The current issues at Saint Louis University have reached a fever pitch. The phrase “no-confidence” seems to have replaced “Go Billikens!” as the school cheer. The faculty takes a vote, throws out statistics and the administration counters with their own figures. It is a daily saga played out for all to see on a local and national scale, and a stain on the reputation of Saint Louis University.
I intended to write this letter backing Fr. Lawrence Biondi, and what I believed to be the best course of action for this University going forward. But the more I thought about the root causes of this conflict, the less I wished to entrench myself in one side, which will accomplish little for the University. Rather, I wish to address all parties with the hopes that these issues are resolved in a manner befitting of the institution that everyone involved hopes to see prosper.
To the faculty: I have the utmost respect for you and your work at this school. That being said, the situation at hand is the direct result of the public nature of your dispute with the administration. From my understanding, and the information provided by the faculty themselves, you felt the standards by which you would be judged to be unfair; and I fully agree. The central idea of tenure review, however, is not a means with which to force you to live in constant fear of your job any more than passing out four challenging tests a semester is reason for students to fear failing. We should all be held to an exacting standard. Ultimately, yes, the proposal was terribly flawed, but I thought the faculty I admire would have had a more eloquent and level-headed response. Where were the counter proposals? Where was a faculty that could rise to a challenge, with a firm stance on its own behalf, yet an understanding that it should be held to a high regard?
So now we are at an impasse. You want nothing short of the removal of our president. You have the support of an overwhelming majority of students, and I pray that you do not take advantage of that trust. You are here only because we are here, and you have my respect as long as the University and the students come first. But I am wary if you continue down the path I believe you to be headed.
To Fr. Biondi: You have done great things for this school; no one is denying that. You have proven that you can do what you think is right for the University even if it is unpopular. You have proven that you are unyieldingly stubborn. Here is your opportunity. Prove yourself to be a versatile leader, one who will not ignore controversy but confront it head on; to be willing to bend for the good of the school. Show a little bit of transparency. I do believe that you and the administration are the only people who should be making decisions with regards to the financial future of this institution, but please continue to give us the numbers. There have been improvements, but there have also been failures. Work with the faculty even if they have no confidence. Be the leader we need. Step up.
To SGA: Your role in this controversy has done little but exacerbate the situation. The letter sent to the Board of Trustees is well outside of what I elected you to do as my student government. You do not yet have financial degrees, nor any experience in the realm of University administration. Your conflicting grievances about tuition costs, budget cuts, teacher’s salaries, rankings and the comparison of SLU to schools like Georgetown and Boston College demonstrate this lack of expertise. There is only so much money to go around without directly increasing costs. And to compare our school with others who have more expensive tuition and endowments twice the size of SLU’s is irresponsible. Please stick to your role as a representative of the student body.
And to the students I say: Keep yourself informed. Do not succumb to party politics and back-biting, but, rather, use the brains and drive that got you to this University to propose legitimate solutions to the very real issues at hand. Finally, fellow Billikens, hope like hell the faculty and administration in which you have put your utmost trust can set aside their grudges and move this University forward.