Incoming UST president talks plans

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Richard Ludwick will officially become the University of St. Thomas’ president on July 7, 2017.

By Alyssa Foley

Richard Ludwick will officially replace Robert Ivany as president of the University of St. Thomas on July 7, 2017. The University Board of Directors appointed Ludwick the university’s ninth president earlier this month.

Ivany announced in fall 2015 that he would be ending his 5-year contract early, just months before faculty gave Ivany a vote of no-confidence for a lack of transparency in university finances.

Ludwick spoke with USTunderground.com over the phone last week to discuss his hopes and plans as university president. Luckwick said that his first “official act” as University of St. Thomas president would be to attend mass.

College Affordability

“Affordability is a significantly important question for not just the University of St. Thomas, but for higher education generally,” said Ludwick.

He noted that more than the university’s sticker price must be considered in a discussion of affordability, what students actually pay and how much institutional aid the university can afford must also be considered. UST currently has a 53 percent average undergraduate discount rate. Ludwick pointed out that UST’s average financial aid package does put the university within reach for most students, “especially when you consider the cost of not attending the University of St. Thomas.”

“You also have to look at the value of the experience vis-à-vis what the experience is elsewhere,” noted Ludwick.” He said that outcomes such as graduation rates and personal development can make a UST education a more valuable investment than just in a dollar sense.

To give some numerical perspective on outcomes, according to the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, 51 percent of first-time college students taking a full course load will earn a Bachelor’s degree within six years, compared to 48 percent of University of Houston students. The median annual salaries for a UST graduate is  $47,800, but the median UH graduate earns slightly more at $48,900 a year. Both Houston universities have outcomes slightly better than the national average.

Enrollment

Ludwick has experience in university enrollment from working as Provost of Saint Gregory’s University in Oklahoma and Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs at Albany Law School in New York.

Currently, Ludwick is studying St. Thomas’ key strengths and how they may apply to the marketplace.

There are over 6.5 million people in the greater Houston area, and 1.2 million Catholics within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. With one Catholic institution in the city, Ludwick said, “it seems logical that there is an opportunity to serve not only the Catholic market, but a wider market who would be looking for the kind of qualities that a St. Thomas education provides…Our opportunity is to match those people who value that kind of an education and make it both affordable and attainable for them.”

University Finances

Ludwick says that he wants to keep UST’s finances in perspective. “A not-for-profit organization is not intended to make a profit,” said Ludwick, but “we always think it’s important to have a positive cash flow if we can.”

The Budget Advisory Committee thinks that the 2016-17 budget will have a deficit of around $1,000,000 due to shortfalls in fundraising and tuition revenue.

“We obviously don’t want to sustain deficits,” Ludwick said that a one-million dollar deficit on a multi-million dollar budget and endowment, “is not an existential issue, [but] it is a problem that you want to fix.” Ludwick says that he will work diligently to have budgets in the black.

Ludwick says that he would start a community dialogue to determine priorities, “and how the budget can be used as a tool to make sure that those priorities are realized.”

Although Ludwick said that he does not the specific of the faculty pay situation yet, “under Catholic social teaching…we would want to make sure that compensation is fair and always appropriate.”

Professional Programs

Ludwick believes part of his role as university president will be to “help the community sort of discern where the next best opportunities lie, both within the mission and also in meeting the market needs.”

Ludwick believes that part of what makes UST special is its “emphasis on the kinds of skill sets that complement the nursing skill sets or the business skill sets…found through studying and fluency in the liberal arts, especially in theology and philosophy.”

UST graduates have understanding of Western Culture beneath their professional skill sets, which Ludwick believes that this gives them a leg up on the competition and the “currency to engage in meaningful work.”

Community Engagement

The new university president is walking into a situation where students, faculty and alumni have voiced their frustrations with the transparency and receptiveness of the university’s administration.

To address transparency issues, Ludwick says that, “I favor are structures that allow for free flow of information, so that people don’t feel disenfranchised.”

