and identity.

That decision led to tension and a split among the university’s Trustees.

In January, the university revised its student handbook to protect students, faculty and staff from discrimination based upon “sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.”


Since Pollack became president in 2002, the university has shed nearly 600 students, a downward enrollment trend that reportedly began before she arrived. This fall there was an increase of about 200 primarily weekend and online students.

Some students have questioned the university’s emphasis on “high demand, high wage” programs in science, technology, engineering and math instead of sharing the focus with the arts and humanities.

Tyler Tully, a religious studies senior who organized student protests of the cut majors, said he felt encouraged by the news of Pollack’s resignation.

Students who protested against the cuts formed the “Stand With the 12” Facebook group, and had created an online petition calling for Pollack’s resignation. The group has approximately 800 members, and the petition received about 290 signatories.

In 2007, the OLLU faculty assembly issued a vote of no confidence in Pollack after enrollment declines and layoffs.

In addition, board member Louis Escareño resigned Thursday from the seat he has held since 2010.

Pollack is the university’s seventh president, and the university’s first Hispanic leader. The Sisters of Divine Providence founded the school in 1895 and retains board membership.

College of Saint Mary Magdalen President George Harne Pledges Fidelity to Pope Benedict XVI

The College of St. Mary Magdalen President Dr. George Harne.

On February 2, 2013 Dr. George Harne, president at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen, pledged his fidelity to Pope Benedict XVI.   The signing of this pledge took place during the third annual Ex Corde Presidents’ Roundtable and Forum hosted by Christendom College.

The event was an opportunity for presidents at faithfully Catholic colleges to come together, pray, receive spiritual nourishment, meet fellow presidents, share ideas, and renew fidelity to the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church.

His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze was the special guest of the Roundtable.   Cardinal Arinze offered Mass and led a reflection on the Presidents’ spiritual role in maintaining Catholic identity in education.

“This event provided the occasion for college presidents to examine the challenges and opportunities facing Catholic institutions of higher education, and contemplate how to best overcome the challenges and utilize the opportunities,” said Dr. Harne of the Roundtable discussions.

The Ex Corde Presidents’ Roundtable was concluded with the presidents signing of the Pledge of Loyalty to uphold the teachings of the Magisterium.   Cardinal Arinze will personally present the Pledge of Fidelity to Pope Benedict XVI.

University of Mary President Appointed Monsignor

Monsignor Shea

President Monsignor James Shea

According to the Bismarck Tribune, University of Mary President James Shea, 37, was one of six western North Dakota priests appointed as monsignor in early December. Bismarck Bishop David Kagan made the announcement online through the diocesan web site.

Shea was named the sixth president of the University of Mary in 2008. He previously served as pastor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Killdeer and St. Paul’s Church in Halliday, and as school chaplain at Trinity High School in Dickinson. He also worked at St. Mary’s High School. A native of Hazelton, he graduated from Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock High School in 1993, and was ordained a priest in July 2002.

According to the news release, this was the first time a monsignor had been named in the Diocese of Bismarck since December 1991. There are now seven monsignors in the diocese. Monsignor is a title of honor granted by the pope, usually at the request of the local bishop.

The title of monsignor honors a priest’s service to the Catholic Church and bears no extra duties or responsibilities except for the privilege of wearing different vestments during liturgical celebrations.

Fr. Terence Henry Talks about His Tenure as President of Franciscan University of Steubenville

After nearly 13 years, Father Terence Henry is stepping down as President of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Tim Drake, senior editor with the Cardinal Newman Society recently spoke with him about his tenure, Catholic identity, and his contributions to the University.

Father Terence Henry, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Father Terence Henry, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

So, it was just announced that you’re moving on at the end of the academic year.

Yes, the winds of change are blowing here at Franciscan. The national norm for a president is six years. I’m looking back on this wonderful opportunity to serve the mission and I have a lot of fond memories. It’s been an awesome blessing to be entrusted with this responsibility.

Given the increasing secularization found in society, and among Catholic colleges and universities, why is fidelity to Catholic identity so vital?

