Fr. Leahy Outlines Priorities at Convocation

(9-3-99) -- Student formation and Catholic identity will be major areas of focus at Boston College during the 1999-2000 academic year, said University President William P. Leahy, SJ, at yesterday's annual Faculty Convocation in Robsham Theater.

Fr. Leahy, speaking to an audience of more than 500, also stressed the need for sound financial planning and effective use of resources for BC to meet its ambitious goals for the future.

In addition, Fr. Leahy made two announcements regarding leadership transition. He said that Vice President for Student Affairs Kevin P. Duffy will step down after 24 years in the post at the end of the academic year and will join the Lynch School of Education after a sabbatical. He also announced that Richard Cleary, SJ, will leave his post next year, concluding a decade-long tenure as University Chaplain. Fr. Leahy said he will soon appoint search committees to fill the positions.

In introducing new Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John J. Neuhauser, Fr. Leahy said he opted not to conduct a search for an AVP because he sought continuity and felt several immediate issues could not be addressed effectively by an interim AVP. He said he was pleased that the long-time CSOM dean agreed to become AVP.

In addition to Fr. Leahy, Executive Vice President Frank B. Campanella and Neuhauser also spoke at the event.

Besides utilizing institutional resources as efficiently as possible, Fr. Leahy said, "we have to make sure we have clear priorities, and that we make hard choices, about the allocation of our resources. That, inevitably, is going to mean some good ideas and programs will receive funding or increases in support," he said, "and other good ideas and programs will not. We simply are not as well-endowed as our competitors and, therefore, we have to be more nimble, and focused."

Boston College, he added, "is an institution with great strengths and much promise. It has a strong academic reputation, talented faculty, grand traditions, a wonderful vocation and enthusiastic alumni."

One of the major issues Boston College faculty face, Fr. Leahy said, is rising expectations in the areas of research and publication. Added to that challenge, he said, is BC's long-standing commitment to shape students' spiritual and moral development, as well as their intellectual and professional capabilities. This requires faculty to be more involved outside the classroom with their students, who "hunger for this kind of conversation," Fr. Leahy said.

However, the University recognizes the burden faculty face in fulfilling professional and personal obligations, he said, and will continue to explore ways of ameliorating this tension.

Fr. Leahy also discussed the concern among Catholic colleges and universities in pursuing excellence at the cost of distancing themselves from their tradition. This dilemma is reflected in the recent controversy over implementation of the papal document Ex Corde Ecclesiae. But Ex Corde's goal of articulating and emphasizing Catholic identity is a worthy one, Fr. Leahy said, and can accomplished without compromising academic freedom.

"We need to keep discussing what Ex Corde means to us," he said, "and I intend to keep that dialogue going."

In his address, Campanella discussed several Project Delta initiatives. He noted that while Project Delta will formally end in June, its work of finding better and more cost-effective ways to run the University must and will continue in order for Boston College to fulfill its ambitions.

Campanella also acknowledged that last year's reorganization of Information Technology was difficult, but he praised the efforts of new IT Vice President Kathleen Warner and IT Associate Vice President Bernard Gleason, and thanked members of the IT staff who oversaw the transition.

After receiving a standing ovation, Neuhauser offered his assessment of key trends in higher education. Among these are "a widening economic disparity" among undergraduates, the influence of communications technology, and growing stratification of institutions into "haves and have-nots."

Neuhauser said his major agenda items this year will include the role of faculty scholarship and research, and how these can be supported through the "Advancing the Legacy" initiative.

Neuhauser said he also hopes to foster a "greater sense of community" between the academic sector and others within BC.

Texts of Faculty Convocation addresses:
-University President William P. Leahy, SJ
-Executive Vice President Frank B. Campanella

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