Loyola College In Maryland
To The College Community
September 9, 2005
Good afternoon. I am honored to speak to you as the President of Loyola College in Maryland.
While I am not going to presume to give a state of the College, let me assure you that my initial impression is that the College is thriving in ways consistent with both the current strategic plan, Great Resolves, Great Desires, and its fundamental mission as a Jesuit, Roman Catholic university. Considerable, but not exclusive, credit for the health of this institution must go to my predecessor, Father Ridley. He had a clear vision for the development of Loyola College and he worked tirelessly to implement it. I want to thank the vice presidents of Loyola College for their work on behalf of this outstanding institution of higher learning and for their faithful stewardship of the College in the months following Father Ridley’s death in January. I came to know Susan Donovan, Michael Goff, John Palmucci, Terry Sawyer, and David Haddad from my service on the Board of Trustees and have always admired their outstanding professional competence as well as their complete dedication to the mission of Loyola College in Maryland. As a trustee, I had no doubt that they would provide the necessary leadership and direction in the difficult days following the shocking deaths of both Father Ridley and Father Hartley. David Haddad, of course, deserves special thanks in this regard. We are all in debt to him for his very generous service to the College as Interim President. His leadership in this capacity was a source of healing and renewal for this community. Further, Dave worked with internal and external constituencies in a manner that always reflected the fundamental values of Loyola College and his deep personal integrity as an educator in the Jesuit tradition. I am in Dave’s debt for his warm welcome and unwavering support during this time of transition.
What I thought I would do this afternoon is to speak about my goals and objectives for my first year as president and draw your attention to a number of developments that will serve to advance the College’s current strategic plan. What I will not do is attempt to articulate my vision for Loyola College. It is still too early for that. My primary objective for the year, then, is learning about Loyola College and its unique culture by listening. I count the fact that I have served as a Loyola trustee for the past five years and so was involved in the formulation of the present strategic plan as a great benefit, but I do not deceive myself by thinking that I really know or understand Loyola College completely. Nor do I believe that my long association with Jesuit higher education in New England provides me with a set of answers to questions facing Loyola as we move forward. Yes, my eyes will mist up for a while at the mention of that small Jesuit college in central Massachusetts, but I do not hold Holy Cross up as the ideal for Loyola. Nor will I privilege those dimensions of this great university that are most similar to Holy Cross. There is no denying that I have spent my career with undergraduates teaching in the humanities, but I am very excited about leading this outstanding comprehensive university and I am eager to assist the excellent graduate and professional programs offered at Loyola College. I am convinced that these programs are serving the genuine academic needs of our students and of this community and that they are fully consistent with the ideals of Jesuit education and the mission of Loyola College. So I am interested in, and will seek to engage members of this community from all areas of the university. I think that I have already learned a great deal since I arrived on July 1, but I know that there is still much to do in this regard. It is a process that I look forward to. Plans are being made for me to have an opportunity to meet with the members of the faculty in their departments as well as with some of the non-academic divisions. I have also had the chance to meet individually with faculty, staff, students, and alumni. These conversations have been extremely helpful and I will look for opportunities to continue them.