C.S. Lewis once said that the atheist and the Christian hold opposite views about the universe, they both can’t be right, and consequently the one that is wrong will be working to help destroy that universe. The Christian life is the key to unlock a lock. Catholic education has so much to offer people today to escape  moral relativism. Pope Benedict XVI says we’re simply being tossed about. An authentic Catholic education can help people stand on solid foundations and provide the key to life itself.

How does Catholic identity manifest itself at Franciscan University?

Cardinal O’Connor once said it’s easy for the Church to defend a Catholic principle that’s not under attack, but it needs to be at those points of attacks where the culture of death is pressing in. We’ve always asked how we can best serve the Church. We’ve established a Chair in Bioethics. Our theology and philosophy faculty are well established.  Our science courses are rooted in authentic Catholic teaching. That’s how we’re responding to the culture of death.

In what ways might Franciscan be a model for the renewal of Catholic higher education?

We receive our understanding of our vocation and mission from the words spoken to St. Francis – “Francis, go and rebuild my Church.” We see that as so important. Any Catholic school can use that as a guideline.

When the Holy Father spoke at The Catholic University of America, he said that every aspect of a Catholic university campus ought to speak in union with the ecclesial church – not just academics, but our residence halls, the sportsmanship displayed, the entertainment we have – they should all speak to the mission. Catholic schools can go into an area that public schools cannot. Education involves mind, body, and spirit. Secular schools have to refrain from touching the spiritual part. Someone going to such a school will end up with career preparation, but no preparation for answering questions such as: “Who am I?”, “Why was I made?,” and “Where am I going?”

What, from your perspective, makes Franciscan distinctive?

I would say there are four distinctive elements about our university. One of those is the academic quality of our school. It attracts top students, and our SAT scores continue to rise. The quality of our professors and the personal interest they show in our students. Another is our unique culture. Pope John Paul II said that every Catholic college needs a Christian inspiration. Ours is St. Francis – a dynamic joy filled person. Everyone who visits campus notices how on fire our students are for God, and how willing they are to learn. We stand with the Church’s Magisterium and teaching. Finally, there is that sense of evangelism. Franciscan equips students to be salt and light. Our graduates are in all 50 states transforming the culture. They connect the intellectual formation they’ve received with a sense of applying that when they leave.

What changes have you seen during your time as president?

We’ve promoted John Paul II’s call for students. We’ve introduced new majors to transform the culture – an international business major, legal studies, a major in German, sacred music, a concentration in bioethics, and catechetics. The catechetical meltdown that took place for a generation among Catholics is being corrected by Franciscan University of Steubenville and our graduates. We have an endowed chair in bioethics. Where the Church needs to be is in those areas that the culture of death is attacking. In 2007, we entered the intercollegiate NCAA Division III and gained entry into the Allegheny Conference. The physical campus has nearly doubled in size.

What new projects are taking place?

In 2009, we completed our new friary. A unique element on our campus is that we have 20 friars who serve the spiritual needs of our students sacramentally, through counseling, in the classroom, in the residence halls, and by serving as moderators of our sports programs. That religious presence is very important for students, and it’s something we value greatly. That Franciscan presence has been a part of our school since its founding in 1946.

We are in the formative stage of our next capital campaign. The number one item on that needs list is the need for a new chapel. The student body under my tenure has grown an additional 600 students. The current chapel is no longer adequate. We’re hoping to address that need. I know that alumni will help. They can remember standing outside the chapel, unable to squeeze in, in January. Wherever I may be stationed, I would love to come back and be there at the dedication of the new chapel. It will speak to our Catholic and Franciscan heritage. The architecture will speak Assisi. It’s important that someone can set foot on campus and say, “This is a Catholic and Franciscan school.”

We also have been able to increase financial aid for our students through endowed scholarships. 39 new scholarships have been created in order to help them.

What do you see as Franciscan’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Our greatest strength is our commitment to the mission of our school – Catholic and Franciscan. That is the dominant charism of the University. Fidelity to that keeps us centered and provides a moral compass in a sea of moral relativity. That is the story of higher education in general.

