Full text of UST Bulletin on board changes
Father Dennis Dease reports on fall Board of Trustees meeting
Amid all of the excitement on campus last month with the announcement of our Opening Doors capital campaign, the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees held its fall meetings and took action on a number of important issues.
The board met Oct. 24-25 on the St. Paul campus, and I want to take this occasion to report to you on the highlights of committee meetings on the first day and the board's plenary session on the second day.
Several committees heard reports about the progress of the $500 million campaign and several building projects, including the Anderson Student Center, improvements to athletic and recreational facilities, and a parking ramp on the south campus. The board is enthusiastic about those projects, made possible by the extraordinary gift from trustee Lee Anderson and his wife, Penny, of $60 million.
Trustees are deeply committed to the campaign's largest priority: to raise $130 million in endowed funds for financial aid to make a St. Thomas education more accessible to future generations of students. Other campaign priorities, including endowed chairs and named deanships, also are generating a positive response.
The trustees complimented the professionalism and the beauty of the campaign kickoff events. Unanimously, the board passed a resolution thanking all the students, staff and faculty who contributed to this success.
The board made a difficult decision about a proposed medical school with Allina Hospitals & Clinics. As compelling as the need is to train more primary-care physicians, the board agreed that St. Thomas has higher priorities at this time with the Opening Doors campaign and should devote all its energies to raising funds for those needs. [Allina does abortions. Would a medical school co-run by Allina be forced to train doctors in doing abortions? Might this be a problem for a Catholic school to be involved in...?]
St. Thomas and Allina agreed to continue their dialogue on an informal basis and did not rule out future collaboration in the creation of a medical school should sufficient resources becomes available. I expect we will work together through the National Institute of Health Policy, which is based at St. Thomas, and other venues to examine ways to broaden the accessibility and quality of medical care in Minnesota. The institute is ideally suited to participate in this effort because it offers a neutral forum for stakeholder collaboration in the examination of health-care policy issues.
One very upbeat moment during the plenary session came when the board saluted Archbishop Harry Flynn for his leadership as chairman since 1995. The board presented him with a framed certificate of appreciation that said: "Champion of Catholic higher education and model of servant leadership, intellectual and moral courage, you exemplify caritas, the greatest of all Christian virtues. You do us honor, and we thank you."
Implementing a process the Board Affairs Committee began last February [Interesting - it would be good to know more about what was begun then...], the
board also elected Archbishop Flynn to a five-year term as chairman of the board after making appropriate changes to the university's bylaws which heretofore had stipulated that the ordinary (head) of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis serve ex officio as chairman. [We just love you Archbishop Flynn and oh, look at that, by doing this we might not have to deal with the new guy and we can plausibly distance ourselves even further from the local Church that founded us]
The changes were made to recognize the increasingly important role that Archbishop Flynn has at St. Thomas. He has been a very active chairman, meeting regularly with faculty, staff and students, attending campus events and serving on committees such as the one that wrote our new mission statement. [uh. ok. That's nice. And we couldn't just create a new position for him?] More recently, he has agreed to serve as an honorary co-chair of the Opening Doors campaign. After he retires as ordinary next year, he will move into the late Monsignor Terrence Murphy's office in the O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center.
The board also removed ex officio references from two other board positions.
Father Kevin McDonough, vicar general of the archdiocese, will continue to serve as vice chairman and was elected to a five-year term. The board elected me to five-year terms both as a trustee and as president of St. Thomas. [sounds to me like they are in a mode to safeguard the status quo... now what event is coming up that could have upset the status quo...?]
These changes as well as others made previously reflect recommendations made to us five years ago by the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities when it reviewed with our board best governance practices. One AGB recommendation was to conform our bylaws to what is now the common practice among Catholic colleges and universities: to elect the board's chairman and vice chairman. [the question is... are they basing this on the common practice of other successful AND still Catholic schools - or just on successful schools who have abandoned their Catholic identity for the most part? Why do I suspect the latter?]
Bottom line - it seems that the battle still rages at UST for whether or not the university will be Catholic or secularized. And this battle is about to come to a head. I sure hope Flynn knows what he's doing and can bring his flock back - he's in a good position to do so, since they CHOSE him apparently. We need to pray for him and for UST. In Flynn's defense, he's already proven that he plays a mean chess game, by his long-term tactics in cleaning up the Archdiocesean seminaries and forming the laity and younger generations of priests and religious. I want to trust that he has a plan with this too.
Sadly, either way, and whether this is made public or not, as usual in this life the oppositional forces of faith appear to have the advantage - if this issue draws public interest many will side with the secularization of the school, because they don't understand or agree with the mission of the Church in education. If it doesn't get the public's attention then the secularists still succeed, by being given yet more slack to extend their agendas even further.
What it all boils down to is to whether the secular forces are more committed to pulling away from the school's foundational relationship with the Church that nurtured it and gave it life, or if the Church and her shepherds are able to step in and, gently or otherwise, restore the right order of faith and reason in a publicly-declared Catholic educational institution.
One thing is certain, the vast majority of students and alumni of UST do NOT know what has happened. The best thing we can do now besides prayer and fasting is to continue to spred the word about this issue and what it means for the future of UST.
To begin, for students, alumni and supporters of UST to write letters to Fr. Dease would be good. Keep them short and charitable of course, but express sorrow over this decision and perhaps request further explanation of the motivation of this decision and what is foreseen to be the long-term result of it by Fr. Dease.
The loss of this wonderful school's Catholic identity would be a blow to the Church as a whole, as well as affecting a very large number of Catholics here in this Archdiocese, including both seminaries. FAST AND PRAY FOR UST!