John Schwenkler teaches philosophy at Florida State University, but from 2010-2013 he taught at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD. (If you need to get up to speed on what is happening at The Mount, check out our coverage here).
Schwenkler pulls no punches when discussing the controversy at his former institution and raises some very important questions about Catholic identity.
Here is a taste of his piece at Commonweal:
From 2010-2013 I taught at Mount St. Mary’s University, now the center of a massive controversy prompted by the actions of its new president, Simon Newman, an MBA-possessing former businessman who, since taking over his current position, has:
- Abruptly cut off a retirement benefit that had been promised for years to the university’s long-time faculty and — more importantly — hourly staff;
- Made dismissive statements about the value of liberal study, and pushed the university to cut back its liberal arts requirements;
- Abruptly dismissed from his administrative position Joshua Hochschild, then dean of the College of Liberal Arts, a well-respected professor who had sought to strengthen liberal study and Catholic identity at the Mount, and had corrected the president’s rhetoric and resisted some of his calls for change;
- Encouraged faculty to think of struggling students as animals who needed to be executed, rather than human persons who needed their help;
- Created a plan to dismiss 20-25 freshmen — about 5% of a typical entering class at the Mount — in order to improve the university’s self-reported retention statistics;
- Devised to this end a survey in which students would describe the extent to which e.g. they felt depressed, unliked, and financially unstable during the early weeks of the semester, intending to pitch this survey to students as a tool for self-understanding but then use it to identify those unlikely to succeed, accepting as “collateral damage” those it might mistakenly sweep up;
- Dismissed from his administrative position David Rehm, then provost of the university, who challenged the president’s judgment;
- Fired Edward Egan, an untenured professor and advisor to the Mount’s student newspaper, apparently for his role in helping that paper break the story of Newman’s “retention” efforts; and
- Fired Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor, for what was described as a violation of his “duty of loyalty” to Mount St. Mary’s.
Read the entire piece here.