Notre Dame president tests positive for COVID-19 after visiting the White House

Fr. John Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, has tested positive for COVID-19. He was at the White House last week for the announcement of Amy Coney Barret as Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

Here is CNN:

On Monday, Jenkins wrote a letter to his students titled “I regret my error of judgment in not wearing a mask,” in which he apologized and said he would quarantine out of an abundance of caution in accordance with university protocols.

“I know many of you have read about the White House ceremony I recently attended. I write to express my regret for certain choices I made that day and for failing to lead as I should have,” Jenkins said in the letter.

When I arrived at the White House, a medical professional took me to an exam room to obtain a nasal swab for a rapid COVID-19 test. I was then directed to a room with others, all fully masked, until we were notified that we had all tested negative and were told that it was safe to remove our masks,” he explained. “We were then escorted to the Rose Garden, where I was seated with others who also had just been tested and received negative results.””I regret my error of judgment in not wearing a mask during the ceremony and by shaking hands with a number of people in the Rose Garden,” Jenkins added.Jenkins is on the Commission on Presidential Debates.He previously announced the presidential debate would not occur at Notre Dame citing “constraints” surrounding the ongoing pandemic.

Read the entire piece here.

Watch Springsteen’s convocation address at Boston College

Get up to speed at the end of this post.

If you don’t want to watch the entire thing, here are the highlights:

Context: (For more on Created and Called for Community at Messiah University click here).

A new Springsteen album is almost here

It is titled “Letter to You.” There are also rumors that a song off the album will drop tomorrow.

Here is Jay Lustig at NJArts.net:

Though there has been no official announcement, it appears that the next Bruce Springsteen album will be titled Letter to You. The page shown above is from the Amazon UK website. Though it may be taken down by the time you read this, the web address is amazon.co.uk/dp/B08HGB71RT.

A similar page was also posted today on the site of the Wheeling, W.V. record store, Nail City Records, though it has now been taken down.

There have been heavy rumors of a new Springsteen album, on its way, over the last few weeks.

Amazon UK does not list a release date through Nail City had released the date as Oct. 23. One has to wonder if the timing of the release was chosen because of the proximity of Oct. 23 to Election Day, Nov. 3.

(Update: NJArts.net has learned other details about the album, including a track listing:

“One Minute You’re Here”
“Letter to You”
“Burnin Train”
“Janey Needs a Shooter”
“Last Man Standing”
“The Power of Prayer”
“House of a Thousand Guitars”
“Rainmaker”
“If I Was the Priest”
“Ghosts”
“Song for Orphans”
“I’ll See You in My Dreams”

Read the rest here.

Tomorrow Springsteen will give the convocation speech at Boston College. Check out BC’s Born to Run reading guide. It does a very nice job of connecting Springsteen and his music to the Jesuit tradition. Here is a taste:

Springsteen focuses on the influence of the Catholic Church in his early life – geographical, cultural, familial, personal. While Springsteen acknowledges that his connection to the Church changed as he grew older, he also emphasizes the importance of his personal relationship with God. Again, with his critical reflection, Springsteen is able to articulate his faith and his belief, and how those inform his most loving response to the world: “This was the world where I found the beginnings of my song. In Catholicism, there existed the poetry, danger and darkness that reflected my imagination and my inner self. I found a land of great and harsh beauty, of fantastic stories, of unimaginable punishment and infinite reward…as a young adult I tried to make sense of it. I tried to meet its challenge for the very reasons that there are souls to lose and a kingdom of love to be gained. I laid what I’d absorbed across the hardscrabble lives of my family, friends and neighbors. I turned it into something I could grapple with, understand, something I could even find faith in. As funny as it sounds, I have a “personal relationship with Jesus… I believe deeply in his love…” (p.17).

What does spirituality mean to you? How have you matured in your
relationship with God on your journey? In what ways do you hope to do
so over the next four years at Boston College? Who are the conversation
partners you will seek out during your time at Boston College to help you
consider your relationship with God, your relationship with others and
the world around you, and your relationship with yourself?

What is going on at Canisius College?

Canisius

The Board of Trustees at Canisius College, a Jesuit school in Buffalo, is cutting $2.5 million from faculty lines in order to close a $20 million budget deficit.

Here is WKBW television:

In a statement the AAUP said these are the proposed cuts to the best of their knowledge:

Proposed cuts ordered by the Board of Trustees include:

Chemistry: 2 faculty members must “voluntarily” separate or terminations will happen starting with most recent hire (all are tenured)

Classics: major and department to be eliminated, 1 faculty member to be terminated (tenured)

Communications: 1 program to be eliminated, 1 faculty member to be terminated (tenured)

Counseling: 1 faculty member must “voluntarily” separate or terminations will happen starting with most recent hire (all are tenured) • English: 1 faculty member to be terminated (tenure-track)

Fine Arts: major and department to be eliminated, 2 faculty members to be terminated (one tenured and one clinical)

History: 3 faculty must “voluntarily” separate or terminations will happen starting with most recent hire (all are tenured)

Management: 2 programs to be eliminated, 3 faculty members to be terminated (one with tenure, two tenure-track).

Philosophy: 3 faculty members must “voluntarily” separate or terminations will happen starting with most recent hire (a 4th faculty member moved into administration so Philosophy will lose 4 total) (all are tenured)

Religious Studies and Theology: major to be eliminated, 2 faculty members to be terminated (both are tenured)

Teacher Education: 3 faculty members to be terminated (all are tenured).

As you can see, if three tenured history faculty do not “voluntarily” separate from the college, the three most recently hired members will be fired. All the members of the seven person department have tenure.

Jim Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, has responded with this letter:

July 23, 2020

John J. Hurley
President, Canisius College

Sara R. Morris
Vice President for Academic Affairs, Canisius College

Nancy Ware
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees, Canisius College

Lee C. Wortham
Chair, Board of Trustees, Canisius College

Dear President Hurley, Dr. Morris, Ms. Ware, and Mr. Wortham,

The American Historical Association expresses grave concern about the dramatic restructuring of academic departments and program prioritization officially announced by Canisius College on July 20, 2020, including drastic reduction of the curriculum in history. As a Jesuit institution with a strong tradition of liberal arts education, Canisius has a strong record of high-quality history education provided by an accomplished faculty committed to undergraduate education. The AHA urges the administration to consider the educational impact of this short-sighted plan and reorganization, which will serve to weaken the preparation of your students for the global citizenship imperative to economic and civic accomplishment, as well as the lifelong learning essential to occupational and professional success.

This ill-considered plan not only diminishes the quality of a Canisius degree; it also identifies the college with employment practices that have no place in American higher education. The college will terminate three tenured members of the faculty without adhering to its own contractual Faculty Handbook, not to mention generally accepted ethical guidelines-an especially striking embarrassment for an institution committed to Jesuit values.

The AHA has seen this approach to prioritization and restructuring before, and the results have not been impressive. Cutting a core liberal arts degree like history is short-sighted. There is overwhelming evidence that shows employers seek the kind of skills a history degree can provide. This is an especially odd move at a time when civic leaders from all corners of the political landscape have lamented the historical knowledge of American citizens. The elimination of these faculty positions will seriously compromise essential geographic and chronological coverage necessary to foster basic historical literacy in liberally educated citizens.

The AHA is America’s largest and most prominent organization of professional historians, with over 11,500 members engaged in the teaching and practice of history at colleges and universities, secondary schools, historical institutes, museums, and other institutions. Our role as an advocate for the study of history in all aspects of American intellectual life extends also to the roles of the department leadership. The AHA offers particular resources to our department chairs because of their central role in promoting and nourishing teaching, learning, and research in history. Canisius’s history chair has had access to the AHA’s online community of department chairs, a particularly active group that enables sharing of data, problem-solving, and conversation about issues ranging from logistics to curriculum.

As experienced administrators we certainly understand the pressure of budgets, and do not underestimate the financial necessities you confront at this particular moment. This reorganization, however, may have serious and deleterious consequences for the practice of historical work and hence the quality of undergraduate education at Canisius College. Once programs are eliminated or truncated, they are often exceedingly difficult and expensive to reconstitute. What might be suggested as a temporary solution to an immediate crisis often becomes a long-term problem. I urge you to reconsider.

Sincerely,
James Grossman
Executive Director

Yesterday the faculty issued a formal vote of “no confidence” to President John Hurley.

I am afraid we are going to see more and more of this. Over the years it has not surprised me to see this kind of thing happen at evangelical colleges with boards and constituency that do not value the humanities and liberal arts because of a long history of anti-intellectualism, but when this happens at a school with a Catholic mission it is especially disheartening. Here is part of the mission of Canisius College:

Canisius is an open, welcoming university where our Catholic, Jesuit mission and
identity are vitally present and operative. It is rooted in the Catholic intellectual
tradition’s unity of knowledge and the dialogue of faith and reason. Founded by
the Society of Jesus as a manifestation of its charism, Canisius espouses the Jesuit
principles of human excellence, care for the whole person, social justice, and
interreligious dialogue. Jesuit spirituality calls us to seek God in all things and Jesuit
education aims to form students who become men and women for and with others.

The president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities on the “ethics of reopening”

College classroom 3

Reverend Dennis Holtschneider, CM, is president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Over at Inside Higher Ed he offers 13 things to think about as colleges and universities reopen in a few weeks:

  1. “Everyone holds ethical responsibility for others in a pandemic”
  2. “Members of a college or university community are responsible for their own health”
  3. “Pre-eminent is not the same as overriding”
  4. “Which ethic serves the moment?”
  5. “At what point are colleges and universities “irresponsible?”
  6. “Ethical responsibility is situational and local”
  7. “How much cleaning is enough cleaning to be ethically in the clear?”
  8. “In a pandemic, shared governance is not suddenly ceded to the senior administration:
  9. “Boards of Trustees and senior leadership must, of necessity, take financial effects and organizational sustainability into account in the decisions they are making.”
  10. “Who decides, once institutions reopen, the point at which they should close again”
  11. “In a pandemic, some courtesies become ethical requirements”
  12. “In college athletics, consent requires freedom”
  13. “What is the responsibility to the town?”

See how Holtschneider unpacks these points here.

The University of Providence is the Latest School to Cut Liberal Arts Programs

Providence U

The Catholic (Sisters of Providence) university in Great Falls, Montana has closed the following liberal arts programs:   Art, English, History, Sociology, and Theology.  The university also cut programs in Accounting, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Special Education, Health and Physical Education,  and Theater and Business Arts.

If I am reading the university website correctly, the school will now offer the following majors:  Addictions Counseling, Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Education, Forensic Science, Exercise Science, Math, Legal and Paralegal Studies, Psychology, RN-BSN Completion, and Applied Science in Surgical Technology.

Here is the press release:

After hours of conversation and extensive consideration of all the factors involved in a decision of this magnitude, the University of Providence Board of Trustees voted yesterday to approve the recommendation to close several of the university’s programs. As a result of the decision, the following programs will close: Accounting (including the graduate program), Art, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Special Education, Health and Physical Education, English, History, Sociology, Theater and Business Arts, and Theology. All students in the affected programs will be given the opportunity to graduate from their program and their scholarships will be maintained. Students and faculty are already engaged in teach-out plans, which are individualized transition plans utilizing existing faculty, adjuncts, resources at other universities, and independent studies.

Recognizing these program changes will affect the future of the university, the Board also committed to lead a substantial and collaborative process among faculty and other campus stakeholders to map a clear vision for the university moving forward that is grounded in the mission and values of the Sisters of Providence. The plan is for this process to begin as soon as possible with final consideration by the Board of Trustees at their May meeting.

“Our goal is to remain a viable, thriving Catholic liberal arts university to serve the changing needs of our community,” says Tony Aretz, president. “We have to think strategically about our offerings. Although we have had to make difficult decisions concerning our under-enrolled programs, including some humanities majors, the university remains committed to offering a strong liberal arts education.”

The faculty’s recent redesign and strengthening of the liberal arts core curriculum, Lumen de Lumine, is evidence of this commitment. The core curriculum is grounded in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and the liberal arts, and includes requirements to take theology, philosophy, English, Fine Arts and history courses, in addition to other liberal arts courses. While some majors are closing, many of the disciplines will still be actively taught in the core.

“Students enter UP with the same questions all college students have,” says Aretz. “What’s unique about UP is that students explore these questions in our core curriculum through the lens of faith and reason, leading them to not just a successful career, but truly a life-long vocation. Although some faculty positions will be eliminated going forward, we remain committed to having adequate full-time liberal arts faculty to teach the core curriculum.”

In addition to this enhanced core curriculum, another unique UP strength is that it is a ministry of the Providence St. Joseph Health care system, the largest health care system in the western United States, founded by the Sisters of Providence. While the university sees the opportunity for growth in its School of Health Professions, it will continue to explore opportunities for new programs and growth in the School of Liberal Arts on the Great Falls campus.

“Focusing more on programs with strong enrollments is part of this process,” says Aretz. “The partnership with the health care system also provides unique opportunities for new programs in Great Falls. In fact, the history of the Great Falls campus began with the introduction of a resident nurse (RN) program at Columbus Hospital that eventually contributed to the founding of our university.”

The rich history that precedes UP lives on not only in new programs, but in the strong remaining programs. Investments will be made in the remaining programs in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences including, but not limited to, business, legal and paralegal studies, the sciences and criminal justice. The decisions that are being made to both strengthen existing programs, and sunset other programs, is part of the university’s strategic plan, which launched a program reprioritization process in which each of the university’s programs were evaluated by criteria developed by a multi-disciplinary faculty committee.

Matt Redinger, the provost and vice president of academic affairs, formed a Program Prioritization Advisory Council (PPAC) comprised of faculty from each division within the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences to guide the process. Redinger and the PPAC established criteria, and from that criteria Redinger formed initial recommendations to the president. The criteria included the programs’ numbers of majors, student demand, market competitiveness, operating costs, and contributions to the university’s other programs and to the liberal arts core curriculum.

“The decision to recommend these program closures was very difficult, however, program reprioritization was necessary for the university to progress,” says Tony Aretz, president. “We are one of many universities across the state and country having to make these difficult decisions. These program closures, while difficult, help strengthen our financial health as an institution. This will position the university as one of Montana’s leading healthcare universities and one of the state’s premier Catholic, liberal arts institutions.”

While the university is making strides to grow their remaining academic offerings, the campus community is aware of the hardships these decisions have on faculty, staff and students.

“We are sensitive to the impact these decisions have on our university community, their families and the wider community,” says Aretz. “Our faculty’s dedication to our students is a key differentiator for UP, and we continue to honor that legacy.”

The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences is working to build new innovative interdisciplinary programs to capitalize on UP’s Catholic heritage and relationship with Providence St. Joseph Health.

“Some have questioned why we are eliminating programs but still building on campus and adding other academic programs,” says Aretz. “We recognized that it was necessary to update and improve basic infrastructure to attract and retain students – the renovated Student Center and new University Center are part of that process. At the same time, the university needs to invest in the state-of-the-art academic and athletic programs that will yield the greatest outcomes for students and result in financial sustainability.”

Thoughts:

  • Can a Catholic school really claim to be a “thriving liberal arts university” without majors in Art, English, History, and Theology?  The University of Providence should probably stop calling itself a “liberal arts institution” and start calling itself a professional school with a liberal arts core curriculum.
  • Ironically, Provost Matt Redinger is a historian. He has a Ph.D from the University of Washington.  He is the author of American Catholics and the Mexican Revolution (2005).  He has been on the job at the University of Providence since July 2018.
  • I would like to know what role the faculty played in this decision and if they are satisfied with that role.

The President of a Conservative Catholic College Defends the Pope and Takes the Heat

avemariaaerial

Jim Towey is the president of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida.  He was also the Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under George W. Bush.

Ave Maria is a very traditional Catholic college.  It was founded in 1998 in Ypsilanti, Michigan by Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza.  I first learned about it through the ads the college regularly took out in First Things magazine.

In the wake of the controversial Cardinal Vigano letter accusing Pope Francis of covering-up the sexually abusive behavior of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one might expect the president of a conservative Catholic college to join the chorus of conservative Catholics who are critical of Francis.  But not Jim Towey.  I will let the Naples Daily News explain the rest:

Ave Maria University President Jim Towey’s statement in support of Pope Francis has prompted a swift backlash from several members of the Catholic community, including a group of nearly 70 alumni who signed an open letter asking he make a formal retraction. 

Towey has since amended his original statement and wrote a follow-up letter apologizing for some of his words, but he maintained his support of Pope Francis.

The pope stands accused of knowing of allegations of sexual abuse in the church and failing to take action.

In his Aug. 29 statement, Towey characterized the matter as a “rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the Church hierarchy.”

On Aug. 30, Towey wrote a letter addressed to the “Friends of Ave Maria University,” acknowledging his words had hit some members of the Ave Maria community “with great force.” Towey also apologized for his “gratuitous comment about what might have motivated Cardinal Burke’s conduct.”

The original Aug. 29 statement included a sentence that suggested American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a leader of the conservative wing of the church who has criticized Pope  Francis “may still be smarting from the Holy Father’s decision to remove him from his prominent position as head of the Holy See’s highest ecclesiastical court.” That portion of the statement has since been removed. 

Read the rest here.

An Adjunct Instructor Reflects on How Much He Should Invest in the Mission of a Church-Related University

Scranton

This is an important post for those of us in church-related academia, especially administrators.   Jonathan Wilson discusses his experience as an adjunct history professor at the Jesuit-run University of Scranton, but his thoughts apply to any faith-based institution or any college or university with a religious mission.

Here is a taste:

My teaching season began today. The summer isn’t over, but for the next two weeks, I will be participating in faculty development seminars offered by the Jesuit Center at the University of Scranton.

These seminars focus on pedagogy and the vocation of a teacher. Most participants today said they came to learn how to teach better. However, there is also a larger institutional purpose. The University of Scranton encourages its instructors to think of our work in explicitly Catholic ways. We are not expected to be Catholics—although I suspect most participants in today’s seminar were at least raised that way—but we are encouraged to place our teaching within that tradition. We are asked to “support the mission,” in the typical language used on campus; these seminars are designed to help faculty members across different disciplines conceptualize what that means.

At this point, I’ll confess to mixed feelings, but not about Catholicism….

Read the rest here.

What Does a Humanities Professor Do When a College Cuts the Humanities?

Holy Names

Check out Nina Handler‘s moving piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Handler teaches English at Holy Names University, in Oakland, California.  The college recently cut several humanities majors, including English and History.  It’s website currently features a student playing golf.

Holy Names claims to be a a university “rooted in Catholic intellectual and spiritual traditions.”  The Catholic college has also cut majors in Intercultural Peace and Justice, Latin American Studies, Music, Philosophy, and Religious Studies.

Here is a taste of Handler’s “Facing My Own Extinction“:

Disturbingly, after our English major was eliminated, I discovered in conversations that several of my colleagues didn’t realize that there was a distinction between the freshman-writing program and the English major.

Times change, and institutions of higher education must change along with them. If no one wants to study a particular field, if it’s not filling a niche, it will die a natural death. This is evolution in action. I have no choice but to accept that the vast majority of students at my university don’t want to major in English. They don’t want what I have to offer. Instead, they want degrees in the health sciences.

Of course, my students and their worldviews don’t exist in a vacuum. They live in a culture that tells them in every way that STEM fields are where the money’s at and consequently are the only fields worth studying. They want to know — for the return on the gargantuan investment they and their families have made in a college education — that they will be able to get a well-paid job tied directly to their major.

Once education is viewed as a hoop to be jumped through to get somewhere else, people start assigning value to it in a way that privileges direct connections to prosperity and jobs they can easily see. With no sense that being an English major leads to any job but being an English teacher, students are “voting with their feet,” as my provost said when she canceled the major. Social Darwinism speaks of “survival of the fittest,” a victim-blaming phrase that has been distorted to justify socially constructed imbalances of wealth and power. If you can’t make it, it’s your own fault — or it’s just nature taking its bloody course.

Read the entire piece here.

How Georgetown is Confronting It’s Ties to Slavery

Remembracne

Remembrance Hall on Georgetown University campus will be renamed in honor of Anne Marie Becraft, a free woman of color who opened a school for African Americans in 1827

According to a recent report published by Georgetown University, the Jesuit school’s “origins and growth, and successes and failures, can be linked to America’s slave-holding economy and culture.”  The Jesuits who founded the college owned and operated plantations in Maryland run with slave labor. In 1838 the college sold 272 slaves to a cotton plantation in Louisiana with the proceeds going to help remedy the school’s “mounting debt.” Further research uncovered that slaves worked on campus in the decades prior to the Civil War.

According to this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Georgetown will:

  1. establish an Institute for the Study of Slavery
  2. rename two campus buildings for a slave and free woman of color who founded an 1827 school for African-American girls in the Georgetown neighborhood
  3. will give preferred admissions or “legacy” treatment to the descendants of these slaves
  4. apologize

Here is a taste of the piece:

The university’s reparations may also be fueled by its Jesuit identity, Mr. Wilder said. Georgetown’s history with slavery, he added, “couldn’t be addressed simply as an intellectual problem.”

Last year Georgetown’s president, John J. DeGioia, charged a campus Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation with determining how the university could best approach and make amends for its ties to slavery. Scholars set out to find families of slave descendants,now spread out across the nation.

The university’s actions raise the bar for other institutions dealing with similar challenges, even though many colleges aren’t in a position to make such specific and seamless changes, said Kirt von Daacke, an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia.

Virginia has a similar commission to confront its ties to slavery, but UVa was not in the business of owning slaves, Mr. von Daacke said. Instead, it rented or borrowed slaves from community members to help maintain, build, and run the university, and names and records of those individuals are sparse.

In most cases, it’s nearly impossible to track hired help to owners, forcing the university to rely on familial knowledge, he said. It’s tough for scholars to track down those people, as the university hasn’t always had a great relationship with its community.

“Some portions of the community here refer to the university as a big plantation,” Mr. von Daacke said. Now he and other scholars are trying to change that.

Read the entire piece here.

Mount St. Mary’s University President Resigns

Mount

It was only a matter of time.  As I watched this tragic event unfold over the last couple of weeks, I did not see any other possible ending.  If you are new to this controversy check out our previous posts here.

Here is the press release:

Emmitsburg, MD (February 29, 2016) Mount St. Mary’s University today announced the resignation of its president, Simon Newman, effective immediately. Karl Einolf, Ph.D., Dean of the Richard J.Bolte, Sr., School of Business has been named by the Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees as the school’s acting president.

“The board is grateful to President Newman for his many accomplishments over the past year, including strengthening the University’s finances, developing a comprehensive strategic plan for our future, and bringing many new ideas to campus that have benefitted the entire Mount community,” said John Coyne, Chairman of the Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees. “We thank him for his service.”

“I am proud of what I have been able to achieve in a relatively short time particularly in helping the University chart a clear course toward a bright future,” said Simon Newman. “I care deeply about the school and the recent publicity relating to my leadership has become too great of a distraction to our mission of educating students. It was a difficult decision but I believe it is the right course of action for the Mount at this time.”

Before Einolf’s appointment to Dean of the Bolte School of Business in 2012, he served on the faculty as a professor of finance. He was a recipient of the University’s Richards Award for Teaching Excellence, and he served for six years as the Director of the Mount’s Honors Program. He has published papers in numerous business and economics journals, and has presented his work at national and international conferences. Before joining the Mount in 1998, Einolf served the Sprint Corporation in various finance, marketing, and human resource positions.

Stay tuned.

Could Mount St. Mary’s University Lose Its Accreditation?

Mount

We have already done several posts about the controversy at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  You can get up to speed here.  When we last left the Mount the faculty had asked president Simon Newman to resign.  Newman ignored the request.  Now the university is in jeopardy of losing its accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  If the school loses its Middle States accreditation, students will stop coming (and Newman’s retention problem will be solved).

Scott Jaschik has been covering this story at Inside Higher Ed.  Here is a taste of his latest post:

Here are some of the provisions about which Middle States has asked for a report from Mount St. Mary’s and why they could be significant:

  • Integrity. The integrity standards say: “In all its activities, whether internal or external, an institution should keep its promises, honor its contracts and commitments, and represent itself truthfully.” Faculty members say that this was violated when the college gave new students a survey without explaining its use, when faculty members were fired in violations of their contracts and when administrators said faculty members had broken university rules. The integrity provision also states that faculty members have the right “to question assumptions,” something faculty members say the university violated by criticizing professors for disagreeing with the president and not showing sufficient loyalty.

  • Admissions and retention. The standards state that colleges must have “programs and services to ensure that admitted students who marginally meet or do not meet the institution’s qualifications achieve expected learning goals and higher education outcomes at appropriate points.” Critics say that planning to weed out such students with a survey given before they started class violates that standard. Faculty members also note that the Middle States standards invite colleges to provide “evidence that support programs and services for low-achieving students are effective in helping students to persist and to achieve learning goals and higher education outcomes.” The implication of this language, professors say, is that the college is supposed to be committed to helping students persist, not trying to get them to leave.

  • Faculty. The standards require colleges to have “published and implemented standards and procedures for all faculty and other professionals, for actions such as appointment, promotion, tenure, grievance, discipline and dismissal, based on principles of fairness with due regard for the rights of all persons.” Faculty members said that while “published” rules at the colleges may provide for a faculty role in evaluating faculty members, Simon fired people without any faculty role or without any fair rationale. Further, they note that while the president rehired the faculty members, he cited “mercy” as the reason for doing so, suggesting there was nothing wrong with the dismissals.

  • Leadership and governance. The standards say that colleges must have “a climate of shared collegial governance in which all constituencies (such as faculty, administration, staff, students and governing board members, as determined by each institution) involved in carrying out the institution’s mission and goals participate in the governance function in a manner appropriate to that institution. Institutions should seek to create a governance environment in which issues concerning mission, vision, program planning, resource allocation and others, as appropriate, can be discussed openly by those who are responsible for each activity.” Faculty members say this has been violated by firing faculty members who disagree with the president, and by removing administrators and faculty members who don’t share the president’s apparent vision of a lesser emphasis on the liberal arts in the curriculum.

Read the entire article here.

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

Mount

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.

Mount St. Mary’s Reinstates Fired Professors

eb6e1-mountBut it is not clear whether they will come back as long as Simon Newman remains president of the university.

This article in Inside Higher Ed explains everything.  Newman is trying to extend an olive branch, but for many at The Mount it appears to be a poisoned one.

Here is a taste of Scott Jaschik’s piece:

Whether the tensions will be resolved remains unclear. Inside Higher Ed reached Thane Naberhaus, one of the faculty members who was fired this week, despite having tenure, and asked him if he was planning to return. His email response: “Hell no.”

He elaborated: “I’ll refuse to be reinstated until Newman is gone and some others are gone. “

Ed Egan is the adviser to the student newspaper, and is the other faculty member who was fired and whom the university said has now been reinstated. In an interview, he said that President Newman called him and told him he would be reinstated in part because the Roman Catholic Church has declined a Year of Mercy.

Egan said he was uncertain about returning and that he was bothered by the statement — and went to the faculty meetings to tell his colleagues why. Egan said he told them that the president’s statement was “as if I had done something wrong and was in need of his mercy.” In fact, the reinstatement is an attempt to “placate” the campus so that it will not consider all of the issues that go beyond the two professors.

“Reinstating me does not make these other problems go away and Simon Newman needs to show mercy on Mount St. Mary’s and resign,” Egan said. He added that he is consulting lawyers on his next moves.

Faculty members, after the news about the offer to reinstate the two professors, voted to seek the president’s removal. They adopted a letter to Newman that said: “Our community is suffering. In recent weeks, we have been divided due to miscommunications, missteps, and misunderstandings. It is clear that we all could have done things differently to avoid the situation that we now find ourselves in. Regrettably, our problems have become public and have cast a dark shadow across our holy mountain.”

The letter continued: “You have only been with us a short time. We know all too well the great love for this community that comes to those who join us. But it has become apparent that negative public attention has interfered with our ability to continue in our work and to bring new students and faculty to this campus. We have come to the sad conclusion that this state of affairs cannot be resolved while you continue in your current office. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart, in a loving spirit of compassion and forgiveness, that we appeal to your generosity of spirit and ask that you resign your position for the good of our community by 9:00 a.m. on February 15, 2016.”

Newman could not immediately be reached.

The Mount St. Mary’s campus has been in turmoil since word leaked through The Mountain Echo, the student newspaper, last month that President Newman compared struggling students to bunnies that need to be drowned or killed with a Glock. The metaphor grabbed attention, but educators said that the underlying debate was what really mattered. Newman had proposed to use a survey — on which freshmen would be told there were no wrong answers — to identify those at risk of dropping out and to encourage them to do so in the first weeks of the semester. The idea was to raise the university’s graduation rates, since those who leave very early in the semester don’t count in the total enrollment figures. Many professors and some administrators protested the plan, saying that the university has an obligation to try to educate those it admits.

I just don’t see any way that Mount St. Mary University can go forward with Newman in charge.

(Is this the first time that you are hearing about all of this?  Get up to speed here).

Fired Mount St. Mary’s Philosophy Professor Speaks Out

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Earlier this week Simon Newman, the president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD, fired two professors and demoted his provost because they spoke out against his controversial retention plan.  Get up to speed here.

One of those fired was a tenured philosophy professor named Thane Naberhaus. He is now speaking out on Newman’s apparent assault on the historic Catholic liberal arts identity of Mount St. Mary’s

Here is a taste of an article from Catholic News Agency

Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor who was recently fired from the Maryland university, told CNA that the president wanted to downplay the school’s Catholic identity because, in his words, “Catholic doesn’t sell.”

“He said publicly,” Naberhaus told CNA, “‘if you go in the marketplace, Catholic doesn’t sell, liberal arts doesn’t sell.’”

Here is more on the Catholic identity issue:

David McGinley, a 2011 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s and a member of the Mount’s College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board, had concerns following an Oct. 23, 2015 meeting between Newman and the advisory board.

In that meeting, Newman “showed a lack of appreciation for or desire to continue or further Catholic identity in any regards to what one would call traditional,” McGinley told CNA.

“What he was saying is that Catholicism has lost its relevance,” McGinley added. The concerns Newman raised, he continued, were that Mount St. Mary’s was “not going to get customers to come” if it marketed itself as a Catholic university.

A Facebook group of concerned alumni and students, “Mount Family Speaks Out,” reported that Newman made similar remarks in an August student assembly.

According to a current administrative employee, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, President Newman has also criticized the cross, saying in passing that there were “too many bleeding crucifixes” in the employee’s office.

“I have a broken crucifix, and I have a crucifix that is done in limestone sculpture,” the source told CNA, adding that the president had made the comment after seeing them.

Naberhaus said that he has heard similar reports from other faculty members – including some instances of the president disparaging the crucifix and using profanity.

Numerous alumni also pointed to the Mount St. Mary’s landing page for prospective students as an example of the new attitude towards Catholic identity, noting that the page does not contain any references to the fact that it is a Catholic school.

“That is Simon Newman’s vision for Mount Saint Mary’s right there, encapsulated in that one webpage,” Naberhaus said.

Naberhaus also said that he has heard Newman refer to students as “Catholic jihadis.”

Read the entire piece here.

Former Mount St. Mary University Professor Weighs-In

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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.

President of Mount St. Mary University Is Under Fire

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If you have not been following this whole mess at Mount St. Mary University you can get caught up here and here and here.  It involves (by all accounts) a tyrannical university president with a retention plan that offended most of the university’s constituency, a demoted Provost and Dean, and two fired faculty members, one with tenure.

Earlier today The Washington Post weighed in.  According to Susan Svrluga’s article, the American Association of University Professors has responded.   Faculty from around the country have signed a petition protesting the actions of president Simon Newman.

If anyone (other than perhaps some members of the Board of Trustees) are standing with Newman, I have not read about them.  I don’t see how his presidency can survive this controversy.

Academics’ Statement of Protest Regarding Faculty Firings at Mount St. Mary’s University

I was just made aware of this.  Please consider joining the hundreds of academics who have signed it.

Background Information

For a summary account of the faculty firings at Mount St. Mary’s University and the deeper controversy behind them, see Scott Jaschik, “Purge at the Mount”, Inside Higher Education, Feb. 9, 2016: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/mount-st-marys-president-fires-two-faculty-members-one-tenure.

For further details, please visit http://tinyurl.com/msmbackground.

Text of Statement

We the undersigned, as members of the community of scholars, protest the firings of Edward Egan and Thane Naberhaus from their faculty positions at Mount St. Mary’s University.

The manner and circumstance of their dismissal raises serious questions about the respect given to moral conscience and intellectual freedom at Mount St. Mary’s. Of particular concern is that Prof. Egan was fired partly for actions taken in his role as faculty advisor to the university’s student newspaper, which first broke the stories leading to the present controversy. It is also alarming that these faculty were fired without any academic due process as required under AAUP guidelines and the customary standards of tenure.

As a Catholic institution, Mount St. Mary’s is bound by the teachings that “charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1789), and that in the context of the Catholic university “the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected” (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, II.2.iv). As a university, it is bound by the standards that govern any such institution in respect of its faculty.

We call for these faculty to be reinstated immediately, and the administration held accountable for this violation of their rights.

To sign this statement click here.

More Strange Things are Happening at Mount St. Mary’s University

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Last week we published a post on the controversy surrounding the new retention plan at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Now, it seems, President Simon Newman is cleaning house.  According to this article in the Frederick News-Post he has fired two professors and demoted the Provost.  It is not clear whether the firings came because these employees opposed the retention plan, but according to this article at Inside Higher Ed, Provost David Rehm was demoted because he did oppose the plan.

As you may recall, in an e-mail describing the plan Newman mentioned putting a gun to the head of struggling students as an incentive for them to leave.  He also described these students as “bunnies” who need to “drown.”

In January, Joshua Hochschild, the Dean of Liberal Arts and a philosopher, was demoted. Some of you may recall that Hochschild was asked to leave Wheaton College in 2006 because he converted to Catholicism.

The Provost, David Rehm, is the son of NPR host Diane Rehm.  (This has nothing to do with the story, but it is interesting).

As least one of the two faculty members fired had tenured.

And the new interim Provost comes to the university with a troubled past and no experience leading a liberal arts college.

As I wrote in my previous post, I wonder how the Catholic mission of Mount St. Mary’s University is informing this whole controversy.

Early American History Job Opening at Mount Saint Mary’s University

The good folks at “The Mount” have a tenure-track opening in early American history.  This would be a wonderful place to workIf you are interested in teaching in a church-related (Catholic) liberal arts college with great colleagues, I would encourage you to apply.  Personally, it would be great to have another early Americanist on the Route 15 corridor!

The Department of History at Mount St. Mary’s University seeks an outstanding teacher-scholar for the position of Assistant Professor (tenure-track) beginning August 2014. The ideal candidate will demonstrate a strong commitment to teaching and research on  Early American History.  The department is particularly interested in candidates with special training in the history of the Atlantic World or the slave trade and slavery.  The department seeks a colleague who will be able to contribute both to advanced undergraduate research in the History major and to the Veritas Program, the university’s common liberal arts curriculum that includes a two-semester sequence of interdisciplinary courses on the American Experience.  Successful candidates will share our commitment to the dignity and solidarity of all persons and the value of intercultural understanding.  Ph.D. is expected; ABD candidates will also be considered.

Mount St. Mary’s University, the second oldest Catholic university in America, seeks faculty members eager to engage and support our Catholic identity.  Application materials should discuss how you might contribute to the University’s Catholic liberal arts mission, how your work engages with the Catholic intellectual tradition, or how your own faith tradition informs your vocation as teacher and scholar. 

Application review will begin on October 15; applications received by this time will receive full consideration, but the search will remain open until the position is filled.

The Mount is a comprehensive, nationally recognized Catholic university, where Faith, Discovery, Leadership, and Community describe our collective calling and promise.  The University enrolls 2,300 students and has a 14:1 student to faculty ratio.  We seek to build an inclusive faculty that can engage the interests of an increasingly diverse student population; we welcome applications from minority candidates.  Additional information about Mount St. Mary’s University is available at www.msmary.edu.