We are mission driven, as is our household system, which replaced the fraternities and sororities of old. It’s a peer-to-peer way for students to encourage one another in a path of holiness. There’s been tremendous voluntary participation in household life. We’re up to 48 households now. Household life is a unique contribution that Franciscan came up with to have students support one another to grow in their faith. The bonds and friendships that students form in those households remain strong long after students graduate. They continue sharing in the challenges of living in a secular world. Learning takes place 24-7, and household life helps students to feel encouraged and supported by one another.

People who come on campus notice the physical growth of the campus, but the real story is the living stones – the students who want to grow in faith and wisdom. Cardinal John Henry Newman said a Catholic university is the only true university because it addresses the totality of the human person.

Our number one challenge is to increasingly be able to have the means to help students come to a small, private Catholic university and graduate receiving help. About 80% of our students receive some sort of financial aid, but it’s never enough. The need is acute.

What are you most proud of during your tenure?

I’m very proud that after a 20-year struggle our faculty has passed a new core curriculum that is more unified and integrated. It will provide a more common experience academically for our students. It was a battle because academically we’re not only a liberal arts school but also offer professional and pre-professional majors. I see a lot of blessings that will come from that.

Overall, when I became president, the general public probably wondered, “Does this mean that if Fr. Michael is not there, will the school mainstream itself in the bad sense of that word?” We’ve answered that. Our compass shows that we stand with Peter. If we stand with Peter, and not in front or behind him, we are on solid ground. That has been my main contribution. The school has remained faithful to the Magisterium. We have remained where the church would have us be, so that we can best equip young people to go into the world and transform it.

Do you have any idea what your new assignment will be?

I’m in a cloud of unknowing. I need to wait until May until I hear from my provincial. That’s where the vow of obedience kicks in. Will I be sent up the Amazon? I don’t think so. I’ve been in education all my life. That’s where my passion is.

Christendom College to Host Ex corde Ecclesiae Presidents Roundtable

On February 1-2, Christendom College will welcome Catholic college and university presidents to its Front Royal, Va., campus as it hosts the Ex corde Ecclesiae Presidents’ Roundtable. The Roundtable will examine the challenges and opportunities facing Catholic institutions of higher education, and will give the presidents an opportunity to discuss some very important issues.

“I believe that all the presidents involved will benefit by meeting to meditate on how we can cooperate with each other to be of service to Christ, His Church, and our nation through our educational apostolates,” Christendom College president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell said.

The Presidents Roundtable, which was initiated by O’Donnell, is a private association of presidents of Catholic universities, colleges, and institutes, who have embraced the vision of Catholic higher education as presented in the Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae of Blessed John Paul II and developed by Pope Benedict XVI, particularly in his historic address at the Catholic University of America on April 17, 2008.

During their meetings, the presidents will informally discuss areas of mutual interest and concern related to the strengthening of Catholic identity and will take advantage of the opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation in the company of fellow presidents. As a special guest, His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments — who has fully supported the initiative — will personally lead the Roundtable’s spiritual reflections.  The discussions will cover topics ranging from student life to presidential leadership within the university. All discussions will be in service to the individual mission and unique charism of each institution.

Francis Cardinal Arinze will lead the spiritual reflections during the Ex corde Ecclesiae Presidents Roundtable at Christendom College.

Francis Cardinal Arinze will lead the spiritual reflections during the Ex corde Ecclesiae Presidents Roundtable at Christendom College.

“As a liberal arts college, Christendom has given dynamic leadership to its students on how to discover the true, the good and the beautiful, and how to pursue these goods which are so deserving in themselves,” said Cardinal Arinze. “The students are taught not to be afraid of the truth, of reality. Christendom College is above all a Catholic educational institution. It importantly expresses its Catholic identity through an explicit profession of the Catholic Faith, and through studies given unity and a sense of direction by sound philosophy and authentic Catholic theology. It is joy for me to be associated with whatever has to do with the good of Christendom College.”

The participating presidents will also sign a pledge to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church concerning Catholic higher education. Cardinal Arinze will then personally present this to Pope Benedict XVI. Nearly 20 presidents are expected to attend the Roundtable discussions and/or sign the pledge.

