Years ago I had the privilege of running in a few 5K races at Mount St. Mary’s University (MSMU) in Emmitsburg, MD. My familiarity with MSMU from the race experiences was what probably drew my attention to an article I ran across at: http://www.crisismagazine.com. The article by Anne Hendershott, Can a Business Leader Understand a Caholic University? , explores the tension that exists when changes are needed at academic institutions in order to keep them financially viable. As always for any institution, making changes or simply staying the course for the time, leadership is a critical component. And, how well that was handled in the case discussed in this article I’ll leave to you to decide. The purpose of this blog simply is to help me work through what it means to be a successful enterprise while balancing goals, values, pragmatic considerations and the role of leadership. And the article may be of interest to you as well. Also, as an aside, the Hendershott article also mentions student and faculty unrest at the University of Missouri where I studied as an undergraduate. I must admit that I was embarrassed about the unrest at Mizzou, especially when the football team threatened to boycott a scheduled game if the disgruntled students’ demands were not met.
It is noted that in preparing for this post I spoke with the article’s author, Ms. Hindershott. I sent her a note requesting that she contact me as I had a question regarding her article. I wanted to determine for sure exactly who the “bunnies” were in her article. On my initial reading of the article I, and also John Kershenstein (see his comments below, believed the bunnies could refer to either students or programs or particular courses of study at MSMU. But, by the time she called in response to the note I sent I had already found the clarification I needed. So we simply chatted briefly. She was most gracious. [Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education; The Politics of Abortion; and The Politics of Deviance (Encounter Books).]
Regarding the clarification I was seeking, I found an article by Susan Svrluga in the Washington Post most useful and I’m including that article, University president allegedly says struggling freshmen are bunnies that should be drowned, below. It contains additional interesting information about the MSMU situation. [Ms. Svrluga is a reporter covering higher education for the Post.]
Following the Hendershott and Syrluga articles I am also including comments from two of my friends, actually a father son combo, who shared their reactions to the situation at MSMU as described by Ms. Hendershott’s article. The father, John Kershenstein, a retired PhD Naval Research Laboratory Physicist, and his son Jay Kershenstein, a regional operations director for the mid-Atlantic group of VCA Animal Hospitals. They have different perspectives. Jay, the son, actually attended MSMU and John was graduated from Georgetown University. MSMU is a very strong adherent to basic Catholic doctrine. Georgetown University, not so much. RMF
Can a Business Leader Understand a Catholic University?
by Anne Hendershott
In an attempt to help their highly ranked—yet financially struggling—Catholic university, the Board of Trustees at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, MD, hired Simon Newman, a Los Angeles private equity and strategic planning leader to be its new president in 2014. A year later, Newman found himself at the center of a faculty-fed firestorm over some intemperate remarks. According to media sources, Newman was talking with some faculty members about retention strategies when he jokingly said: “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t, you just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.” The faculty did not appreciate the joke. Continue reading