NOTRE DAME, IN – Professor Emeritus Charles Rice describes the erosion of Catholic identity accompanying Notre Dame’s drive for top ranking as a research university.
In a recent essay in The Observer, Law School Professor Emeritus Charles Rice examines several troublesome by-products of the University’s drive to be recognized as a top tier research institution. All of them – for example, a “diminished emphasis on undergrad teaching” – are of interest. In terms of Catholic identity, the truly alarming consequence is the “decrease of Catholic faculty” already experienced and to be anticipated.
Before introducing Professor Rice’s essay, we briefly describe as background several of the key factors we have analyzed at length in prior newsletters.
When the present slender 53% arithmetical Catholic faculty majority is discounted to account for nominal and dissident Catholics, there is no longer the majority of committed Catholics that the Mission Statement declares to be necessary to the school’s Catholic identity.
The Administration has set a goal of hiring Catholics at a mere 50.1%, far less than adequate even to maintain the unsatisfactory status quo because of the very high proportion of Catholics among retirees.
But the Faculty Senate opposed even this substandard goal. The Senate acknowledged the desirability only of a “significant presence” of Catholic faculty. So much for the Mission Statement’s requirement of Catholic faculty “predominance.”
In these circumstances, while the increased attention that the Administration has paid to Catholic hiring is welcome, and while temporary interludes in the downward spiral of Catholic representation may be anticipated to occur under Father Jenkins as they have during prior Administrations, the long-term outlook for restoration of the Catholic identity demanded by the Mission Statement looks bleak absent a major change in hiring policies.
Ultimate responsibility and authority for insuring such a change resides in those in governance: the Fellows, the Board, and the Administration. The essential first step is according priority to hiring sufficient numbers of qualified Catholics to meet the Mission Statement requirement.
This might well be all that is necessary. But in the unlikely event that a department were simply unwilling to follow such a policy, the President could, as Professor Rice observes, simply withhold approval of one or more of that department’s nominees to induce further efforts to attract qualified Catholic candidates.
This would not mean scrapping the worthy goal of increasing diversity or the perhaps more debatable goal of being admitted to the top rank of research universities. It might, to be sure, mean a slower pace toward those goals. And there would, obviously, be faculty objection. But the alternative is the loss forever of Notre Dame’s historic claim as a truly Catholic institution, for history teaches that there is a point of no return along the secularization continuum.
As Professor Rice says, “It is a question of will.”
And now, Professor Rice.
CATHOLIC IDENTITYBy Charles Rice
Three decades ago, in 1978, Notre Dame proclaimed itself a “Research University.” Notre Dame’s mission had been the provision of affordable education, in the Catholic tradition, to undergrads, with research and graduate education in an important, complementary role….Read full article
2028 E Ben White Blvd
Austin, TX 78741
Sycamore Trust provides a source of information, a means of communication, and a collective voice to Notre Dame alumni and others in the Notre Dame family who are concerned about preserving the Catholic identity of the University.