This fall has been a tumultuous one for Saint Louis University. The Dean of Saint Louis University’s law school resigned at the beginning of the school year with a scathing resignation letter that called into question the integrity and honesty of the institution. And most recently, professors at Saint Louis University had voted “no confidence” in the university’s president, Fr. Lawrence Biondi, S.J., in retaliation for his short-lived proposal to reform tenure among other issues.
But late last week, the Board of Trustees and the faculty Senate released a joint statement vowing to dialogue peaceably. The statement said the groups intended to engage in “more frequent and effective communications throughout the University Community.”
That seemed to quiet things down. Until now.
A letter written by the head of the St. Louis University Board of Trustees, Thomas H. Brouster, was leaked and heightened tensions immediately at the Jesuit university. The letter urged fellow board members to remain silent on the advice of a public relations firm. It asked trustees to not speak to media, faculty, or students which obviously seems counter to the aforementioned commitment to dialogue.
The letter went viral over the weekend among students and faculty and now it’s been posted on a Facebook page entitled SLU Students for No Confidence which is calling for students to march on the next trustees meeting:
We must be heard by the Board. The Board has hired a PR firm (probably with our tuition dollars) who has told them to IGNORE us. Let’s tell the Board “Don’t spin the situation, fix it.” Let’s show that we want strong and new leadership at our university. Let’s show a united front, students, faculty and staff.
The students are also organizing a Novena of Grace to pray for the SLU community in this difficult time:
The Novena of Grace will begin at noon tomorrow (12/4/12), the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, in the heart of our campus. All are invited to come and pray for the SLU community. A candle will burn perpetually for the next nine days at the foot of the statue of St. Ignatius in the quad between Dubourg and Gries. Each day at noon, a Jesuit from the SLU community will lead the novena prayer and offer a short reflection asking the intercession of St Francis and St. Ignatius for our university community at this critical moment in our history. Throughout the rest of the day, students, faculty and staff are welcome to come and pray, be in silence, read relevant texts aloud and speak from their desires for our university. From there, let’s see how the Spirit leads!
Faculty also issued a press release on the letter, according to STL Today.
Ellen Carnaghan, chair of the political science department, said, “There’s a lot less trust today than there was on Friday.”
She said faculty who had put their faith in discussions with the trustees now had grave second thoughts in light of the letter. Some were calling for an emergency Faculty Senate meeting, though Carnaghan said it would be difficult to schedule.
“The faculty that I talked to are pretty angry about the letter and angry in particular about the hiring of a very expensive public relations firm to manage the problem and sweep it under the table rather than trying to actually address it,” she said.
The Cardinal Newman Society will continue reporting on this story as it unfolds.
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