I am referring to Mount St Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD. It is a Catholic university, with ties to Mother Seton. Several of the Seton family are buried next to the grotto attached to the Mount. While the school itself has had an unfortunate reputation as a "drinking school", its seminary has been touted as being one of the most orthodox in the country. In his book "Goodbye Good Men", Jimmy Akin (correction: author is Michael Rose) sang its praises. I've known many faithful priests; more often than not, they have graduated from the Mount.
Over the past few days, controversy at the Mount has been made public. It seems to revolve around its president, Simon Newman. He apparently made a crude remark about some students whose dismissal he was planning to pursue, based purely on surveys that projected failure for the students, calling them "cuddly bunnies" who should have a "glock to their heads". When an independent student newspaper took umbrage with that, he fired some faculty who was an advisor to the paper, along with other faculty. After massive uproar over those dismissals, Newman reinstated them.
Newman also took potshots at the school's Catholic identity, saying there were "too many bleeding crucifixes" in an employee's office and referring to some students as "Catholic jihadis". The Mount seems to have two web pages; one that is devoid of any reference to the Catholic faith and another that still acknowledges its heritage. Who/what are they trying to attract with the first? Newman also is alleged to have said "Catholic doesn't sell". If true, that last quip may be more telling than one might think.
I googled Simon Newman to see what he might have brought to the school. One might think that a candidate for Catholic school administrators might be experience in a Catholic institution and even perhaps some theology degrees. Nope! None of that! He was, however, a past president of Cornerstone Management Group and Senior Advisor at JP Capital Partners. His education includes an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. That's nice, I suppose, but how does all that equip him to lead a Catholic institution that has as its mission to educate its students in the Faith? Of course it doesn't. While Newman might be qualified to govern a business enterprise, there's no indication of credentials for suitability in leading a Catholic apostolate. That leads to this question: What on earth was the Board of Directors of the Mount thinking when they hired this man? What were their priorities? It's not too difficult to imagine that Newman must have connections to substantial money. Is it possible that the lure of easy money might have colored the board's perception of Newman? While much ire is understandably directed at Newman, the board of directors must also come under serious scrutiny, as evidenced by this ongoing debacle.
While I've been in the process of writing this post, the Cardinal Newman Society has released its statement, and it links to an article detailing the non-binding resolution of the Mount faculty in urging Newman to resign. From what I gather, I can only hope and pray that Newman does the decent thing and resign. Then the Board of Directors must seriously examine their own priorities before they invite another disaster upon the Mount.
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