A group of concerned faculty and staff members at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., recently gathered to discuss the University’s dwindling Catholic identity and the increased occurrences of Catholic teaching being discouraged, and even silenced, in University settings.
Participants of the group, Concerned Catholics at MU, wished to remain anonymous, but their meeting minutes were provided to The Cardinal Newman Society, and indicated that approximately 20 staff and faculty members were in attendance.
Last year, Marquette announced that it would conduct a “climate study” to determine the positivity and inclusivity of the University’s atmosphere. The study’s final report cited several concerns about ongoing hostility towards Catholic values: “Many respondents cited their Catholic or conservative values being marginalized, saying ‘Conservative Catholic views on the expression of human sexuality are not respected — not even room for dialogue’ and that ‘There is an ongoing sense of disrespect, anger, and assumptions related to the Catholic identity of our university.’”
In response, the administration encouraged the Marquette community to gather in like-minded groups in order to discuss their concerns and propose “action items” for the administration to “pursue in order to improve the climate on campus,” according to a post by John Hardon on the Marquette Warrior, a blog which frequently covers Catholic identity concerns at the University. Concerned Catholics at MU “was one of the largest among these special-constituency climate study forums.”
“The most urgent issue concerned academic freedom and how the articulation of Catholic teaching, inside and outside of the classroom, particularly on issues of sexuality, is increasingly met with disapproval and even hostility,” Hardon wrote.
The meeting reportedly focused a great deal of time on crippling Title IX restrictions and the negative impact they had on teachers and students.
According to the Warrior, one faculty member stated, “I have been intimidated by an explicit campus climate and Title IX training that seems to forbid me, on pain of discipline up to and including termination, from so much as presenting the teaching of the Catholic Church and the historic Orthodox Catholic tradition.”
“How can a theology professor not talk about the Church’s teaching on human sexuality?” a participant asked during the forum, according to the meeting minutes. “But, under Title IX, any student who claims to take offense at what is heard in the classroom can anonymously report the professor and cause him or her a world of problems. This is hugely intimidating.”
The Cardinal Newman Society spoke to Dr. John McAdams, professor of political science at Marquette, on the issues raised by Concerned Catholics at MU. He noted that such a system of investigation “has a chilling effect” on Catholics at Marquette.
“If anything you say in class could have you dragged before someone from Human Resources or a department chair or dean with a demand that you explain what you said,” less faculty and staff will feel comfortable expressing even Catholic values and beliefs, McAdams warned.
Last year, Marquette revoked McAdams’ tenure and began the process of terminating him after one of his blog posts criticized a University instructor who labeled a student’s views on traditional marriage as “homophobic.” McAdams had blogged frequently about Catholic identity issues at Marquette since 2005, but his post on this particular subject garnered national attention, and the administration subsequently banned him from campus. Several of McAdams’ colleagues stepped up to protest the administration’s unfair treatment of McAdams, but thus far, there have been no further developments in his case.
According to the minutes, the group also “discussed the lack of outward signs of Catholic identity on campus and in Marquette’s marketing. It was noted that ambiguous terms like ‘social justice’ and ‘Ignatian spirituality’ are increasingly used in place of ‘Catholic’ to describe Marquette’s brand of education.” Some attendees reportedly expressed concern that “more and more donors and potential donors are challenging fundraisers as to what distinguishes Marquette from secular, less expensive colleges and universities.”
Other attendees wondered whether the University should be encouraged to remove “Catholic” from its name. “Misrepresenting the faith to an uncatechized world does untold damage to souls, hearts and minds,” the minutes read. “Better not to claim to be Catholic than to overtly misrepresent it.”
Of the proposed action items during the meeting, 11 attendees voted “Commitment to academic freedom for Catholic scholars, staff and students” as most important. Eight attendees voted “Hiring for mission — proactive from the top through to departments” as most important.
Other proposals considered include “serious promotion and implementation of Ex corde Ecclesiae,” “increase physical manifestations/visibility of Catholic faith around campus,” encouragement of Catholic student organizations, and administrative protection of Catholic faculty, staff and students.
“Marquette should quit making symbolic concessions to groups such as the transgender lobby, because these undermine Catholic doctrine,” said McAdams.
Mary Jarvis of the Louis Joliet Society, a group of concerned alumni, parents and Marquette associates seeking Catholic renewal at the University, noted that this initial forum “is very encouraging, and we pray that this group’s expressed concerns do not fall on deaf ears.”
“The revelations about Title IX’s chilling effect on teachers and students are jaw-dropping; something those of faith and of no faith, liberal and conservative can all agree is poisonous to a university that identifies itself as Catholic,” Jarvis continued. “The Marquette administration should consider the group’s recommendations seriously.”
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