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.
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.
Loftus said that he would reach out to the local high schools and ensure they aware that UST is a Hispanic-serving institution.
Loftus said he would collaborate with faculty, and would work to come to an agreement about the university priorities are.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.