Simon Newman, Donald Trump, and Mount St. Mary’s University


I don’t know how many of you have been following what is going on at Mount St. Mary’s University, but you can get up to speed here.

The faculty at The Mount have given president Simon Newman until tomorrow morning, February 15, to resign from his post.  So far there is no word of a resignation.

The best thing I have read on this controversy comes from Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors College and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture at Baylor University. Hibbs is a Catholic intellectual.

Here is a taste of his piece at The Catholic World Report, “The Donald Trump of Catholic Education“:

Like Trump, Simon Newman and the Board that appointed him, suppose that the skills of the entrepreneur are easily transferable to any and every sphere of human life. If you can run a business, so the assumption goes, then you can run an army, a nation, or a small Catholic university.

But Newman apparently has little knowledge of, or affinity for, the Catholic vision of education. In an open letter, members of the Mount St. Mary’s Advisory Board of the College of Liberal Arts, which met in October with Newman present, stated:

As members of the Advisory Board of the College of Liberal Arts we have met with President Newman on several occasions. Our last meeting took place on October 23, 2015. During President Newman’s presentation that day he exhibited contempt for the Mount’s Catholic identity and tradition and called for a radical de-emphasis of the liberal arts education for which the university has been justly noted. Surveys, he explained, indicate that terms like liberal arts and philosophy do nothing for young people and that the Catholic Church is today less influential in the lives of the young than ever before.

As Pope Francis noted in his recent encyclical, the roots of our cultural crisis can be traced to our inability to see the connections between the parts of the universe; in our loss of a vocabulary concerning the true nature of the human person and its place in the whole; in our tendency to conceive of all knowledge as merely instrumental; and in a consumerist attitude toward nature and the human body. Countering this would require that universities actually take stands on what is most worthy of study and attempt to cultivate in students a genuine love of learning for its own sake. Francis regularly contrasts a curiosity aimed at domination and control with a spirit of wonder that is silently receptive of nature and issues in gratitude toward what is revealed to us in the natural and human orders.

Francis concentrates on integrated education that inculcates habits of gratitude and wonder, precisely the habits that are at the heart of a Catholic liberal arts education. Given the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition and its commitment to the compatibility of, and integral connection between, faith and reason, Catholic schools ought to the places where students can receive simultaneously the highest level of academic challenge and the encouragement and opportunity to develop a deep, articulate, and robust adult Catholic faith.

Read the entire piece here.  It is a strong rebuke to the MSMU president and a strong defense of Catholic higher education.

One thought on “Simon Newman, Donald Trump, and Mount St. Mary’s University

  1. John, it’s gratifying when non-Catholics such as yourself defend Catholicism in higher education or even just in general.

    I have done the same for the Opus Deis, Protestant fundamentalists, Mormons, and what have you. And of course the “Religious Right,” who have no defenders atall in the academic blogosphere.

    As for Catholicism in America, it remains the theo-philosophical-political battleground, voting 50-50 more or less. Even on the Supreme Court.

    What of Mount St. Mary’s? It is only Simon Newman’ crassness and vulgarity that will lose him this battle. As for Donald Trump, I do not know. Ever read the Foundation trilogy? Perhaps he’s The Mule.

    {I thought it was Barack Obama, but that seems an overstatement now.}


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