Fr. Leahy Discusses B.C. Identity

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, shared his reflections on Boston College's institutional identity - and the faculty's role in preserving and strengthening it - at the annual Faculty Day event on May 6.

"There is a specialness about Boston College which we must not lose," Fr. Leahy said to the audience gathered in the Lower Campus Dining Hall Heights Room. "That's why I think a lot about institutional identity. I think about it in terms of a university being a community of scholars, faithful to its religious heritage, well-managed, and dealing with differences over process or priorities - but still, in the midst of that pluralism, having a basic unity.

"I invite you to think about the institutional identity of Boston College as well," he said, adding that there would be "more and more conversations about who we are and what we want to be."

Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties David R. Burgess also spoke at the event, and presented the University's first research, teaching and service faculty awards.
Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties David R. Burgess (left) and University President William P. Leahy, SJ (right), with faculty award winners (from left): Assoc. Prof. Jean O'Neil (SON), Assoc. Prof. Marc Snapper (Chemistry), Assoc. Prof. Mary Bilder (Law), Prof. James Cronin (History), Adj. Assoc. Prof. Jane Kent Gionfriddo (Law), Prof. James Anderson (Economics), Assoc. Prof. Ronna Krozy (SON), and Prof. Ruth-Arlene Howe (Law).

Fr. Leahy pointed to three issues which are likely to have a major impact on the University's institutional identity. The first was the implementation of the papal document Ex Corde Ecclesiae , which discusses the relationship between American Catholic colleges and universities and the Catholic Church. A revision of the implementation document is expected this fall, Fr. Leahy said, and it likely will address many of the concerns expressed by administrators and faculty.

Fr. Leahy said the implementation process had fostered more discussion of Jesuit and Catholic universities' institutional identities. Boston College will undertake this self-examination, he said.

Another issue affecting the University's identity, he said, centers around changes in "personnel and process." He noted some recent senior appointments in academics, information technology and other administrative areas, and initiatives like Project Delta that aim to significantly alter the University's operation.

Fr. Leahy emphasized that, despite these changes, Boston College would remain an institution "built around caring for people," that puts trust in "the judgment and good will" of its employees.

The other major area of influence on BC, the availability of financial and human resources, will be addressed in part by fund-raising. But BC "must be clear about our identity" to be successful, he said, as "a quality university that stresses learning in an environment of faith and caring" tied to its Jesuit and Catholic tradition.

"The resources are there for us to continue strengthening ourselves and to make Boston College a better and better place," he said, "so that we are an institution that lives up to our motto of 'Ever to Excel.'"

Burgess praised all the faculty award nominees, then introduced the winners in each category. Prof. Ruth-Arlene Howe (Law) and Assoc. Prof. Ronna Krozy (SON) received the outstanding service awards, while Assoc. Prof. Jean O'Neil (SON) and Adj. Assoc. Prof. Jane Kent Gionfriddo (Law) were presented with the teaching awards. Four faculty members earned honors for their research: Prof. James Anderson (Economics); Prof. James Cronin (History); Assoc. Prof. Mary Bilder (Law); and Assoc. Prof. Marc Snapper (Chemistry).

Earlier in his address, Burgess had cited University administrators and faculty who had earned major fellowships and other prestigious academic awards over the past year. He also announced several recent and forthcoming administrative changes.

Reflecting on his first year at BC, Burgess said he saw communication as an "an opportunity for significant improvement." Citing the campus "hate e-mail" incident last fall, as well as the Kosovo conflict and the school shootings in Littleton, Colo., Burgess encouraged faculty to maintain a dialogue with students on issues such as discrimination, justice and equal treatment.

Another priority Burgess identified was improving management of academic resources, reducing "the complexity of our operations so that we can focus less on processing and more on progressing." He said the recently launched Desktop 2000 project, which will provide employees with high-power computer systems and up-to-date standard software, would play a key role in those efforts.

Burgess said he wants to include more faculty in areas central to the University's academic mission, such as a forthcoming study of faculty retirement issues and an advisory committee to evaluate programs and resource needs for proposed or existing academic programs.

"I hope that these and other new structures will provide new and more efficient avenues for communication," Burgess said.

Return to May 13 menu

Return to Chronicle home page