Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Did Notre Dame Retaliate Against Administrator Who Supported NDResponse During Dust-Up Over Obama Commencement Invite? [UPDATED]

It sure looks that way to me:
The decision by Father Tom Doyle, Notre Dame’s new Vice-President for Student Affairs to fire Bill Kirk from his position as Associate Vice-President for Residence Life has left many of us with an empty feeling. It has also put another dent in Notre Dame’s reputation as a family-friendly and compassionate employer. The decision was both unfair and imprudent. It was unfair, because, as a loyal employee of Notre Dame for almost 22 years—and one who had been placed repeatedly in positions where he took the brunt of public criticism for enforcing policies adopted by his superiors—he deserved better from those superiors than to be removed from office with no notice and with no public explanation for his removal. It was imprudent, because administrators of Bill Kirk’s talent, compassion and principled commitment to the good are rare. He loved Notre Dame and he loved and respected the students whose welfare he vigorously pursued.

In addition, his removal from office took place against the background of other events at Notre Dame that inevitably raised questions about its real motivation...


The larger role played by Bill Kirk and his family at Notre Dame and in the local community also raises questions about the wisdom—indeed, the fairness—of severing him from this community. Bill’s wife, Elizabeth, has played a very visible role on campus in recent years as the Associate Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. She has also figured prominently in campus affairs as the faculty advisor for the Right to Life Club and the Identity Project. She has been one of a very few articulate and confident pro-life women on campus prepared to mentor young women seeking to take on the tricky balancing act of wife, mother and career. She has increasingly played a role nationally and internationally as a leading pro-life spokesperson and, together with her husband, has forged important links between Notre Dame and other organizations in the community. As official faculty advisor to the Right to Life Club, Elizabeth served as primary advisor to the student coalition formed in the spring of 2009 as “NDResponse” and served as a conduit for many, including junior, untenured faculty members, who were unwilling to get involved directly for fear of reprisal. Without compromising his administrative duties, Bill stood with the students of NDResponse at their rally on the South Quad on Commencement day. He was the only senior administrator at Notre Dame willing to do so. With the firing of Bill Kirk, Notre Dame will almost certainly also be deprived of Elizabeth’s talents.

At the time Bill took part in the NDResponse rally, many people commented on the courage it took for him to stand with his wife and other witnesses to this protest of Notre Dame’s decision to award President Obama an honorary degree. I personally discounted these worries, believing that the Notre Dame administration would admire him for his principled stand on a matter so close to the Catholic heart of Notre Dame, even if they disagreed with his particular action. The administration welcomed President Obama’s sharp dissent from and attack on central Catholic teaching on life. It seemed only reasonable that they would equally welcome dissent from university policy by such a loyal Catholic and member of the Notre Dame family as Bill Kirk—especially when his dissent was made in the name of the Catholic principles at Notre Dame’s heart and in the company of his bishop.

Perhaps, alas, there was reason for Bill Kirk to be worried about his participation in NDResponse after all. There is no doubt that the treatment of Bill Kirk this summer will have a chilling effect on the participation of other administrators, unprotected by the safety net of tenure, in the great debates about public policy and moral principle into which Notre Dame will be inevitably drawn. A number of other administrators have told me that in light of Bill Kirk’s treatment, they will in the future keep their heads down rather than dissent from the policies of the central administration...

[Read the whole thing]
My Comments:
Disgusting. Jeer, jeer for old Notre Shame.

The Corner at NRO gets in on the story: "Obama at Notre Dame: Golden Dome Bosses Serve a Cold Dish of Revenge"
... Kirk and his wife Elizabeth are prominent campus abortion foes (she was assistant director of one of the few institutes on campus that is avowedly pro-life and orthodox). Now their voices have been silenced, and by the same people who gnash their teeth and pluck their beards about living wages, unionization, fair treatment of employees, and the rest of the Catholic Left’s lobbying agenda. One can hear the college brass channeling Henry II: Will no one rid us of this troublesome pro-life Associate Vice-President for Residence Life?
Others commenting:

  • Prof. Francis Beckwith: "That's a cross, but it's not very holy: the dismissal of Notre Dame's Bill Kirk"

  • Carl Olson: "Ignominy at Notre Dame"
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