Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thinking out loud

I've been thinking a lot about my recent experiences at a University whose intended purpose is to raise up faithful young Catholics to be professionals in their fields and witnesses to their faith.

It was very sad to experience first-hand the lack of fellowship among staff. Many staff members there are fearful of the administration. Staff are sometimes let go without notice or cause, and management is perceived as being cliquish and aloof. Female employees have to learn by word-of-mouth that the Chancellor prefers that they wear skirts, pantyhose and close-toed shoes and that they may be called to task for not wearing them, even though the employee handbook does not state that such dress is required. In fact, the handbook states that dress slacks are permissible for women. There's nothing wrong with dressing professionally for work, but I'd rather that the particulars of the expected dress code were placed directly in the employee handbook rather than having to learn through private conversations that this is what you must do to please the Chancellor.

There was also a regrettable tension between those who are inclined towards a more solemn Catholic spirituality and those who prefer Charismatic-style prayer. At this school, possibly everyone involved desires to be faithful to the magisterium, whatever their personal spirituality may be, but rather than use this setting as an occasion to learn and celebrate both tradition and charism, many in the "traditional" camp see themselves as being persecuted by the "charismatic" administration (whether this is actually true or not is, in my opinion, debatable). Unfortunately, some of the administration do make terrible decisions when it comes to managing people and when it comes to public relations. The policy of letting people go without notice or cause is particularly upsetting when it takes place in a school that claims to aspire to high Catholic ideals, especially when some people have uprooted their lives and relocated their families, in order to be a part of the school's mission.

I do keep this school and its various projects in my prayers. I want it to succeed for the sake of the students who are there, and for the sake of the dedicated faculty and staff who have sacrificed much in order to work and live there. But I pray that there will be a change in the administration's style of management and that they will take more concrete steps to foster a sense of community and fellowship. I think this is essential in order for this school to succeed.

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