Monday, May 2, 2011

Open Letter to the President and Board of UD

President Keefe and Members of the Board of Trustees,

Two months ago Pat Fagan's article, "Trouble at the University of Dallas?", set off a firestorm of criticism of the new undergraduate pastoral ministry major. I was among those critics, and I remain skeptical of the program. Nevertheless, I would like to highlight two positive elements of this brouhaha, and suggest a lesson learned.

Firstly, the outpouring of comments from current students and alumni should be seen as a strength. The UD community takes pride in its school, is committed to its orthodoxy and is concerned about its future. Those are good things, things of which the administration of any Catholic university should be proud. I have no doubt that some criticisms may have been imprudent, impolite or ill-informed. I apologize if my own were. But this should not blind us to the positive dimensions of this outpouring nor to the many thoughtful and sincere discussions it prompted.

Secondly, I was very grateful to see the strong response of our bishops, particularly Bishop Farrell's comments. The active engagement of the bishop is a significant element of the university's life, one that has sometimes been missing in the past. Hearing him articulate a forceful commitment to orthodoxy and to evangelization was welcome indeed.

Finally, however, let me suggest that the university's strong defense of the new program was late in coming. I take a keen interest in the affairs of my alma mater, but never saw any communication about the new program. An early announcement that the new program was being considered, and that it had the approval of both bishops, the faculty senate and a committee including members of the Theology Department, would have gone a long way toward denting criticism and grounding the subsequent discussion. The absence of information is, sadly, not an invitation to silence, but to conspiracy theory and rumor. I, and the overwhelming majority of alumni, would like to think the best of our university and its administration. Communicating early and often helps us do that.

Just this morning I spoke with a faculty member of the Bush School of Government and Public Service here at Texas A&M. On learning that I had attended the University of Dallas, he praised its education. Clearly, our reputation precedes us. My thoughts, prayers, and, yes, dollars, are with UD; I hope that the best years are yet to come.

Faithfully yours,

Aaron Linderman, ‘06

Those just now joining the discussion may also find some of these stories of interest:

* Crack in the Wall of Orthodoxy? - National Catholic Register
* Announcement of new Pastoral Ministry Major - University of Dallas
* About the Pastoral Ministry Major - University of Dallas
* UD grads: What's Going On? - And Sometimes Tea blog
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