In addition to these conversations, I have been and will be doing a lot of reading. One of the things I have been reading lately that I believe will be very significant as we move forward is the Campus Climate Survey. I am eager to disseminate this material to the wider Loyola community and I am pleased to inform you that the Overall Summary Report with the key findings submitted to the College by Right Management Consultants will be available to you by September 16. Each Division of the College will receive copies of its members’ responses to the survey questions for further discussion. My desire is to be as transparent with this data as I can be while safeguarding the integrity of the survey process and the anonymity of the participants. Let me thank everyone who participated in this process. Special thanks go to the Campus Climate Committee: Martha Wharton, Jennifer Frank, Jason Parcover, and Doris Trainor for their hard work on this project. I have asked this committee to work with Skip Casey, the new Assistant Vice President for Human Resources, to assist the various College Divisions in interpreting the survey results and formulating appropriate action plans in response. On the whole, the results of the survey are positive and encouraging. When you read the survey you will see that the faculty, administration, and staff report high degrees of job satisfaction, that they are generally proud to work at Loyola College and that they believe that their work contributes to our distinctive educational mission. Further, Loyola scores highly in the areas of trust, respect, and fair treatment as well as in encouraging a healthy balance between work and personal commitments. These findings, as positive as they are, do not, of course, represent unanimity with regard to Loyola’s achievement in these areas and so warrant our continued attention within the Divisions and throughout the College. I am concerned about the findings in the areas of collaboration and decision-making. What is troubling for me is that while most persons working at Loyola are reasonably satisfied with their relationships with colleagues and immediate supervisors or department chairs, the senior administration is widely faulted for failing to collaborate across divisional lines and that major policy decisions are often made without adequate consultation. There seems to be confusion about the role of Loyola Conference, and the Executive Council is cited as being secretive and failing to model interdivisional cooperation. I still do not have enough—in fact any—experience with the Loyola Conference to comment on how effectively it works or should work. What I can say is that I am a strong supporter of shared governance. I had a very positive experience of shared governance as a faculty member at Holy Cross and I believe that our work ultimately made the president’s job easier. The down side is that it requires a lot of work and the survey suggests that many persons in the community are already “committeed-out.” I am very sensitive to that feeling. In my first year as class dean at Holy Cross I was in my final year on the College Curriculum Committee and on Presidential Task Force on Student Attitudes and Behavior, as well as in the first year of my term on the Committee on Tenure and Promotion. The perception—which I cannot at this point fully evaluate—that the Executive Council is insufficiently consultative and fails to promote effective interdivisional cooperation is both surprising and distressing. Surprising because these perceptions do not square with my own admittedly limited experience of the workings of the Executive Council. Indeed, the thoughtful and well-coordinated response to students affected by Hurricane Katrina, supervised by the members of the Executive Council, strikes me as emblematic of a tradition of effective communication and cooperation. I experience the survey report in this area as distressing because it seems to me that the Executive Council exists to be an informal, non-statutory forum to promote collaboration and consultation within the College. Somehow it is not working, or the effects of the Council’s work are not communicated effectively. I make these comments not to defend the Council or to refute the experience that is so plainly reflected in the Campus Climate Survey, but rather to indicate that I recognize these concerns as important and will work with the other members of the Council to take steps to remedy this problem. One thing that we have decided to do is find an effective way to assess ourselves as a council or to retain a consultant to assist us in that process. It is certainly my goal that the work of this council will empower and sustain the best efforts of everyone at Loyola College. I hope that each one of you will give the findings of the Campus Climate Survey the attention it clearly deserves.
Another aspect of the College that I need to learn about and to which I plan to devote significant time is undergraduate admissions. Some of you will have heard that the College has retained the services of Maguire Associates, a highly regarded consulting firm with special expertise in the area of college admissions and financial aid to do an audit of our admissions program. Loyola has benefited from the services of Maguire in the past in the area of graduate admissions. Let me explain what I am doing in this regard and why I am doing it. First of all, let me say very plainly, that my attention to undergraduate admissions and financial aid in no way reflects a lack of confidence in the extraordinary work of Bill Bossemeyer or Mark Lindenmeyer. Bill and Mark’s devotion to their extremely demanding work has served this College very well and has been a blessing to us all. It should be noted that our application pool last year exceeded the goals of the strategic plan (more than 7700 applications) and that we were able to enroll a very well-qualified Class of 2009, while remaining within the constraints of our financial aid budget. This is an enviable achievement and Bill and Mark deserve our gratitude. In addition Bill, David DuKor Jackson and the entire admissions staff have been on the front lines during the College’s response to the college students affected by Katrina. I can only characterize their efforts in this regard as supererogatory—above and beyond the call of duty. Their work has brought great credit to their office and to the entire College. So it is not any sense of dissatisfaction that prompted me to seek the assistance of Maguire Associates. Rather it stems from an awareness that, as a tuition-dependent institution, I need to be fully conversant with forces that shape our continued ability to attract the best students. Thus I feel that we would all benefit from a fresh set of eyes helping us to assess our strengths and weakness as we move forward. And we do know that there are some things that we might do better in, including the recruitment of a more diverse student body (although concerns for diversity can hardly be resolved by the Admissions Office alone). I also have the hunch that we would benefit from some advice about how to attract more students from outside of the region. I am confident that the time spent on undergraduate admissions this year will reap great benefits for the College.
