UST Presidential Candidate: James Loftus

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James Loftus speaks to UST constituents on Oct. 24. He is a finalist in the UST presidential search and is the current president of Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

By Alyssa Foley

The third and final University of St. Thomas presidential candidate addressed the community in a public forum on Monday.

James Loftus is president of Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If that university sounds familiar, it’s because the first presidential candidate to come to UST’s campus was Jeff Senese, the current provost of Cardinal Stritch University.

Out of about 40 applicants, three finalists were chosen. Two of the finalists are the top administrators from the same university.

Like the other candidates, Loftus spent an hour answering questions from students, faculty and staff in Jones Hall.

Increasing Revenue

Loftus was questioned how he would improve UST’s finances when Cardinal Strict University lost millions during Loftus’ tenure as president, according to its non-profit tax filings. In 2013 alone the university lost over $9 million.

Loftus described it as, “A very grueling situation in which we were interested in tolerating loses and re-positioning the university.” He claimed that the losses do not reflect mismanagement or poor leadership.

Increasing Enrollment

Loftus said that he would reach out to the local high schools and ensure they aware that UST is a Hispanic-serving institution.

Faculty Engagement

Loftus said he would collaborate with faculty, and would work to come to an agreement about the university priorities are.

Curriculum

“A liberal arts education is the foundation of what we do,” Loftus said that it prepares students to, “show that they can operate in the complexity of the world today.”

Loftus said that if market research shows a need for UST to create an English as a Second Language program, he would do it “in stair steps.” He suggested exploring partnerships with other established ESL programs.

Student Newspapers

Loftus spoke about the importance of labeling opinions distinctly from facts, adding that students are entitled to even disparaging opinions. “I have no objections to you talking about the university from the lens for which you see it,” he noted.

Catholic Identity

“I think it’s really important that we carry on our Roman Catholicism, that we abide by the tenets of our faith,” said Loftus, “it isn’t a cafeteria-style Catholicism, you don’t get to pick this part that you like.”

“The university is where the church ought to do it’s thinking,” Loftus said a teaching university needs to seek the truth and encourage dialogue.

Transgender Issues

Loftus was questioned if he agrees with what Pope Francis said in July that the choice of gender identity amounts to an “annihilation of man as image of God” and how he would handle transgender issues on campus.

“The dignity of every individual is born out in how they were created,” Loftus replied, “We need to embrace and affirm people, of who they are…we need to try and walk with others where they are…”

United Way and Planned Parenthood

Loftus was questioned about a particular line in his professional affiliations on his CV: “United Way Campaign Cabinet 2013-14, 2014-15”

The United Way reports that less than six percent of local United Ways provide support to Planned Parenthood, often at the specific request of individual donors. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee (where Loftus is president of Cardinal Stritch University) donated about $95 thousand to their Local Planned Parenthood in 2014.

Loftus defended the organization for doing good work in the community, and noted that donors can direct their United Way donations to only support causes they agree with.

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UST Presidential Candidate: Richard Ludwick

By Alyssa Foley

Members of the University of St. Thomas community met two of the three presidential candidates this week, one of whom may take Robert Ivany’s seat as university president next summer.

After 13 years at the helm of UST, Ivany is retiring. The university is searching for a new chief executive officer. Students, faculty and staff can meet the third candidate on Monday Oct. 24 at a forum in Jones Hall from 4-5pm.

Richard Ludwick spoke with constituents of the university in a forum on Oct. 20. He is the president of Independent Colleges of Indiana, Inc., a 31-member association of private, nonprofit colleges. He previously served as provost of Saint Gregory’s University, which has campuses in Shawnee, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK.

“[UST’s] character as a Basilian institution is one that I find very attractive,” said Ludwick, “I think that it is providentially placed here in the heart of the Western Hemisphere in Houston, it gives this institution the chance to really be a leader among Catholic colleges and universities.”

