Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Orthodox Catholic Academics, Catholic Colleges and the Job Market

Literacy-Chic is preparing to graduate from grad school with a Ph.D., and will soon be entering the job market. She has some questions regarding how to go about her job search and the sort of positions and institutions for which she should be looking:
... Since becoming Catholic, I have been thinking, Gee, wouldn't it be nice to teach at a nice Catholic school? Then I could raise the kinds of questions that you can't raise in a state school where you're supposed to respect everyone's religious identity to the point of annihilating your own (like when, post 9-11, one prof voluntarily removed his Divinity Degree from the wall, and another was advised to hide her icons!!), and where there would, presumably, be some sense of Catholic identity, and opportunities for faith formation among the faculty and. . . well, that's the kind of thing I was thinking. Except that even in the first fervor of conversion, I wasn't sure Ave Maria or Steubenville would be for me. I'm an orthodox kind of gal, but I'm not ready for any Catholic versions of those protestant colleges that won't let faculty drink alcohol (yet the one I have in mind has the bar and cash register from the Bird and the Baby--the Eagle and Child pub where the Inklings met--in its library--yeah. . .), and I believe that those schools might be a teensy evangelical in flavor for a recovering protestant...

... The scholarly, prominent Catholic universities with whom every new Ph.D. would LOVE to have an interview are apparently unworthy of being termed Catholic, while the most orthodox of all hire mainly clergy or have 5-person English departments or 300-student enrollments and the ones in between have low pay, high teaching loads, nominal research requirements--not the kind of place to go, in short, if teaching and research are on your agenda, that is, if you want your ideas to be heard by the scholarly community. So is it worth investigating positions at Catholic colleges at all? If you risk being associated with heterodoxy or heresy, or exposed to and manipulated by such ideas? If, by avoiding those pitfalls, you are compromising the chance of having a Catholic voice in the cacophany of scholarly opinions? Not to mention compromising your ability to pay those loans--you know, the ones that are equal to or surpass the price of a really nice house? The ones that you will not pay off before you die? The ones that are, in fact, a lease on your education rather than a purchase? Yeah, those. Is it O.K. for a Catholic academic to take a position at a Catholic college or university that is Catholic in name only? In hopes of influencing others, maybe? Or do you just give up on Catholic education altogether in order to avoid this sticky issue?
My Comments:
Here's my response to Literacy-Chic:
"Is it O.K. for a Catholic academic to take a position at a Catholic college or university that is Catholic in name only?"

I would think so. How else are those schools to recover their Catholic identities?

As for the usual blogosphere rant regarding "orthodox" schools vs. those that are CINO, ignore most of what you read. I would be delighted, for example, to send all of my children to allegedly "Catholic in name only" Notre Dame, but wouldn't dream of allowing them to set foot in the so-called "orthodox" Ave-Maria-Monaghanville-USA.
I'm sure Literacy-Chic would be open to having others chime in on this topic as well.

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At 4/01/2008 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a former Ave Maria professor who left a good job in academia to work for Tom Monaghan. It was a train wreck that significantly damaged my career productivity thanks to incompetent and amateurish administration, among other things. We, as orthodox Catholic academics, are salt and light, wherever we may work. Get in an environment where your scholarship can thrive. Do not make compromises in the name of grandiose big-picture goals that are beyond your control. The heart of our Catholic life is still in our parishes, not in our employment. Will the institution foster -your- productivity? I'm very happy to be back in secular academia where people are, at least, honest and respectful, and we can agree to disagree. You would be better off going to a solid institution where your scholarship can thrive and you can be part of a small orthodox Catholic community than in a Steubenville or AMU. The national trend is toward orthodoxy. Strong collections of orthodox students and faculty are coming together across the country, in their own academic communities, proclaiming truth with respect, and walking with others. This is as it should be. All the best,

At 4/01/2008 4:43 PM, Blogger island fever said...

As a mother of eight, I would NEVER send my kids to Notre Dame, anymore than I would send them to an unfaithful Catholic Grade School.

Why spend $40,000 a year to have your kid filter out the 'bad'. There are plenty of secular univ. where they have just as much 'opportunity' without being lulled into a sense of security by shades of wrong disguised as 'Catholic'.
How an 'academic' might look at this, I don't know. Perhaps as a 'mission'? It doesn't seem like a great way to 'advance a career', but many 'orthodox' professors are scattered around doing their bit.
My kids have been going to OLSWA, which, worse than low pay, had professors that WORKED FOR FREE (and made their living at neighboring universities). My kids received an excellent education from people with vocations to teach.

At 4/01/2008 7:06 PM, Blogger Literacy-chic said...

Thanks Jay! And thanks to the anonymous commenter for your valuable input!

I definitely appreciate the perspectives of those who boycott certain Catholic colleges and send their children elsewhere. However, the boycott probably doesn't affect the colleges/universities themselves since there are plenty of non-Catholics to fill the seats just as there are plenty of non-Catholic schools to send your money and your children. I'm a mom too, and I wouldn't send my children to less-than-orthodox Catholic schools for K-12, but I consider college to be different. If they've had good faith formation, they will be able to sort through much of the rubbish by the time they get to college, though there are dangers at Catholic and non-Catholic schools alike. (Anyone who is sending their children to a Catholic college to avoid the evils the world is naive!)

But it remains true that the discussions are primarily focused on where to send one's children--not where to seek an academic job. And many professors have not only a vocation to teach, but also to research and publish, which is the means by which they (we?) change the shape of academia.

I don't think I could justify sending my children to a university that underpaid any of its employees--from groundskeepers to professors. THAT, for me, would run counter to the concept of the dignity of work. And this is speaking as someone who has been active in the push to make certain that lecturers and staff received a fair "living wage" at my own university--as a grad student with a lecturer (now staff) husband.

How an 'academic' might look at this, I don't know.

I am trying to see how I might take this in a spirit that is not mocking or belittling of "academics." I know that many can't see much use in what we do, especially when tuition costs are a concern...


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