The work of fundraising and college advancement will demand a significant amount of my time and attention in the coming year. As you know, the College is in the middle of a major capital campaign. The good news is that we are making wonderful progress. With two years still to go, Loyola has already raised 62.5 million dollars of the 80 million dollar goal. Over 11 million dollars was raised in the past year. Michael Goff and the Development office are to be congratulated for keeping the campaign on track in the wake of Father Ridley’s death. Despite these notable successes, it is fair to say that there has been some inevitable loss of momentum as a result of Father Ridley’s death. Many donors are reluctant to give a major gift to an institution in transition. It will be important for me to establish a relationship with our friends and benefactors in order to involve them in the exciting prospect of preparing Loyola’s tomorrow. I am confident that my own enthusiasm about this College and its prospects will be contagious.
A discussion of the capital campaign seems to lend itself to some comments on the various capital projects that are being planned. Preliminary work has already started on the complete renovation and addition to the Loyola/Notre Dame Library. This will be an $18 million project and Loyola College will be responsible for half of this amount, although the State of Maryland will pay for $2.75 million of Loyola’s share. This library has been an outstanding academic resource for the two college communities and the greater Baltimore community for over thirty years. It plainly needs refurbishing and it requires additional space in order to accommodate a growing collection and new information technologies. I was very excited about this project when it came before the Board of Trustees and I am delighted to have the chance to see it to completion as president of Loyola.
Construction work on the library will not be the only project on the east side of the campus in the months ahead. In the April meeting of the Board, the Trustees approved the construction of a new residence hall. This project will not be financed with funds from the capital campaign. We have been able to borrow the funds at a very favorable rate to build this residence based on the assumption that it will quickly become a source of revenue for the College. Susan Donovan and her associates have enlisted student leaders and others to help determine the style and location of the new facility and I have accepted their recommendation to build a three hundred and fifty bed residence for first year students in the vicinity of Butler Field. Dr. Donovan is working out the final details with the architects, but the plan is to have a traditional style residence hall as opposed to apartments or suites. This facility is necessary to address the very tight housing situation that the College faces year after year and is not linked to any plan to increase undergraduate enrollment at this time.
The retreat house project has been slowed a bit due to neighborhood opposition. Terry Sawyer is continuing to monitor the situation but it looks like construction could be delayed for up to a year.
I did not think it was possible for my enthusiasm for the new Intercollegiate Athletic Facility to increase any further, but in fact it did after I nearly lost my life to a stray lacrosse ball yesterday afternoon as I was walking in front of the student center. This project is a very ambitious one and it is, I believe, very important to the future of Loyola College. In the fall of 1921, when the students and faculty made the move to the new Evergreen campus, I am sure that the new property here seemed vast when compared with the cramped quarters on Calvert Street. No one ever dreamed back then that Loyola would become a major comprehensive university and that the Evergreen campus would enroll 3400 undergraduates, much less that we would house more than 2800 students on this site. Now space is a concern on this campus and our athletic program feels the lack of space acutely. Our varsity, club sports, and intramural teams scramble to find fields that are adequately maintained for practice and games. It is not easy to find and to rent suitable facilities. Travel to such sites adds a further time commitment to the schedules of many of our student athletes. Further, Geppi-Aikens field does not provide adequate spectator seating and facilities, an obstacle to hosting NCAA championships. I believe that Loyola was very fortunate to find and acquire the Jones Falls site. I also know that the planned development of this site for athletics is an enormous commitment on the part of the College and that some in the College raise questions whether it is an appropriate priority for Loyola at this time. My introduction to this project was as a trustee and I can tell you that we struggled with the same question. In the end, our approval of the Intercollegiate Athletic Facility was wholehearted and without reservation. One of the first things I asked for in the Executive Council was a complete review of this project. I spent this morning with members of the Executive Committee of the College Trustees. We remain committed to the project of developing first rate facilities for Loyola’s athletic teams as part of our long range plans for the Evergreen campus and for Loyola College. In addition to our commitment to the athletic program and its facilities, we are all very excited about the development possibilities that will result from freeing 3.3 acres in the heart of our campus and at its academic core. For those who worry that my enthusiasm for the athletic facility means I have turned a blind eye to the pressing academic needs on all three of our campuses, I ask you to keep in mind where and how I have spent the last twelve years of my life. I come to you as a teacher and scholar from an institution with the highest per student endowment among the Jesuit colleges (an endowment that is three times the size of Loyola’s). So I want to assure you that I am aware of and very sensitive to the needs of our academic programs. I am confident our investment in our off-campus athletic facilities will help us address those needs and serve all of our students more effectively.