For more information about the Ex Corde Ecclesiae Presidents Roundtable contact Olivia Ruhl, at or 540.636.2900.

Assumption College President Recognized for Catholic Campus Ministry Work

Assumption College President Francesco Cesareo received the 2012 Exemplary Administrator Award from the national Catholic Campus Ministry Association (CCMA) last week in recognition of furthering the mission of Catholic campus ministry in higher education.

“I am humbled by this award and extremely honored to receive it,” said President Cesareo. “This award is really recognition of the important work that Campus Ministry does at Assumption College. As president, my role is to provide support for Campus Ministry so that it can enhance the spiritual life of our campus. It is my belief that Campus Ministry is an integral part of the educational mission of Assumption College since it helps students deepen their faith commitment and to live out their faith through their involvement in various prayer, retreat and service opportunities. The Catholic college is a place where students encounter Christ, and where faith gives meaning to everything the college does. Campus Ministry reminds the college community of this reality.”

James Rizza, Assumption’s director of campus ministry, noted the spring 2012 opening and dedication of the College’s Tinsley Campus Ministry Center, located adjacent to the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. He said it took “courage, vision, determination, and a lot of charisma” to bring the facility to fruition, and he credited President Cesareo for this accomplishment.

“President Cesareo understands how the Campus Ministry Center symbolizes that faith and service are at the very heart of an Assumption education,” Rizza said. “He incorporates faith and service into every facet of the college, and we are grateful to him for his leadership.”

Franciscan University President to Step Down at End of Academic Year

Father Terence Henry, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Father Terence Henry, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Franciscan University of Steubenville announced today that Father Terence Henry, TOR, will leave the office of president at the end of the academic year in May.

“Being president of Franciscan University for a single day would have been a huge honor and one of the most memorable moments in my life, but to have been entrusted with guiding its mission since 2000 is an awesome privilege and blessing for which I am thankful to God,” said Father Henry.

Inaugurated on October 4, 2000, Father Henry succeeded Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, as the fifth president of the University. Since then, Father Henry has led Franciscan University through more than 12 years of milestones including the most successful fundraising campaign in University history, the creation of a new liberal arts core curriculum, an increase by 389 students in undergraduate enrollment, the establishment of the Institute of Bioethics, the Catechetical Institute, and the Center for Leadership, the expansion of campus acreage to more than double, and the reintroduction of varsity athletics.

“When I became president, our philosophy and theology departments were already world renowned, and they have continued to grow through the founding of our Bioethics Institute and Catechetics Institute. Now, other academic disciplines have begun attracting national attention, especially in the sciences with faculty and student research on seizure disorders and rare diseases,” Father Henry said. “These priorities emerged as the University asked itself how we could best serve the needs of the Catholic Church. I am confident that Franciscan University’s next president will continue to lead from the heart of the Church.”

Father Nicholas Polichnowski, TOR, chairman of Franciscan University’s Board of Trustees, explained the timing of the change saying that within religious life, leaders are rotated periodically as a matter of course.

“Being a university president has become an increasingly difficult task. With presidents serving only six years on average, we are grateful to Father Henry for giving 13 years in generous service to Franciscan University,” Father Polichnowski said.

Father Polichnowski, the minister provincial of the Franciscan Friars, TOR, Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which founded Franciscan University in 1946, also said the next president will be chosen from among the priests and brothers of the 139-member province.

“The Board of Trustees will begin the selection process immediately, and we expect the new president to start in June. Father Henry will receive his new assignment at that time,” Father Polichnowski said.

Father Henry, who just returned from his annual trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life, will close out his tenure with a busy semester including speeches on religious liberty at two Legatus chapter meetings. He has also accepted an invitation to give a major address at an international meeting of young Catholics discussing how to renew society through the Gospel at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

“As I’ve traveled throughout the world, I frequently hear about the importance of Franciscan University in the life of the Church and I’ve seen it firsthand as I’ve met alumni serving in dioceses, parishes, and bringing their faith into every career and vocation imaginable,” Father Henry said. “It’s humbling to witness how beautifully they and our faculty, staff, students, and benefactors live out the Lord’s call to St. Francis to ‘Go, rebuild my Church.’”

