Monday, September 13, 2010

Can this school be saved part 2: Questionable course offering

Below is the second installment of the story I wrote for Creative Minority Report about Seton Hall University. I will close comments until it has run in its entirety. I link to the newspaper articles I used for sources. Part one, Basketball Madness, is here.

On April 15, 2010, The Setonian, the Seton Hall University student newspaper, published a story about a new course to be offered in fall 2010 on the topic of gay marriage. The course will be taught by Dr. W. King Mott, an openly gay professor in the Women and Gender Studies Department. Mott told the Setonian that this course was not about advocacy, but would take an academic approach to the issue. “I hope my students gain an appreciation and respect for disinterested analysis that can be used to formulate an informed opinion,” Mott told The Setonian.

Upon learning about the course offering, Archbishop Myers asked the University’s Board of Trustees (of which Myers is Chair) and the Board of Regents (of which Myers is president), to review the course. At this time, no official decision has been made on whether or not the course will go forward. The Mission and Identity Committee was supposed to discuss it in June. However, in an article that appeared in the Star-Ledger on August 25, Mott has said that as far as he has been told, the course is still slated to begin in the first week of class and it has about 24 students registered. The University had no official comment to the Star Ledger.

This is not the first time Mott has clashed with the administration of the University. In October 2005, The Star Ledger printed a letter by Mott that criticized the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Mott signed the letter as the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of Seton Hall University. As a result, Mott was removed from his duties as Associate Dean, but was retained as a tenured member of the faculty.

What's interesting about Mott is that his entire professional academic career has been at Catholic Universities. I wonder why that is, especially since he thinks the Church is homophobic:
"The bottom line is, you're talking about a homophobic institution," he said last night. "The Roman Catholic Church is prima facie homophobic. The Roman Catholic Church considers me to be inherently disordered. I don't know how much more homophobic one can be" (Star Ledger October 28, 2005). In this 2005 article, Mott had indicated that he would seek a faculty position elsewhere. Clearly, he is still teaching at Seton Hall.

When I worked at Seton Hall as an admissions counselor 10 years ago, the nursing students were put on rotations in which they would observe abortion procedures. The nursing school made it clear to us at the time that students could opt out of those rotations without penalty, but the question is: why was this part of the nursing curriculum at a Catholic University in the first place?

Catholic Colleges have a right and a grave responsibility to be CATHOLIC. Many parents send their children to, and pay good money for, Catholic universities for a Catholic education. And knowing that, there are many secular colleges and universities which would gladly hire well-qualified professors, like Mott, without caring about what they think about Church teaching.

Seton Hall is a diocesan university, meaning that it is not founded or tied to a particular religious order, but it was founded by the Bishop of Newark and is tied to the diocese in its bylaws. Immaculate Conception Seminary, the diocesan seminary, is located on the campus at SHU. The Archbishop of Newark, Most Rev. John J. Myers, is the chair of the Board of Trustees and is also the Chair of the Board of Regents. Other permanent seats on the Board of Regents are the bishops of the four other dioceses in New Jersey, and other clergy.

One subcommittee of the Board of Regents is the Mission and Identity Committee. “The Mission and Identity Committee shall consider matters referred to the Board of Regents by the Board of Trustees arising from the University’s Catholic mission and identity, giving due consideration to the identity of Catholic institutions of higher education that is described in Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1990). The Committee shall report its recommendations to the Board of Regents” (Seton Hall Univeristy By-laws, Section 2, e, 3).

Why did the Mission and Identity Committee fail to issue a judgment or recommendation on this course? A Catholic University ought to be an oasis for Catholic thought and ideas. Parents should not have to be worried about whether or not a particular Catholic university is really Catholic. Parents should expect that their children will not be put off on their faith by the actions of the university. People who are not Catholic should be attracted to a true Catholic University that by its nature would exude Christian love and freedom.