Increasing Revenue and Enrollment

Ludwick said that he believes the university’s finances are “fundamentally fixable…with a few tweaks here and there.” Ludwick would, “strengthen and diversity and improve the revenue streams [so that] we’re not buckling at those winds of uncertainty.”

He said that he would reduce the student tuition discount rate, or university scholarships, to increase net tuition revenue. However, he admits that this impacts the potential to bring in new students.

To increase enrollment, Ludwick said he would target the Houston area first and ask the local church to be actively engaged in promoting the university.

Student and Faculty Engagement

Ludwick noted that it’s important for a college president to have a strong appreciation for all constituency groups, even for people who don’t like the university. He added that he has the “…annoying ability to get everybody to work together.”

He spoke of honoring and trusting faculty and having dialogues to create a community. “Not only do I want to hear from faculty, but we need to hear from faculty,” Ludwick said he believes in sharing information with faculty so that they can offer the administration “informed advice.”

Curriculum

Ludwick spoke of the value of UST having both a liberal arts core and professional programs like nursing. He said he believes the liberal arts educate gifted, grounded and proficient graduates. Professions like science and technology “are rich gifts to the world that we must share,” noted Ludwick, “I don’t think those two are mutually exclusive.”

Ludwick said he would add English language learning support as necessary.

Student Newspapers

“I support an open student press,” stated Ludwick, “I appreciate the student press, and I think it has a role to play…one that is grounded in fundamental journalistic integrity.”

Catholic Identity

Ludwick explained that he is experienced with strengthening Catholic identity within a university.  When he was provost of Saint Gregory’s University, they created an office of Faith, Integration, Development and Evangelization to help bring the Catholic mission alive.

Transgender Issues

Ludwick was asked if he agrees with what Pope Francis said in July that the choice of gender identity amounts to an “annihilation of man as image of God.”

“He is the Holy Father and he speaks for our church, and I support our church’s doctrines,” Ludwick said that he believes this position is not antithetical to the love of God.

“A Catholic institution of higher learning must be a space where those conversations occur, and not just occur here but move out into the wider community,” said Ludwick, “we have an obligation to move into that space.”

UST Presidential Candidate: Jeff Senese

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UST Presidential Candidate Jeff Senese spoke to faculty, staff and students on Tuesday Oct. 17. He is the current Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

By Alyssa Foley

The University of St. Thomas will have a new president starting summer 2017. Robert Ivany has been leading the university for 13 years.

The 15-member president search committee selected three finalists who will each address all members of the UST community in an open forum. Ultimately, the Board of Directors will choose the chief executive officer of the university.

Upcoming forums are on Thursday Oct. 20 and Monday Oct. 24 from 4-5pm in Jones Hall.

Candidate Jeff Senese spoke to faculty, staff and students on Tuesday Oct. 17. He is the current Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“I’m attracted to this institution because it is a Catholic institution, because it is located in a world-class, huge city, with huge influence in the United States in terms of business,” said Senese, “I think your university has a unique potential in this community.”

Increasing Revenue and Enrollment
“We cannot only depend upon tuition revenue,” said Senese, “we’ve got to look for ways to increase the cash flow.” He suggested summer campus as one option.

To increase enrollment, Senese suggested appealing to more international students, building relationships with Catholic secondary schools and having a presence in local churches as a recruiting method.

Student and Faculty Engagement
Both students and faculty members stated that they feel they do not have a voice and are not respected by the administration. Senese said that he would have conversations with students, and create relationship to work closely with faculty.

Curriculum
In order to help address the needs of students whose first language is not English, Senese said he would give hiring priority to English professors who can also teach English as a Second Language courses.

Senese said he would defend UST’s liberal arts core, stating that “you’re not a professional school.” He did suggest adding more professional programs on top of the liberal arts core.

Student Newspapers
With regards to censoring student publications, Senese said that as long as the publication is accurate and balanced, “I would defend your academic freedom.”

However, Senese said he would “absolutely” try to discourage publication of something that would damage the institution. “If it’s a vehicle the university owns, we’re going to be careful about that, and we’re going to work hard to not damage the institution.”

