The Santa Clara
November 8, 2018
Should a Jesuit be in charge of a Jesuit university? Until picking up the Nov. 1 issue of The Santa Clara, some may have thought the answer was an automatic yes. But recently the validity of a Jesuit in the role of president has come under question due to a heated exchange between Presidential Search Committee members and student leaders who believe a non-Jesuit should be considered for the role of university president.
With opposition protest from student leaders, this has become a topic of discussion within the university. This column will not comment on this internal strife, rather it will lay out a few of the many reasons Santa Clara should stay committed to Jesuit leadership.
But first, a little background. In an intense discussion on Oct. 12, Arthur Liebscher, S.J. and Robert Finocchio—members of the Presidential Search Committee—met with students in leadership positions within the school. At this meeting, the “Board’s preference for continuing Jesuit leadership” came into question, and tensions flared. I was not in attendance, and therefore I am ill-equipped to comment on the situation. A discussion on the validity of the Jesuit’s role in the university may provide insight to those who feel a layperson should assume the role as the next president of Santa Clara—“The [sic] Jesuit university in Silicon Valley.”
Some historical context may support a Jesuit assuming the position as the next president of Santa Clara. Since its founding in 1534, the Jesuit order has been committed to reforming the individual in attempt to reform the world. A short 14 years later, the Jesuits founded their first school in Europe. Since this pivotal moment, the Jesuit order has been known around the world as some of the best educators. Americans may be familiar with schools such as Boston College, Georgetown, Loyola and of course, Santa Clara.
The Jesuits have a track record of tremendous success in education, and should be given the opportunity to continue their service. Proponents of going against tradition and placing a layperson in the role of president may cite the plethora of lay presidents at other universities and their successes.
Even at the Jesuit Georgetown University, a layperson holds the position of president. While a lay person may be equipped to serve a university in a secular manor, will he/she be able to serve a university’s spiritual needs? These men of God have devoted their lives to academic and spiritual work and are uniquely qualified to serve as the face of our university. In addition to their historical success in education, the Jesuits have always been presidents of Santa Clara. Since its founding in 1851, a layperson has never assumed the role of president.
Tradition is incredibly important, and should be respected. In an era of tremendous change and unrest, the university would be well served in staying rooted in its identity. While not all traditions age well (looking at you, Benson) the Santa Clara community should feel secure in upholding this one.
Discussion in the community is always important. While questioning the validity of Jesuits can be a productive exercise, taking them out of the office of the president is not. With a history of excellence in education, a spiritual background and a tradition to the school, the Jesuits are the best candidate pool to select from. As the Presidential Search Committee continues its work, it would be well advised to stay the path and not consider applicants outside of the Jesuit Order.
Jake Souleyrette is a sophomore finance major.