Part of the great fun we have at Executive Council meetings is annoying one of the vice presidents by circling back to earlier items on the agenda for additional discussion just as it seems the meeting is about to end. At the risk of trying your patience and annoying my senior staff, I would like to return to my initial comments about articulating a vision for Loyola College in Maryland. I hope that I have made two things clear. First, that I cannot articulate my vision until I know this institution better, and that any vision that I articulate will not merely be my vision for the university but rather will truly be our shared vision for a greater Loyola. Secondly, it is important to affirm that while I learn, listen, read, ask questions, and even argue with some of you in my efforts to understand and so lead this wonderful institution, we are already guided by our distinctive mission as a Catholic and Jesuit university, rooted in the intellectual traditions of the Christian west while welcoming and exploring the rich intellectual and spiritual achievements of other cultures and religious communities in our effort to prepare women and men in undergraduate and graduate programs to find their deepest satisfaction as leaders and as agents of social transformation. Enhancing the religious and spiritual nature of Loyola’s distinctive mission will always be one of my central concerns. I am well aware that there are tensions between commitments to both a particular cultural, intellectual, and religious heritage and to the promotion of a more inclusive, diverse academic community. Ultimately I see this tension as creative rather than contradictory. From its inception, the Society of Jesus, whose members seek God in ALL things, have embraced non-European cultural traditions. I do think that we have work to do in the regard. My initial impression is that our undergraduate curriculum is very strong in the western and Christian intellectual traditions. However, I would like to focus greater attention to the other major religious traditions and to the histories and cultures of Asia, Africa, and South America. On the day I was elected, the only question at the press conference came from Father Frank Haig, who asked, “What can Loyola College do to improve relations between Moslems and Christians?” While it is true that I was not expecting that question at that moment, I recognize it as a profoundly important question. I hope that as we move forward we can find ways for our students to encounter the religious heritage of Islam and the cultures of the Islamic world. To do so is necessary not only for an education adequate for the contemporary world, it also helps to create an intellectual environment that is open to new ideas and to the lived experience of diverse cultures, races, and social locations.
I agree with the recent assessment of the Middle States’ review of our accreditation which suggests that maintaining and improving Loyola’s distinctive mission as a Jesuit university is a task shared by all members of this community. I suspect that it is tempting for some of us to believe that the Jesuit angle can be covered by Theology, Catholic Studies, Campus Ministry, the Center for Values and Service, and the Jesuit Community at Loyola. I suspect that others feel that they can buy into the Jesuit mission insofar as it represents a commitment to social justice and to “educating women and men for and with others.” I don’t think that either approach—while indeed making important contributions—is adequate to Loyola’s mission. To locate responsibility for the Jesuit mission in a few areas of the university serves to isolate and marginalize what we claim to be of central importance. While educating students to be socially responsible, it would be arrogant in the extreme to suggest that only Jesuit or Catholic colleges are effective in this regard. I believe that the distinctive contribution of the Catholic university is that it respects the question of God as a compelling and worthwhile intellectual question and that it reverences the search for the experience of transcendence that is at the heart of human existence. I do not see how anyone at a Catholic university—whatever the nature of his or her religious commitment—can exempt him or herself from this requirement of respect and reverence. I am eager to work with all members of this community on this area of concern that is so central to the mission and identity of Loyola College.
Finally, I want to thank this College community for its overwhelming response to Loyola’s efforts to assist the students displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina. What you have done has made an enormous difference in the lives of 83 young persons at a moment of enormous vulnerability for them. You did so with compassion and with grace. This response confirms all of my positive initial impressions of this community and its values. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, it is an honor to be associated with you and I am very proud to serve you as College president. As I go around town, I am continually being thanked for all that Loyola is doing in this regard. I know who really deserves the thanks, it is all of you who stepped forward and made this rapid influx of new students possible. Special thanks must go to the admissions staff, to academic advising services, to financial services, and to student affairs for putting in weekend duty over the holiday weekend and for many, again this weekend. I am very grateful for your commitment to these young persons and to Loyola.
This has been a difficult talk for me to write. There are so many important topics for me to address and it is just not possible for me to address them all. I hope that if I have not addressed an issue that is of particular concern to you, that you will not draw the conclusion that I think the issue is unimportant. These remarks are only intended to begin a conversation; a conversation that will eventually expand and deepen. I am grateful for your attention this afternoon and I look forward to the dialogue in the years ahead that will nourish and sustain our work at Loyola College. Thank you.
The Reverend Brian Linnane, S.J.