Catholic Identity
Senese said that as an individual, he might advocate for a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic church.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the current Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, asked Senese about his knowledge of the Basilian tradition. Senese is currently provost at a Franciscan university.

Senese admitted that his knowledge of the ways of the Congregation of St. Basil is only from the university’s website and from meetings on campus. “What I don’t know, I’m going to find out.”

Transgender Issues
Senese was asked if he agrees with what Pope Francis said in July that the choice of gender identity amounts to an “annihilation of man as image of God.”

“I feel in my gut that openness and acceptance of everyone is crucial, and is Catholic. And it’s not about us versus them, it’s about all of us,” stated Senese, adding that, “my opinion is not important, quite frankly, and needs to be better informed.”

Senese noted he would have conversations and seek guidance to better understand the church’s teaching on transgender issues as university president.

Open Letter: Why this website?

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Image courtesy Pixabay.com

By Alyssa Foley

This is my first semester at St. Thomas University. I was thrilled to come here, and I had the support and well-wishes of my family, friends and teachers. I transferred from Houston Community College with the Monaghan Excellence Scholarship and a Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship, and coupled with an outside scholarship and need-based aid, I paid nothing out of pocket for tuition and books and didn’t take out student loans to attend. The financial aid offer was a compelling factor in my decision to attend UST.

However, the reality of St. Thomas quickly set in. By the sixth week of my first semester here, I decided that this will be my last semester at UST.

My major is communications, I love writing and media production. I was editor-in-chief of Houston Community College’s student newspaper, The Egalitarian, for 18 months and during that time I fell in love with journalism.

When I applied to UST, I thought the university didn’t have an active student newspaper (turns out, The Summa was only online and hard to find). I thought I could help re-establish the newspaper, after all I had been the first editor-in-chief of HCC’s paper after it had been inactive for several years. At Club Fair in August, I was delighted to meet the impressively professional, current editors of The Summa and I applied for and was hired on as the News Editor by the editorial team on Sept. 16 and immediately began working for our first print edition set to be published Oct. 6.

I only held the title of Summa News Editor for one week. I had just finished telling a friend and who is still attending HCC how much I was enjoying my time at St. Thomas, when I received an email from the new Summa advisor Siobhan Fleming (Sept. 23). I felt like I couldn’t breath when I read the condescending announcement that all the Summa editors are fired and production on the print edition we were almost ready to publish was blocked. Phrases like The Summa “needs to conform to a few regulations” and “The Summa will be in compliance” should never be used in regards to press. I know enough about student journalism to know that the publications committee described in the email is absolutely not “standard operating procedures” (as Fleming called them) for student newspapers. (School-funded student media at private institutions like St. Thomas do not have a guaranteed freedom of press, it’s generally up to the school’s policy.)

I have not met Flemming in person. Early in the semester I met the now-former Communications Department Chair, Robin Williamson, and she immediately suggested that I call Flemming to offer my services in a way to The Summa. I called Flemming on Aug. 29 in order to introduce myself and try to arrange to meet with her. I left a message, but never received a response from her to even my emails. From the start, I thought it was strange that the faculty advisor was absent from Summa meetings and never bothered to meet the new editors and staff members.

There are several reasons why I’m disappointed in this university, but this is the most relevant. I reached the conclusion that UST does not have what I want and need if I truly want to have a successful career in communications. I’m currently applying for summer internships, many of them ask for about five published writing samples, which I’m not able to produce without a operational student newspaper. Since practically all communications programs only admit new students in the fall, I must wait till next August to continue working on my degree somewhere else. My stint at St. Thomas has set my back a year from graduating into a career in communications.

So why USTunderground.com?

When I hear a news-worthy story on campus, I reflexively want to write an article about it, but where would I publish it? That’s why I created this website. It’s an independent, alternative UST student newspaper where we can publish important stories without being censored by the university administration. I welcome all interested UST-Houston students to contact me if you would like to contribute.