He added, “This University and all those I’ve worked with and come to know as president have a special place in my heart. I will carry Franciscan University and all those who serve its tremendous educational mission in my prayers.”

Boston College Students Criticize President’s Opposition to Assisted Suicide

This week Boston College law professor Scott FitzGibbon publicly defended BC President Fr. William Leahy, S.J., from student criticism about Leahy’s opposition to a Massachusetts ballot measure that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide.

On November 1, Father Leahy joined the presidents of Anna Maria College, College of the Holy Cross, Emmanuel College, Regis College and Stonehill College—as well as leaders of the nursing schools at Boston College and Emmanuel College—in signing an e-mail to tens of thousands of alumni in Massachusetts, explaining what was wrong with the ballot measure. Voters rejected it on November 6.

FitzGibbon wrote that Father Leahy showed “moral leadership of the first order,” and The Cardinal Newman Society also praised the efforts of the college presidents.

But student editors of The Heights newspaper complained that Father Leahy’s action “infringe[d] upon freedom of choice and an unbiased education.”

In an editorial last week, The Heights editors argued that Father Leahy’s letter was inappropriate:

…BC is an institution dedicated to education, critical thinking, and the right to make up one’s own mind. The president of the University should similarly be dedicated to these pursuits, and The Heights believes that he is. But whether or not it was his intention, Leahy’s letter sounded preachy rather than educational—pushing recipients to vote one way rather than educating them equally on both sides of the issue.

If the goal of the letter was to bring Question No. 2, admittedly a controversial and polarizing question, to the attention of recipients, The Heights believes a more appropriate approach to the problem would have been doing just that—rather than presenting only one side of the argument, the letter should have outlined the measure and all of its potential effects, positive and negative, leaving the decision up to recipients whether or not it should be passed.

Catholic College Presidents Praised for Opposing Assisted Suicide

In letters today to the presidents of six Catholic colleges in Massachusetts, Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly praised their “firm defense of Catholic teaching and human dignity” in opposition to a statewide ballot initiative to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

On November 1, the presidents of Anna Maria College, Boston College, College of the Holy Cross, Emmanuel College, Regis College and Stonehill College—as well as leaders of the nursing schools at Boston College and Emmanuel College—e-mailed tens of thousands of alumni in Massachusetts to oppose the ballot measure. Voters rejected it on November 6.

“The times call for such leadership that inspires the faithful, protects the most vulnerable, and upholds the Truth that is central to Catholic education,” Reilly wrote to the college presidents. “We view this as another hopeful sign of the renewal of Catholic identity in our Catholic schools and colleges.”

According to The Heights, a Boston College campus newspaper:

“On November 6, Massachusetts voters will decide Ballot Question 2, which would allow physicians to prescribe a lethal drug enabling individuals to commit suicide,” the letter read. “We write as educators in Catholic institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth to express strong objections to this measure.”

The letter went on to claim that legalizing physician-assisted suicide “would cast aside moral and ethical principles long held in our society and in the medical profession about the sanctity of life and of physicians not doing harm.”

After listing several arguments against Question 2, including perceived inadequate restrictions on its application and potential abuse, the letter concluded with a statement against the ballot measure.

“Life is so central and precious to us as human beings, and any legislation that would allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs for the purpose of suicide calls for special scrutiny and careful consideration,” the letter read. “In our analysis, Ballot Question 2 is profoundly flawed and should be rejected.”

According to The Boston Globe, the decision by the educators to take such a courageous stand did not come easily:

The efforts by Catholic colleges to reach out to alumni followed months of discussion, two of the schools’ leaders said.

…Sister Janet Eisner, president of Emmanuel College since 1979, said she could not remember another similar outreach to alumni on a ballot question.

A Lutheran-Jesuit Identity Crisis?

Inside Higher Ed is reporting that four Lutheran colleges have hired non-Lutheran presidents, a trend that is raising questions about how to maintain the colleges’ religious heritage.

