David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Skirmish On The Mount

February 9, 2016

For all of us academics, no matter how bad of a day, a week, or a month we are having, most of us can utter these comforting words, "At least I am not at Mount St. Mary's University of Maryland."  This Roman Catholic-based institution is going through an institutional crisis because the President suggested that some students are "bunnies" to be "drowned" or who need to have "a Glock [put] to their heads."  In the aftermath of that statement making the student newspaper, the university has begun to fire faculty who are the strongest vocal dissenters.

If you want to read the specifics, here is the most recent article from The Chronicle.  It links to an earlier one that will require a paid subscription to read.  For the sake of moving forward here, allow me to say that it appears the president, someone from business, an outsider to academia, was attempting to champion a position that says that a large number of freshman students, for all of us, simply will not make it to graduation. College will be something that they will not be able to complete.  If one accepts that as a given, and I am not, just trying to complete the argument made by some, then there is a logic that says don't waste precious resources on them.

So, it is likely that the president's quote was taken out of context.  However, the rabbit metaphor reveals a cold-blooded approach to the issue that seems insensitive to faculty who teach these freshmen and probably hold long-standing ideals that college is the saving grace for all students (and certainly something echoed by President Obama).  As a result, the chairman of the board accused faculty and students of conducting a kind of smear campaign determined to run the president out of town.  The provost has been asked to resign, which he did, and to go back to faculty.  The advisor to the student newspaper, a pre-law faculty member (of all things) has been let go, in addition to another tenured faculty let go for violating a "duty of loyalty" to the university. A third faculty member appears ready to go next.

It is a culture clash that is founded on language usage, but reveals much more about the changing nature of higher education.

In short, it is all pretty unseemly stuff for an institution girded by Catholic values.

This isn't the Sermon on the Mount. This is a skirmish on the Mount.

Christ hasn't come to articulate the Beatitudes.  The President (and Chairman of the Board) have come to articulate the Beat-down-attitude.

Blessed are not the poor in spirit.  The poor in (educational) spirit are to be drowned.

Blessed are not the meek.  The meek are escorted from their offices with their emails locked down and challenged as being unloyal.

Blessed are not the merciful.  Blessed are the powerful.

Blessed are certainly not the peacemakers.  The peacemakers have all run into their rabbit holes.

Blessed are not those that are persecuted for righteousness's sake.  They are demoted in the interest of a new team, as every new President is apparently entitled to create.

Meanwhile, don't even bore us with the pithy messages about retaliation and loving your enemies, because when the president and the chairman of the board finish their mandates from high, the crowds will be astonished, for these "leaders" would have taught as ones given unchecked authority.

As a man entrenched in education, I am appalled.

If I was a more religious man, I would be ashamed.