Georgetown turns the ball over. Notre Dame scores.

No, this post is not about basketball or football.

Patrick Deneen, Associate Professor of Government at Georgetown University, is leaving the university after seven years (ht: Campus Notes):

 There are two main reasons for my decision. The first reason broadly concerns the sense of my place at Georgetown. In the seven years since I joined the faculty at Georgetown, I have found myself often at odds with the trajectory and many decisions of the university. In 2006 I founded The Tocqueville Forum as a campus organization that would offer a different perspective, one centered on the moral underpinnings of liberal learning that are a precondition for the continued existence of liberal democracy, and one that would draw upon the deep wisdom contained in the Catholic humanistic tradition. I have been heartened and overjoyed to witness the great enthusiasm among a myriad of students for the programming and activities of the Forum. However, the program was not supported or recognized by the institution, and that seemed unlikely to change. While I did not seek that approval, I had hoped over the years that the program would be attractive to colleagues across disciplines on the faculty, and would be a rallying-point for those interested in reviving and defending classical liberal learning on campus. The Tocqueville Forum fostered a strong community of inquiry among a sizeable number of students, but I did not find that there was any such community formed around the conversations it sought to foster, nor the likely prospect of one, among the more permanent members of the university. Working alongside strangers was not how I’d hoped my life as a teacher and member of an academic community would be like.

Notre Dame has recruited me explicitly because they regard me as someone who can be a significant contributor to its mission and identity, particularly the Catholic identity of the institution. Considerations of “mission fit” has become a criterion for faculty hiring at Notre Dame – indeed, it was a major consideration in seeking to hire me – whereas it is generally not a consideration at Georgetown. Without such a criterion, Georgetown increasingly and inevitably remakes itself in the image of its secular peers, ones that have no internal standard of what a university is for other than the aspiration of prestige for the sake of prestige, its ranking rather than its commitment to Truth. Its Catholic identity, which should inform every activity of the community, from curriculum to dorm life to faculty hiring, has increasingly been cordoned off to optional activities of Campus Ministry. I would like to be a contributor to a more widely-embraced institutional mission in the life of my institution and community. I don’t doubt that there will shortcomings at Our Lady’s University. But, there are at least some comrades-in-arms to share in the effort.

Read Dr. Deneen’s entire post on his personal blog. His point about Georgetown seeking prestige for the sake of prestige is amply evidenced by how the University tried to defend it’s decision to allow the “IHS” monogram to be covered up when President Obama spoke there in April 2009:

Georgetown University says it covered over the monogram “IHS”–symbolizing the name of Jesus Christ—because it was inscribed on a pediment on the stage where President Obama spoke at the university on Tuesday and the White House had asked Georgetown to cover up all signs and symbols there.
 
As of Wednesday afternoon, the “IHS” monogram that had previously adorned the stage at Georgetown’s Gaston Hall was still covered up–when the pediment where it had appeared was photographed by CNSNews.com.

“In coordinating the logistical arrangements for yesterday’s event, Georgetown honored the White House staff’s request to cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols behind Gaston Hall stage,” Julie Green Bataille, associate vice president for communications at Georgetown, told CNSNews.com. 

Recent events have shown, of course, that the Obama administration has little to no interest in honoring Catholic beliefs. Quite a contrary. Will Georgetown reverse course? I doubt it. But at least there continues to be some promising signs of life and faith at Notre Dame. 


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About Carl E. Olson 1108 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications.