Faculty Hiring Trends Hard to Reverse

Faculty Hiring Trends Hard to Reverse

To supporters of, and those interested in, Project Sycamore:

We are encouraged by the response so far to our limited initial communication. We want to thank those who have signed the petition, those who have written with encouragement and criticisms, and those who have contributed. We soon intend to reach out to a wider audience and ask your help in making our next series of contacts as productive as possible.

To that end and most importantly, if you share our goals but have not yet signed the petition, we ask you to sign now if circumstances permit. The influence of the Project will turn in large measure on the numbers we can muster. Those numbers will be visible at the outset by the petition signatures. Remember that by signing the petition you are not “joining” an “organization.” You are simply expressing support for Father Jenkins’s aim of increasing Catholic representation on the faculty and expressing opposition to continued performances of The Vagina Monologues.

Click here to sign the Petition

Next, we again urge you to pass on information about Project Sycamore and its web site to your friends. An ever-widening circle of persons telling their friends about this Project will be the surest and best way to gather together all who are concerned about preserving the Catholic identity of Notre Dame.

We have heard from some who share our goals but still have reservations. We thank them for sharing their questions with us. No organization can perfectly represent the views of all who subscribe to its principal purposes, but we want to do the best we can.

We wish to address briefly one of those reservations because it may occur to others and because evidence that it is groundless is beginning to appear. A few correspondents have said that, while they agree the threat to Catholic identity is serious, they also believe they can rest secure because Father Jenkins intends to add more Catholics to the faculty. This confidence, while understandable, is unwarranted for the simple but decisive reason that these days it is the faculty, not the President, that largely controls faculty hiring and tenure. As a long-time philosophy professor described the difficulty.

“The real problem is that the hiring policies of the last thirty years have given us a faculty, especially in the humanities and sciences, that is more and more devoid of Catholic sensibilities….Fr. Jenkins sincerely wants to do something about it. The question is whether he will be able to. There is no group of people harder to deal with than entrenched university faculty.”

Click here to read the article

In short, Father Jenkins can exhort, and it is reasonable to hope for some compliance by the faculty. But it is unrealistic to assume that secularized departments will, without resistance, change their practices to the extent necessary to restore the “predominance” of “Catholic intellectuals” demanded by the University’s mission statement. A major alteration in the hiring pratices of the last thirty years will be necessary simply to prevent Catholics from sliding into a minority, since Catholics have constituted less than 40% of those hired to the Arts and Letters faculty during the last two years while retirees have been, and will continue to be,mainly Catholic.

Faculty opposition is already being voiced. The last of a series of articles in The Observer on Father Jenkins’s proposed change is headed, “Professors Question Recruitment Approach” (10/12/06). No professor is reported to support Father Jenkins. Rather, professors spoke of the “alienating” and “chilling” effect of Father Jenkins’s statements and voiced their “skepticism” and “suspicion.” They “questioned whether increases in the numbers of Catholics” is wise, and thought rather that it was important to hire persons, Catholic or not, who are “models to students.” The general sense of the comments was best captured by a professor who said that Fr. Jenkins should, in effect, not have spoken of the University’s mission in terms of Catholicism but rather in terms of “promoting Catholic virtues.” That, he said, would have pleased “a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu” – and presumably, though he did not say so, all Christians as well. [link]

If Father Jenkins holds to his resolve, it seems clear that the ensuing controversy will dwarf that over The Vagina Monologues – where the faculty’s success is an unhappy precedent. To succeed in his stated goal, Father Jenkins will need all the support and encouragement to persevere that he can get. Project Sycamore is designed both to provide it and to report on the course of events.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, and, if you have not already, please take the time now to sign our petition and forward this message to others who might share our concern for the distinctively Catholic mission of Notre Dame.


Project Sycamore Steering Committee

Richard V. Allen (’57, ’58)
Dr. Daniel M. Boland (’56, ’61)
Timothy M. Dempsey (’89)
William H. Dempsey (’52)
Dr. John A. Gueguen, Jr. (’56, ’58)
George L. Heidkamp (’52)
Amelia Elizabeth Marcum (’04)
Joseph A. Reich, Jr. (’57)
Dr. Susan Biddle Shearer (’88)

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