When there are things in the world that need “saving,” we come together, marshaling our resources and joining together to create positive change. Together, we’re working to preserve endangered species and languages, combat habitat destruction and climate change, and strengthen weakening democracies around the world.
Now it appears that Saint Louis University (SLU) is also at risk.
As we embark on our third century, we face serious challenges that demand our collective thought and action. SLU’s mission, which is so vital to those who both work and study here, is threatened. SLU runs the risk of losing much of what makes it distinct and valuable, including its commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, the high quality of its programs, its academic integrity, and the reputation of the degrees its graduates receive.
We invite you to join this conversation about “Saving SLU” before it’s too late. You can follow our blog and Twitter account to stay informed of updates, to join us at future events, and to share your own stories, ideas, and perspectives.
Below are some of the areas that we’ll focus on over the next months, which will develop as the situation evolves and as we gather input from people from all over campus and our alumni.
- Budget cuts imposed with no strategic vision threaten the liberal arts that are intrinsic to a good education—especially to our beloved tradition of Jesuit education at SLU.
- The quality education that our undergraduates have long received is under attack as we clearly move toward a trade-school model.
- The fate of many graduate programs is now precarious, without ample consideration of what it means to departments, colleges, and the university to lose them.
- The independence and integrity of academic research at SLU is threatened by inappropriate financial donor influence.
- The resources devoted to teaching are threatened by a top-heavy and expensive administration; in particular, the prioritized Office of Vice President for Research is spending significant monies chasing down grants, while ignoring the reality that even fully funded research grants lose money for the university.
- Our financial priorities are not in good order and are not sufficiently discussed; for example, we drastically underinvest in academics, despite a record number of incoming students that we want to serve well.
- University leadership often undervalues the unique character, potential, and needs of SLU as a teaching and research institution; for example, leadership conflates success with an immediately—but not strategically—balanced budget and with entrepreneurial efforts.
- The peer and aspirational universities that SLU compares itself to frequently change, thereby putting our standards and expectations in constant flux, without adequately considering the consequences; for example: the norms of class size and “average” teaching hours increased without warning—and then suddenly increased again soon thereafter.
- Our leadership is going rogue by neither providing strategic vision nor staying committed to the principles of shared governance that are essential to any contemporary university filled with a variety of perspectives and a range of expertise; for example, the administration has repeatedly violated the mandates of the Faculty Manual requiring diverse voices on important committees, despite the fact that the manual is a legally binding document.
We can and must do better than this!
Look at some of the ominous danger signs and where we seem to be headed, based on recent events at the University of Tulsa and Wheeling Jesuit University (the latter of which is changing its name as it ends its Jesuit affiliation). We call on everyone—from incoming first-year students to the Board of Trustees—to join us in righting our precious ship.
We welcome submissions for consideration as blog posts; please feel free to contact us with ideas.