Of course, Lutheran identity is distinct from Catholic identity, with apparently less concern about fidelity to doctrine. But it’s still distressing that some Lutherans are looking to some of the most wayward Catholic institutions as models for the future. The article cites Paul Pribbenow, the Lutheran president of Augsburg College, and Mark Wilhelm, associate executive director of educational partnerships for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

[They] mentioned Jesuit colleges as a possible model for Lutherans. While the leaders of Jesuit colleges are all Catholics, and most are members of the religious order, the colleges also have a pluralistic identity and a commitment to vocation and service—and are a well-organized group that support each other, Pribbenow said.

Laurie Joyner, the first Catholic president of Wittenberg College, spent much of her career at Loyola University New Orleans, and said she hoped Lutheran colleges would unite around their mission in a similar way.

“I feel like I can bring a lot to the Lutheran network in terms of sharing those experiences: how do we talk about this in a way that’s very inclusive, and in a way that can really strengthen our institutions?” Joyner said.

The article is interesting for another reason: whereas Inside Higher Ed is often biased against the concerns of faithful Catholics seeking to renew Catholic education, this piece is surprisingly sympathetic to Lutheran concerns.

St. Louis University Profs Retaliate Against President’s Tenure Proposal

Professors at Saint Louis University have voted “no confidence” in the university’s president, Fr. Lawrence Biondi, S.J., in retaliation for his promising but short-lived proposal to reform tenure. The policy was announced in August but rescinded in September.

The vote was an overwhelming 35-2 during a meeting of the Faculty Council of the College of Arts and Sciences. This follows two faculty no-confidence votes last month against Vice President for Academic Affairs Manoj Patankar, who was a driving force behind the proposal. Patankar reportedly called the reaction “hysteria.”

That seemed to be confirmed by political science professor Timothy Lomperis, who reportedly alleged that the University “has now become a place of tyranny.”

The Jesuit university’s proposed policy for post-tenure reviews, which was scheduled to go into effect starting in January, stated that the reviews could result in 1) the faculty member remaining tenured, 2) the faculty member being placed on a “performance improvement plan” with another evaluation to follow, or 3) the faculty member could be switched back to a non-tenured position and/or fired with a year’s notice.

The idea of tenure as a lifetime appointment has come under fire recently from other institutions as well. Wayne State University in Detroit attempted to implement a policy that faculty members said would abolish tenure, but it too has reportedly walked that back.

And in a decision that The Cardinal Newman Society reported on, a federal appellate court sided with a private law school in saying tenure does not guarantee continued employment.

In Catholic colleges and universities, tenure has sometimes been used to protect the jobs of professors who undermine the institutions’ Catholic mission. So The Cardinal Newman Society will continue keeping a close eye on this story.

This is not the first time that Saint Louis University and Fr. Biondi have made news this school year. The Dean of Saint Louis University’s law school resigned at the beginning of the school year with a scathing resignation letter that called into question the integrity and honesty of the institution.

“It is the ultimate irony that a Jesuit university would operate so far outside the bounds of common decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity,” Annette E. Clark, the resigning dean, wrote in her resignation letter. “I simply cannot be part of, and I assure you I will not be complicit with, an administration that can’t be trusted to act honestly.”

Clark, who had only been in the job for about a year, accused Fr. Biondi of taking law school money and using it for general university purposes, contrary to agreements made with the law school. Specifically, she said the university removed $800,000 from funds that were to go towards preparing a new building to house the law school, and she said the university “unilaterally” took $260,000 that was to have been used for faculty research stipends during the summer.

To replace her, Fr. Biondi hired a new interim dean, a personal injury lawyer, who, The Cardinal Newman Society reported,  represented a mother in a “wrongful life” lawsuit, claiming doctors had failed to detect that her child had a congenital condition leading to the loss of the baby’s left foot. Had she known, the woman said she would have aborted the baby.

Downsizing to Stay Afloat at College of St. Benedict

Does the future outlook for Catholic higher education, at least at those colleges and universities that have compromised their distinctive Catholic identity, include shrinking enrollments?

