Monday, April 22, 2013

The Not-So-Secret Strategic Conversation

Last week, members of the SLU community gathered at an open strategic planning session, to begin a conversation about the future.  Below is a report on the session, compiled by Silvana Siddali.  The Heithaus Haven is pleased to share this report and to provide a space for further dialogue and discernment.


On Wednesday, April 17, members of every SLU community—undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, members of the Jesuit community, and administrators—met  to talk with each other about our hopes and dreams for SLU’s next century. We believe that we all have a stake in creating our future. 

The meeting began with a free-wheeling open call for important topics: what did people most want to discuss? What ideas would be particularly important as we contemplate the next century in SLU’s history? 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Call for Forgiveness

In two articles published last week, one trustee and one Jesuit raised the question of forgiveness.  The basic argument for each was that the faculty ought to respond to Fr. Biondi’s February message with forgiveness since he was demonstrating that he had listened.  So the faculty was not just guilty of being malcontent and whiny, but now hard-hearted and unchristian in its collective attitude.  There was a way to resolve the campus crisis, both articles implied, if only the faculty would respond in the correct way instead of personal animus against the President.

One might say that the President’s supporters were playing the “forgiveness card” and the faculty should simply treat the two articles as propaganda.  That may happen.  By invoking forgiveness the two authors have shifted the argument from professional relationships to personal ones.  If that is what they want, then they only increased the onus on SLU’s leadership, not lightened it. And if they want to conflate the personal and professional, let me state clearly and loudly: I am more than happy to forgive Fr. Biondi.  I’m a theologian and a medievalist, whose research takes him constantly into the deep quagmire that is the theology of penance and reconciliation.  Forgiveness is a theological concept I know very well.  I know that forgiveness is what I as a Christian must do and it is never an option.  But, I also know that forgiveness compels the one forgiving and the one seeking forgiveness to do some very difficult things.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Remembering our Mission, Imagining our Future - Part III

The Jesuits of Saint Louis University have organized a Jesuit Mission Series for the SLU community.  The third and final installment of the series takes place this evening – Monday, April 15, 4:00-5:30, in DuBourg Hall’s Pere Marquette Gallery.  

Fr. Mike Sheeran, S.J., president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, will talk about "Transforming the World through our University," and there will be time for reflection and discussion with each other -- faculty, students, staff, administrators, trustees, alumni.  Refreshments will be served.  

Please join us and help us as a community to articulate who we are, and who we want to be, as we move forward in SLU's history!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bad Language
What the Mutiny on the Bounty can tell us about the troubles in an American University

Events over the past year at Saint Louis University have puzzled many members of the University, the local community, and (so it would appear) even some of the Trustees tasked with overseeing the direction of SLU.

What has gone wrong? SLU is an outwardly successful institution. It is headed by a president whom many hold to be a charismatic and transformative figure. It employs responsible and skilled administrators and staff. It is capable of attracting highly qualified faculty drawn from around the nation and from overseas. It is dedicated to working with talented and motivated graduate and undergraduate students. The University’s research and teaching are recognized nationally and internationally. It is situated on a campus which has been comprehensively redeveloped. Its finances are reputed to be healthy.

And yet this same institution has fallen into an abysm of self-recrimination.

Senior and mid-ranking administrators have resigned (or been fired): most recently two Deans of the Law School, the Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and a Departmental Chair. Positions have been left unfilled or turned over to "interim"  appointments, to the extent that the term "interim" has become almost part of the SLU administrative brand.  Senior faculty have resigned from University committees. Votes of no-confidence in the President from three representative bodies of the University (the Student Government Association, the Faculty Council of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Faculty Senate) have been passed by overwhelming majorities. Membership of the Facebook page, "SLU Students for No Confidence" currently numbers some 1200 individuals. So debased have our relations with one another become that an outside agency has been called in to survey the "climate" of the University.

Fear, mistrust, despondency, and anger abound. Like Don Corleone in The Godfather, one might ask: "How did things ever get so far?"