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The Heart of the Matter – The Means to the End

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NOTRE DAME, IN – Should those in governance ensure that the faculty’s latitude in hiring will not trump the Mission Statement?

How can the Mission Statement’s requirement be met?

Although the President holds ultimate authority, as a practical matter hiring has been left almost entirely to departmental faculties. Father Jenkins has been stressing the need to hire Catholics, but the required course change is daunting and past experience is not encouraging. In 2003, Father Malloy, too, declared the hiring of more Catholics to be a “priority,” only to see the rate plummet to near 40% the next two years.

One may hope that exhortation will work this time. It is perhaps conceivable that a sufficient number of the faculty, whatever their personal views, will acknowledge an obligation to heed the Mission Statement. (Indeed, if they do not, one may question the propriety of their playing any role in hiring.)

If, however, there is not a decisive about-face by faculty, it’s hard to see any alternative to the Administration’s reclaiming, one way or another, its residual authority to the extent necessary to give effect to the Mission Statement. This might, to be sure, precipitate a conflict with elements of the faculty. It might generate criticism from elements of secular academe. There might be snide comments and snickers from the secular press. Those risks would have to be accepted

Finally, the threat to Notre Dame’s Catholic identity presents an extraordinarily important policy issue for both the Board of Trustees and the Fellows, whose special charge is to ensure the school’s Catholic character. The issue should be faced squarely rather than resolved by default, which is what will happen if the course of recent years is followed.

Those in governance should explicitly adopt one of two courses: They should either require whatever measures are necessary to insure a predominantly Catholic faculty, or they should forthrightly scrap the Mission Statement in favor of some other policy. As matters stand, present and prospective parents and students, alumni, other donors, the Church, and the public are invited to view Notre Dame in light of its Mission Statement. Arguably, this comes close to false advertising even now. It certainly will be if those in governance do not see to it that there is a “predominant number of Catholic intellectuals” on faculty.

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