Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Step in the Wrong Direction

I was shocked by today's viewpoint letter, "Farewell Professor Langan." Although I'd known from the outset that Prof. Langan's status at ND was tenous, I hadn't heard that he'd finally decided to leave.

Although I don't know as much about it as a philosophy major would, my understanding (gleaned from overhearing insiders' conversations and from his ndtoday reviews) is that Prof. Langan was simply too Catholic to fit it. I never had him for class, but I first fell in love with ND when I sat in on his Intro to Philo class on a campus visit senior year of highschool. Furthermore, I've had contact with him outside of class, because he dedicates time to students, whether they're in his class or not. I'm friends with some of the signees of the viewpoint letter, and they look to Prof. Langan as a mentor, wise man, and friend.

Unfortunately, he insisted on defending the Catholic faith in class, and for that he is apparently unacceptable to the tenure comittee. Could this situation have been avoided? Again, I'm unaware of the specifics, but if the right people had felt like it, Prof. Langan could have been retained and put back on the tenure track.

Instead, we're losing one of the professors who was most interested in Catholicism and students' learning. As we're all well aware, those kinds of figures are becoming fewer and fewer on campus. If the administration wanted to increase Catholic faculty members, they could have begun by doing whatever necessary to retain Prof. Langan.

Let's hope Holy Cross College appreciates Prof. Langan better than we did.


Anonymous said...

maybe he was the wrong type of catholic. being a member of Opus Dei probably did not work in his favor among the young "salad bar" catholics that he teaches who pick and choose what they want to beleived and feel personally attacked if anyone asks questions or challenges their beliefs.

Dan Amiri said...

I would like to point out that Mary Keys, a staunch Catholic, did recently get tenure at the University.

I think we're getting a little out of control at times, citing the University's supposedly "anti-Catholic policies" as the cause of everything bad on campus. Sometimes, people don't get along. Sometimes, a great man and a great university just can't make it work for each other. If Langan were to speak out and specifically recount some story in which he was discriminated against because he was an avid Catholic, then you would have a point. But as it is, "Langan was unable to secure a position at the University" sounds rather ambigiuous, probably leaving it open to the interpretations above.

If we're going to make changes on this University, there is required prudence as to when to speak out and when to exercise patience.

Rachel said...

I had Prof. Langan's Intro to Philo class (fantastic all around--what has been said here is right on the money!). He never shied away from explaining his status at ND--he simply stuck around because he saw it as his vocation. Back then, his continued position at ND was in question, as sad as that fact is.

An adjunct professor, he was never on the tenure track (nor did he seem to want to be on it--it would take away time spent really educating his students). He also joked about his 'office' in a cubicle in the bowels of the basement somewhere in the Brownson Hall-Earth Sciences complex (I never did find it, but opted for visiting him in his Starbucks office hours). So no, he was never actually welcome in the Philo Department, and that's a shame.

Prof. Langan is deeply Catholic, but from my experience in his class, he's not such a 'preachy' one as much as a well-versed, appropriately argumentative one. He draws you into Catholic orthodoxy through philosophy, in a way. From what I know of the situation, he wasn't 'let go' or 'forced out' because of his Catholicism, but by the set of circumstances of his employment.

It's a shame that we can't recognize good teaching when it hits us in the face here at ND.

Anonymous said...

Opus Dei has been at ND since at least 1963-it didn't just show up recently.

Joseph Lawler said...


I don't know what the circumstances where. I don't know who or what made it so that Prof. Langan would leave. But I do know that he is exactly the kind of professor the University should be trying to keep, and that if I were in a position of authority I would have made it possible for him to stay.

Anonymous said...

Your link has been posted at:

Thank you!

Dan Amiri said...


I agree, certainly: Professor Langan represents the "type" of professor Notre Dame should be interested in hiring. Let's just not make a crusade out of this particular, unfortunate, incident.


Tom B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom B. said...

Maybe this is what Joe's getting at, maybe not...but I find it frustrating that you really can't do anything here without extensive bureaucratic maneuvering. I'm sure there are sufficient individuals interested in learning from Professor Langan to merit keeping him here as a teacher. He's a qualified and talented academic and, as such, would be able to make valuable contributions to the research mission of this University. And he is committed to his Catholic faith and, as such, forwards the University's goal to have a majority Catholic faculty.

But because a plurality of members (no more than 50 of the 12,000 people on this campus) in the Catholic philosophy department don't want him here, he gets to make peanuts for some odd number of years and then has to relocate to Holy Cross across the street, a position for which he is over-qualified (though he will certainly be a great gift there).

For shame.

[And this isn't really analogous, but didn't Edith Stein have to spend most of her life at community-type colleges because she was a female academic?]

Anonymous said...

Look, it has nothing to do with his Catholicism. I know plenty of die-hard faculty that got tenure here and were recruited. The simple fact of the matter is that he didn't publish enough. Publish or perish. That's the simple answer. Great teachers don't get tenure. Professors with great research publications get tenure; only some of them are great teachers.