Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
I write to you fresh from the Rome Seminar where leaders from American Catholic universities engaged in a series of meetings with representatives of the Vatican and Rome's pontifical universities as well as with the United States Ambassador to the Holy See. It was a valuable opportunity to learn the range of issues on the Vatican’s agenda—most of them seldom covered by the American media—and to be part of a delegation helping explain the distinctive and diverse contributions of our colleges and universities.
Personally, I was reminded again of how parochial we can be in the United States. Both higher education and church issues differ considerably in other parts of the world. Religious liberty, for example, is literally a matter of life and death for Christian and other religious minorities across the globe. And history stretches a bit longer than two or three centuries! We visited the place where St. Benedict founded his order in the 5th century and where the first known portrait of St. Francis was painted, while he was alive, in the early thirteenth century.
The opportunity to understand better the global context of Catholic higher education was timely given the recent flurry of news about the turbulent “disruptive environment” facing all of higher education. Heightened public concern and criticism about student debt, tuition costs, and student outcomes—reflected in part by increasingly intrusive governmental regulations—have been accentuated by the emergence of credible, free (or low-cost) online and accelerated degree options that are challenging public and private institutions alike. This was a topic of lively discussion at the June board meeting and will be on my mind for the August State of the University meeting. You can read more about these and other topics discussed at the board meeting in this newsletter.
While summertime does bring a slower pace, and welcome time for vacations, it is still a busy time on campus, with much news to share. I do hope the format of this newsletter provides information and news items in a convenient and useful style.
Keep cool, and enjoy the rest of the summer.
Peace and All Good,