A New Houston Home

“Both my wife and I were really impressed by the folks that we met on campus,” said Ludwick, “we were particularly impressed with the students that we met, that was a big selling point for us, that we thought the students were just articulate and engaged, and they were enthusiastic, and they were just terrific.” He also mentioned that, “The dedication of the faculty and the staff was very impressive.”

Ludwick admits he’s not that familiar with Houston, but he and his wife have been new comers in many places throughout the country. “We’re looking for a long-term home, and we hope and thing that Houston will be it.”

“There is a whole lot of positive things that exist at the University of St. Thomas and we’re excited to come and join that community,” said Ludwick.

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Alumni petitioners told: leave or be arrested

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Screenshot of a YouTube video posted by Concerned UST Alumni where UST President Robert Ivany and campus Police Chief James Tate ask Alumni Mary Malone to leave for handing out literature to members of the Board of Directors before a meeting.

By Alyssa Foley

A few alumni were told to leave campus by the university president and campus police chief for handing out a petition to the board of directors.

The group, who call themselves Concerned UST Alumni, posted a video and audio of the incident on YouTube on Nov. 2.

In part of the video, the alumni can be seen greeting a board member as he walks through the door before the Oct. 27 board meeting. They hand him a package and say, “This is from the alumni.”

“Oh, thank you,” replies the board member. He continues walking past the alumni into the boardroom in Mallory. Later in the video, university staff can be seen physically blocking the alumni from handing packets to board members as they walk in. The staff escort the board members away from the alumni.

The video shows the group being asked to leave multiple times by university President Robert Ivany and campus Police Chief James Tate. Tate tells one of the alumni, Mary Malone, “You have to leave now, unless you want to be placed under arrest for trespassing.”

“After all these years and two degrees, you’re kicking me off the property?” asks Malone.

“Yes, for what you’re doing,” says Ivany.

“For trying to communicate directly with the board members?” asks Malone.

“Correct, yes.” replies Ivany.

When Malone asks what’s wrong with communicating directly with board members, Ivany said that he is not willing to discuss it. Malone states in the video that she has asked the Board Chair Herbert Edmundson to share their petition with the board and he refused.

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to find another way then,” says Ivany.

“This is our other way,” says Malone.

“But this is private property,” says Tate, “we have the option to say ‘leave’ if that’s what we need to do…I’m asking you leave the area, this building…” Ivany says they are free to hand literature out from the street.

The beginning of the YouTube video is audio only, and Malone can be heard telling someone, “We’re not disrupting this meeting. The meeting has not started yet.”

“Once the board meeting starts, you’re going to leave, right?” someone asks.

“Of course, of course…we will not disrupt the board meeting at all,” replies Malone.

Hours before the video was posted, Chief Tate confirmed with UST Underground that he was present at the incident and that President Ivany asked the alumni to leave for disrupting a meeting. When they did not leave, Tate said he asked them himself. He added that, “They were nice, no one was upset.”

Since it was a verbal warning and they complied, Tate said he did not write a police report on the incident. He explained that only if someone was warned in writing not to come back or arrested for trespassing would a trespassing incident be recorded in the campus daily crime log.

The alumni are upset that there is no Basilian candidate for university president. They started a petition two weeks ago on Change.org asking that the presidential search committee reconsider their finalist decision. The petition has since received 427 signatures, just shy of their goal of 500 signatures.

The only candidate nominated by the Basilian fathers for the presidency, Father Anthony Giampietro, was not selected as a finalist in the presidential search. This means he was did not make it to the stage where he would have been invited for an on-campus interview.

The petition says, “We do not understand why this has happened. We find this particularly troubling in light of the University’s current financial difficulties and the faculty vote of No Confidence in the current president last spring.”

The petition asks that Father Giampietro be considered a finalist and brought to campus for interviews, and it’s addressed to the Catholic Archbishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, who sits on the university board of directors.

The three finalists, James Loftus, Richard Ludwick, and Jeff Senese each spent two days on UST’s campus in October meeting with university constituents.

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.

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.