The all-women’s College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota is astonishing observers with its desperate plan to stay financially viable, according to Inside Higher Education.  While other colleges are offering tuition incentives to increase enrollments, the College of Saint Benedict is slowly but deliberately reducing the size of its student body to increase the portion of paying students and increase selectivity in its admissions process.

Since 2008, enrollment has reportedly declined three percent, and net revenue per student has jumped 14 percent.

Scranton University Asserts Greater Authority Over Faculty

The University of Scranton’s president is at odds with the faculty union over a new policy giving the president more control over the selection of academic department chairmen, and giving the chairmen more authority over other professors, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

(The article, posted here, is available only to Chronicle subscribers.)

Although Father Kevin Quinn, S.J., reportedly made the change to strengthen academic quality, the same policy could be used to improve Catholic fidelity and mission attentiveness among a college’s faculty.

From the article:

In memoranda to the faculty, Father Quinn has said the proposed change in the selection and job description of department heads will strengthen their leadership, remove ambiguity surrounding their roles and responsibilities, and prevent them from feeling torn between loyalty to the administration and loyalty to their union as they decide matters such as how to allocate merit pay.

The university’s faculty union and Faculty Senate oppose both the proposed change and how it would be carried out. Father Quinn announced the plan in February without consulting the Faculty Senate and has declared that he can execute it without the consent of the union that represents the university’s full-time faculty, the Faculty Affairs Council. The Faculty Senate has accused Father Quinn of trampling shared governance, while the Faculty Affairs Council, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors, says the administration would violate federal labor law if it were to overhaul the department-chair position on its own, without submitting the matter to collective bargaining.

…The administration has argued that its plan to expand the duties and responsibilities of department heads will require them to be on the job 12 months a year, rather than the nine months required under the current contract. Among their new duties will be developing a vision and goals for their department, supervising both department faculty and staff, and assisting other administrators in the development of a new system for evaluating faculty performance. They also will be expected to play a central role in determining their department’s curriculum and methods of instruction, which worries the Faculty Senate because it fears faculty members will have decisions on academic matters imposed upon them.

Loyola Marymount to Promote Gay “Marriage,” Cancels Fundraiser

Responding to concerns raised by The Cardinal Newman Society, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) has stopped describing a campus performance on September 7 as a fundraiser for the gay-rights organization that is challenging California’s ban on same-sex “marriage.”

But LMU appears to be pushing forward with the event, featuring a student and faculty reading of the play “8” which promotes gay “marriage.”

The two organizations that were to receive donations are the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact, which together have licensed readings of the play “8” at colleges and other venues nationwide.  AFER is fighting in federal court to overturn California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex “marriage,” and the case is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Broadway Impact is an organization of actors, directors and playwrights to promote same-sex “marriage.”

As of Monday, LMU’s online calendar and the website of its Office of LGBT Student Services promoted the event as a fundraiser for AFER and Broadway Impact.  The director of LGBT Student Services, Anthony Garrison-Engbrecht, was identified as the organizer.

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) on Monday contacted LMU President David Burcham and the University’s public affairs office and notified Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez. CNS requested “clarification whether the University opposes Catholic teaching on marriage, given that this event is sponsored and promoted by substantial entities of the University, both faculty and administrative departments.”

President Burcham declined to respond, and his assistant referred CNS to the public affairs office.  Despite repeated calls and promises that LMU Vice President for Communications Kathleen Flanagan would call Thursday, CNS received no return call.  Calls to Garrison-Engbrecht also were not answered.

But LMU did change its website announcements (here and here) of the event on Thursday, deleting any reference to a fundraiser, removing the Office of LGBT Student Services as a co-sponsor, and deleting reference to Garrison-Engbrecht—even though it was already apparent that he had a key role in organizing the event.  The announcement on the LGBT Student Services website was removed.

Other co-sponsors are still listed, including the Department of Communication Studies, the Department of Theater Arts and Dance, and the LMU Faculty and Staff Gay-Straight Network, which is officially recognized by the University.

