Saturday, May 3, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Instead of having the CEO of GE speak at our commencement, why not this bad boy:

He's still alive and he's one of the most insightful individuals in the world on the state of Western society. His writing brought to the public eye the realities of the Gulag and the Soviet labor system in communist Russia. He won the Noble Prize in Literature in 1970, gave the Harvard Commencement address in 1978, and is a staunch critic of atheism.

I mean, c'mon!

For more check out his wiki page

Thursday, May 1, 2008

ND Profs on Obama's Catholic Advisory Council

I caught this on Barack Obama's "Faith" section of his website, and then saw that it had made it around a few corners of the Catholic blogosphere.

From April 21:
Today a group of prominent Catholic public servants, theologians, and advocates announced their support for Barack Obama for President and formed a National Advisory Council to mobilize thousands of committed Catholics and people of all faith communities standing in support of Obama.

"We share many important values, and I have profound respect for how these religious and lay women and men have put their faith into action to promote the common good. They have spent their lives serving others: shaping our public debates, caring for the poor, ministering to those who need our help, and fighting for a more just society. As a committed Christian, I welcome their help as we continue to build the largest grassroots network of people of faith in any campaign in history."

Of interest are three Notre Dame-related people listed on the roster.

- Cathleen Kaveny, Professor of Law and Theology
- Vincent Rougeau, Professor of Law
- Peter Quaranto, Class of 2006

Does anyone think that this Advisory Council will help Barack get the Catholic vote?

Also of interest is how the apostle of political hope and "change you can believe in" welcomed Pope Benedict to America (whose Apostolic Journey had the theme of "Christ Our Hope").

On behalf of our family, Michelle and I want to extend our warmest welcome to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as he arrives for his historic apostolic journey to the United States. As committed Christians, we join millions of Americans – Catholics and members of all faith communities – in offering our prayers for the success of the Holy Father’s visit.

At a time when American families face rising costs at home and a range of worries abroad, the theme of Pope Benedict’s journey, "“Christ Our Hope," offers comfort and grace as well as a challenge to all faith communities to put our faith into action for the common good. It will not only be Catholics who are listening to the Holy Father’s message of hope and peace; all Americans will be listening with open hearts and minds.

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.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Undergraduate Mission Statement

Last week I found this in my inbox. I was a little amused because, with all the epmhasis on becoming a top-notch post-grad research institution, the undergraduate part of the University has not been given enough attention. Did they suddenly wake up one day thinking that we need a powerfuly, punchy statement about the mission of Notre Dame undergraduates to equal that of the graduate school so it seems less like they're forgetting the undergrads?

Dear Students,

As you may know the University of Notre Dame is currently without a vision statement for undergraduate education. Recently a group of faculty, students, and other ND community members was charged with working together to produce just such a statement. There are many potential problems with producing a one page statement about an institution’s vision for undergraduate education, but there are also amazing benefits (if it is done well). I would like to invite you to participate in this process by
where you will find the current draft statement and links to previous drafts.

The individuals responsible for the current draft see this process as an opportunity to help in the creation of an aspirational statement that can enable an overt recognition and enhancement of what we do in undergraduate education. This statement can serve as a concise guide to what we believe to be the core processes and outcomes for our undergraduate education. We hope that the final statement can be a document that faculty, students, and administrators alike will refer to for core values, intents, and aspirational goals.

I invite you to read the draft and to utilize the comments area to let myself and the members of the committee know your thoughts and suggestions. I guarantee that your comments will be read and your suggestions considered. After the web commentary period (April 23– May 16) we hope to move early in Fall 2008 into a series of discussions via focus groups to help finalize the statement.

Thank you for your attention and consideration of this document and this process.

In my opinion, we don't need an undergraduate vision statement. Why does anyone choose to go to Notre Dame and, after four years, would they be able to choose the single most important thing they've learned as something which ALL undergrads should strive for?

New Research Funding at ND

Woo hoo, Notre Dame is going to commit $80 million to new research initiatives! Alright that will make our "aspirational peers" take notice.

Sure. In our dreams. I know that some of you don't like this idea of research being the hot new thing on the fourth floor of the Dome, but it's here and we are going to have to deal with it. Unfortunately JJ, TBur and this new guy Bernhard are going down the wrong path. I don't dispute the merit of the projects that were chosen, honestly I don't know if they will raise our profile or not, but this whole process smacks of misfounded desire and inefficiency.

The wider world has been enamored with this idea that a research university is the best university. That's the way to raise the profile of the school. Even Atlantic Monthly which ranks schools based their contributions to the country uses research expenditures as a metric. I honestly fail to see how half the dead end research at Oklahoma State is as much a contribution to the country as say TFA volunteers. For that matter, Atlantic uses Peace Corps volunteers as its service metric. Yeah missed how that one involves contributions to THIS country, other than theoretically helping our rep abroad - I mean who cares about the millions of people in this country who are in need? But I digress. Prestige hawks love liberal arts colleges, which do practically no research, but shun universities that don't do top 20 research as academic misfits and unworthy. Since Notre Dame was orignally an LAC, maybe we should go back to that and see if our ranking increases (probably not, academics hate Catholics anyway).

First, do we really need this stuff. I mean a think tank that will engage Catholicism and modern knowledge sounds like something that Notre Dame should have, but if you are trying to raise your secular profile is that what you should invest in?

$80 million could fund dozens of endowed professorships and scholarships, which would pay off in the long run versus these one time (or two time) injections. We would be better off investing in our research base than in research itself. They try to play up the $90 million worth of external research funding that we receive, but that doesn't even put us in the top 100 schools in the nation, and unless that number is at least tripled we are never going to be invited to the Association of American Universities. And even if we an pull that off, I doubt that JJ will be around for it. Despite his ambition I don't think he can walk this line long enough to see us to the "promised land." If we want to be a research powerhouse, then we need to have the facilities and the faculty to compete for peer reviewed federal dollars, we can't fund it ourselves. There is the old story about a UPenn professor that ND was trying to recruit, he loved the place but his complaint was that he had in his own lab back in Philly all the instruments that Notre Dame had on its entire campus. And who can blame the guy? Professors want to win Nobel Prizes and they can't do it at ND with our current research base. Stinson-Remick, with its nanotechnology center, will help no doubt. But it will take more than that for ND to be competitive. Imagine the research facility you could build out next to the library with $80 million, and with the left overs you could probably build a parking garage to alleviate our parking problems. Just a suggestion.

Overall this isn't a bad thing. But we could do better if we took more innovative approaches to becoming a better university.