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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.