By distancing the event from LGBT Student Services, LMU may be trying to characterize it as a faculty-only activity protected under a broad definition of academic freedom, although the event is still promoted by the University and will reportedly involve student performers.  The play is not an academic exercise but a biased work that is licensed by gay-rights organizations for advocacy purposes.

The latest announcement states that “LMU students, faculty, staff and alumni from across disciplines, departments and units will be performing” in the pro-gay “marriage” play.

The play’s promoters describe it as follows:

Uncover the truth about marriage for gay and lesbian Americans. “8”—a new play by Academy-award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk, J. Edgar)—demystifies the debate around marriage equality by chronicling the landmark trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Learn about the historical context of marriage from expert testimony. See the human cost of discrimination. Uncover the arguments used to justify bans on marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Using the actual court transcripts from the landmark federal trial of California’s Prop. 8 and first-hand interviews, “8” shows both sides of the debate in a moving 90-minute play.

Although the description promises “both sides of the debate,” the websites of AFER and Broadway Impact indicate that the play is designed to promote same-sex “marriage.” Playwright Dustin Lance Black is quoted, “The goal of ‘8’ is to show the world that marriage equality is a basic constitutional right and that those who would deny this basic freedom from loving, committed couples have only vitriol and baseless hyperbole to fall back on.”

It would seem that certain faculty and leaders of Loyola Marymount agree?

Cardinal Levada on LCWR: “Dialogue of the Deaf” Not Acceptable

While striking a note of hope, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, leaves no doubt that the Holy See means business in its current effort to reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Speaking to the National Catholic Reporter shortly after a meeting in Rome between representatives of LCWR and Vatican officials closed, Cardinal Levada was unusually blunt, even suggesting that the LCWR—many of whose members play a role in Catholic higher education—could be decertified by the Vatican:

In the wake of Tuesday’s meeting with representatives of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Vatican official responsible for a recent crackdown said he still believes the relationship can work, but also warned of a possible “dialogue of the deaf,” reflected in what he sees as a lack of movement on the Vatican’s concerns.

Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, floated the possibility that should the LCWR not accept the reforms outlined in an April 18 assessment, the result could be decertifying it in favor of a new organization for women’s religious leaders in America more faithful to church teaching.

That a cardinal would even speak publicly about such a drastic step is an indication that matters may be reaching a crucial point. Cardinal Levada notes that the current series of talks between the Vatican and LCWR have been going on for four years. He does not seem pleased by some of LCWR’s actions during this period:

Specifically, Levada cited publication of an interview with Fr. Charles Curran, a moral theologian censured by the Vatican in the 1980s for his views on sexual morality, in a recent issue of the group’s Occasional Papersas well as decisions to invite Barbara Marx Hubbard, often described as a “New Age leader,” to address the upcoming August assembly meeting and to bestow an award on Immaculate Heart Sr. Sandra Schneiders, another theologian sometimes critical of Vatican policy.

Levada acknowledged he had given LCWR the go-ahead to proceed with its August assembly, but said he wasn’t aware at the time of the choice of speakers or honorees, and that “I wish they hadn’t made these choices.”

“Too many people crossing the LCWR screen, who are supposedly representing the Catholic church, aren’t representing the church with any reasonable sense of product identity,” Levada said.

Levada said while church officials cannot force LCWR to change course, if things come to an impasse, they can withdraw official recognition.

“What we can do, and what we’d have to do, is to say to them, ‘We will substitute a functioning group for yours,’ ” he said.

Cardinal Levada did not say whether, if this happens, the Vatican would turn to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, a group formed in 1992 in response to what U.S. nuns loyal to Rome regarded as LCWR’s problematical direction, or a new group would be founded.

Meanwhile, LCWR wasn’t giving much away:

After Tuesday’s meeting, [LCWR President Sister Pat] Farrell and [LCWR Executive Director Sister Janet] Mock released a statement describing the session as “open” and saying LCWR would ponder its further response in upcoming regional meetings and at an August national assembly. They declined to comment beyond the statement.

But Cardinal Levada’s remarks should have the nuns wondering if the time for endless dialogue is drawing to an end.