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Fairness in hiring

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Charles Rice’s editorial on “Catholic identity” and Notre Dame arrives, by a circuitous route, at the conclusion that the University’s president should “veto” appointments of faculty candidates who are not Catholic. Unless one believes that it is in the interest of the Church in America to have the country’s leading Catholic university bereft of academic credibility, Rice’s proposal is most unwise. It is also unwarranted.

Rice seems determined to blame Notre Dame’s commitment to excellence as a research university for various ills, including driving up the cost of undergraduate education. In fact, costs have risen comparably at good private colleges, without graduate students or major research agendas. Compare Notre Dame’s $46,600, for example, to Amherst College’s estimated $51,000 to $53,000, Kenyon College’s $47,000, the College of William and Mary’s $40,000, and Holy Cross College’s $49,000. More to the point, he blames the pursuit of “research repute” for a putative lack of concern for teaching, citing the claim of an unnamed “liberal arts professor” that undergraduate teaching is irrelevant in promotion decisions. In fact, teaching is weighed very heavily in all the liberal arts I know, through faculty efforts, careful consideration of student evaluations, and labor-intensive peer observation and mentoring. It is not just Notre Dame’s “research repute” but its reputation for intellectual seriousness and its influential leadership that would vanish overnight if Rice’s advice were followed.

Vetoing appointments on the basis of faith would be imprudent. In view of Notre Dame’s stated commitment to fairness in hiring, it would also be unethical.

Prof. John Sitter

Chair and Notre Dame Professor of English

356 O’Shaughnessy

Jan. 21