The Challenge to Notre Dame’s Catholic Identity


Dear alumni and other members of the Notre Dame family:

We have sent to a number of other alumni a message explaining the purposes of Project Sycamore that we urge you to examine. In it we summarize, and provide links to, significant information that we have not before supplied.

Read our recent letter

For example, notwithstanding the warning of Dr. Mark Roche, the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, in his 2005 Report that Notre Dame’s mission as a Catholic university will be threatened unless more Catholics are added to the faculty, Dr. Roche has acknowledged recently that, during the past year, only 42% of new hires were Catholic. That Catholics will soon be a minority seems almost certain now unless there is quickly a major change in the hiring practices of the past thirty years.

A plausible reason why Dean Roche’s warning has been ineffective is continued resistance by an already highly secularized faculty. A comprehensive study of the Notre Dame faculty, reported at a 2003 conference of the University’s Center for Ethics and Culture, disclosed that a solid majority is opposed to any hiring preference for scholars on the basis of their Catholic faith. They believe, rather, that hiring should be based only on “the highest level of academic promise or prominence,” and they are opposed to delaying the filling of positions in order to find Catholics meeting this standard.

This is doubtless what a long-time professor of philosophy had in mind when he said:

“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 . . .. Father 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.”

We discuss all of this, and more — including problems with the curriculum — in the letter to other alumni that you can examine through the link provided above.

If you share our concerns but have not yet joined our petition, we remind you again to do so, and we urge you also to let others know about Project Sycamore. A convenient forwarding tool is provided on our home page. And of course we welcome contributions to take care of the costs of this enterprise, which we hope will develop into a permanent association of those committed to the protection of the Catholic identity of Notre Dame.

We thank you for your interest and welcome your support and comments.


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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