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Faculty members attend meeting, discuss Catholic recruiting

Claire Reising | Thursday, February 7, 2008

History professor Father Robert Sullivan and chemistry professor Seth Brown spoke about possible effects of recruiting Catholic faculty at Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting. They also stressed the importance of student involvement in the issue.

“Since about 25 percent of the American population is Catholic, having a faculty composed of 50 percent Catholics is a reasonable goal,” Brown said.

Although Notre Dame may attract prominent Catholic scholars, Brown said professors consider more than their religion when choosing a university.

“Choosing where one goes to teach and do research is a professional decision,” Brown said. “In many cases [with] scholars, Catholic or otherwise, their professional research has little to do with Catholicism.”

This is especially an issue in the College of Science, where some fields have a minority of Catholic scholars, Sullivan said.

“A field like biology is completely secular,” Sullivan said. “There are very few religious biologists at the top ranks of any kind.”

One concern, Brown said, is that the University would have a “stained glass ceiling” and that non-Catholic faculty could feel undervalued for their work.

“It’s hard to feel that the University values your efforts if the University is pouring resources and time into hiring faculty merely because of the fact that they’re Catholic,” he said.

Brown added that religion is not always a factor in how professors teach. Non-Catholic professors, such as those who study the history or philosophy of religion, can also contribute to the Catholic character of Notre Dame, Brown said.

“We also have faculty who are not Catholic and make enormous contributions to the University’s Catholic mission,” he said.

Professor Thomas Noble, student affairs chair of the Faculty Senate who attends weekly Senate meetings, said students must become educated about the issue.

“Don’t think that what you have to do is choose one faculty position or another. Arrive at your own view,” Noble said. “I think it’s lot more important for the whole process if you decide what you think, and we find various ways to bring that forward.”

Student body vice president Maris Braun said there will be a Town Hall meeting Feb. 18 for students to discuss this issue. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in 101 DeBartolo Hall. Senators also plan on hosting sessions within their dorms before the meeting.

In other Senate news:

u The Senate unanimously passed a resolution on improving the academic advisory structure. The resolution stated that students are “often unaware of whom their advisor is after their freshman year.” Therefore, the Senate proposed that freshmen should be notified about whom they should contact for questions about classes and majors. Also, the resolution said, colleges should have mandatory meetings, followed by breakout sessions within majors. The resolution also recommended an increase in the number of advisors in the Mendoza College of Business and permanent advisors in department offices.

u In addition to the academic advisory resolution, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution supporting iTunes U. Residential Life Committee Chair Marianna Montes said the University did not show concern that iTunes U, which allows students to upload lectures, would enable students to miss class. However, the University is concerned about legal issues surrounding academic property, she said.

u Majors night will be held tonight in the JAAC from 6 to 8 p.m.

u Judicial Council President Ashley Weiss said voting instructions for the student body presidential election will be e-mailed to students on Friday. Voting will take place Feb. 11 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

u Gender Relations Committee Chair Brenna Doyle reminded students about the Health and Body Image Conference, which will take place March 11-13.